Dr Allan Watson from Staffordshire University researches the economic geographies of the creative and media industries
This research summary is based on research by Dr Allan Watson, a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at Staffordshire University. Allan researches the economic geographies of the creative and media industries. He has a particular focus on the film and music industries, the latter of which he addresses in this research.
The music industry is global. Like other media industries it involves the global circulation of ideas, symbols, images and finance. However, these flows do not exist everywhere – they are geographically specific. Media industries tend to be concentrated in key cities of world commerce, which act as ‘local anchoring points’ for the global network of trade.
London is one of the world’s most successful exporters of music. In 1997/8, the UK’s media industry created £112.5 billion in total revenue, of which £4.6bn (4%) was generated by music. During the same year, 122,000 people were employed in the UK music industry.
The music industry is made up of a number of different players, each operating in the global economy in a different way. We can identify three main types of companies:
Major corporations: part of major global networks of marketing, promotion and distribution. As of 2008, there were four main Transnational Corporations that dominate the global music industry: Universal (25.5% share of the world market), Sony BMG (21.5%), EMI (13.4%) and Warner (11.3%)
Independent companies: there are many medium and large companies involved in medium and long-term production projects. They often work with the major corporations especially for marketing.
Small independent recording companies: There are even more of these companies, which operate on a highly localised scale of production and distribution. They do not often operate within a global economy and have very little contact with the major corporations and larger independent companies
In order to better understand the globalisation of music production, this article investigates the geography of major media corporations. These TNCs operate on a global scale but are also very specifically located. Furthermore, they also interact with independent companies that wish to extend their geographic reach.
Documents to download
A global media?
Global connections and local proximities
Case study: Arctic Monkeys
The top 50 most connected media cities in 2011
The top 20 most connected media cities
* Reported as proportion of the highest scoring city (New York); values rounded.
This analysis reveals how TNCs involved in in the global media industry are geographically distributed. Firstly, we can note that there are two main centres of media production: the Pacific Rim (Tokyo, Beijing, Hong Kongs, Shanghai, Seoul, Taipei, Bangkok, Singapore) and the USA (New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Chicago).
The global expansion of TNCs is, in this case, highly focused in specific regions. This illustrates a highly uneven geography of global media production. The established Pacific Rim region of media production provides a notably challenge to the previously dominant US industry. We cannot therefore assume that the globalisation of music is synonymous with the worldwide spread of ‘Americanisation’.
Besides these two regions of focus, there are other important centres of media production – most notably London and Paris. However, Europe fails to develop as a notable region in itself due to the lower concentration of corporations there. From the analysis, we can see that media corporations tend to locate themselves in the wealthiest urban areas in the world.
In London, there are four main clusters of music companies around Notting Hill (96 companies), Soho (89 companies), Camden (38 companies) and Fulham (23 companies). There are also two small clusters around Acton (10 companies) and Shoreditch (10 companies).
The four major record labels (Universal, Sony BMG, EMI and Warner) have London headquarters in around the Notting Hill cluster, all being located on or in very close proximity to Kensington High Street. These office act as national and/region centres of the Transnational Corporations.
Global urban networks of recording, UK digital music market
Note: Tie strength is based on number of inter-city links; the size of the nodes is based on the total connectivity of the city.
Global economies tend to be structured through networks. These can be viewed as being made up of two parts:
Local ‘buzz’: refers to the urban areas in which similar companies become clustered together. They are the places in which people in a given industry can meet and do business face-to-face. Personal contact in these geographic clusters allows people to build up personal relationships of trust
Global ‘pipelines’: connect the local points to connect with other clusters across the world. The networks allow people, ideas, capital and resources to flow around the world. Well-developed global pipelines are crucial to the success of local buzz, which thrives through being well connected. However, global pipelines also allow digital media to distributed beyond far beyond the local.
Global media economies must therefore be understood in terms of local buzz and the global pipelines that network these clusters. Through these processes, cities become increasingly connected internally and externally. This interconnectedness allows certain places to hold advantageous positions in the global economy.
Whilst communications technology allows global connections to be maintained, it is important that people working in the music industry meet face-to-face. For example, it is easier to pick up the phone and speak to someone in another company if you have met with them professionally and possibly socialised with them. This allows trust to build between companies, despite any competition that may exist. Through this trust, knowledge can flow globally. People working in the UK, for example, may learn from people in the US music industry.
A music album is a project in itself. Not only do record companies work on this, but so too does a wider network of people and organisations. Musicians, producers, engineers and studios are all involved in producing a commercial piece of music. These people provide creative labour.
Whilst the people involved in the network often remain fixed in their specific locations, the recordings are digitally transferred between different studios in different cities worldwide. This is all enabled by recent progress in communications technology. However, because certain cities hold more advantageous positions in the global economy, this global flow is very particular. Each project has its own specific Geography.
Arctic Monkeys formed in 2002 in High Green, a suburb of Sheffield. But they now have a global reach as illustrated by the geography of their fourth album.
The album was written by lead singer and guitarist Alex Turner in his home: a 4th floor flat in Brooklyn, New York
The band all met to rehearse the album in an East London synagogue
It was "grey and horrible" in the UK, so the band were keen to travel California. They decided to record the album in Sound City Studios, Los Angeles
The album was distributed worldwide. It reached top three in the charts of Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the UK
The band undertook a year-long tour in support of the album. They visited: Stockholm, Oslo, Washington D.C, New York, Toronto, Sheffield, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Mexico City and many more.
Additional creative labour for the project was spread out globally, being located in cities worldwide – each digitally connected to form a network in which ideas could flows. But, importantly, the global flows do not stop with the production of a music album – they can be seen in the global consumption of the music, which, as a result of the Internet, has the potential to flow further and faster through global networks than ever before.
Read Allan's research for yourself:
Global Music City: Knowledge and Geographical Proximity in London's Recorded Music Industry (2008)
The World According to iTunes: Mapping Urban Networks of Music Production(2012)
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