Negus, K. 1999. Music Genres and Corporate Cultures.

Negus, Keith. 1999. Music Genres and Corporate Cultures. New York: Routledge.

Studies “genre culture” – the interplay between economics (“music as a commodity, various business strategies and organizational structures”) and music culture (“the practices, interpretations and ways of life of musicians, fans and industry workers”)- the “creation, circulation and consumption” of popular music (3).

Genres as a means to construct boundaries (often informed by geography, race-ethnicity, language, subcultural participation), and vice versa – how do genres form, and how do genre boundary-crossings impact music cultures? Genres become ways to co-construct producers’ ideations of what music is to sound like (kx – formulation of boundaries) and the ways to brand it (kx – reinforcement of those boundaries)

Music industry as a site of confusion, exploitation, failure, disorder – not a rational arena. Demonstrates stance of reflexivity, dismisses objective status as researcher. Notes differences between “hard” and social sciences – “Instead, we study social life in which people already have their own ideas, concepts and theories about the world. Hence, the production of theories and concepts through social scientific or humanistic research inevitably involves a process of mediation or of translation. We draw from existing frames of meaning and interpretations circulating in the world in order to produce our social theories. We seek to understand, interpret, theorize and develop concepts about a world that is already understood, interpreted and theorized through various existing concepts Even if some of these ideas may strike us as rather basic or as a form of everyday common sense, we cannot go through them and find some fundamental truth on the other side. Yet, if the researcher draws upon interpretations and meanings that are already in the world, so the people who we might be studying are drawing upon the ideas and interpretations developed and circulated by social scientists. There is an interaction and lack of separation. We cannot bracket, or separate off, social scientific interpretation from the meanings that people give to the situations within which they live.” (11-12).

Chapter 1- “industry produces culture, and culture produces industry” (14). Chappie and Garofalo (1977) – commodification of music and its control by a few major corporations has major (and negative) impact on what is distributed – obscuration of oppositional music, and where alternative acts are co-opted into entertainment industries immersed in capitalist interaction. Peterson (1997) – ‘fabricating authenticity’ – the institutionalization of (here) country music through rationalized organizational and production systems, targeting occupational and social milieus. Culture as “whole way of life” (Hall 1997; Morley and Chen 1996) – culture as “the practices through which people create meaningful worlds in which to live” (20) –  (see also Williams 1961, 1965). Production and consumption cannot only be thought of through the organizational procedures, rather than the cultural meanings that contextualize these practices. “my point is that any attempt to study the ‘production of culture’ needs to do more than understand culture as a ‘product’ that is created through technical and routine processes and institutionalized practices. We need to do more than simply read off or assume the characteristics of sounds and images from patterns of ownership or the way commodity production is organized. We need to understand the meanings that are given to both the ‘product’ and the practices through which the product is made. Culture, thought of more broadly as a way of life and as the actions through which people create meaningful worlds in which to live, needs to be understood as the constitutive context within and out of which the sounds, words and images of popular music are made and given meaning. Hence, while seeking to understand corporate attempts to manage and manipulate the working life of a music company and its artists, I also wish to incorporate thinking about the broader cultural patterns within which a company is situated” (31).  Culture industry formulated by Adorno and Horkheimer (1979) – Miege (1989) questions the assumption that all culture is created in a similar process, in a unified field – differences in field, industry processes, even within similar art fields and organizations’ production and consumption. Industry-oriented approaches (such as those of Garnham 1990, Frith 1996) seemingly overlook the meanings that help to shape the industries and the organizations involved – where are texts and content here?

What is a genre?  – “Musical genres are formally codified into specific organizational departments, narrow assumptions about markets, and ‘targeted’ promotional practices, and this is strategically managed by recorded entertainment companies. In the process, resources are allocated to some types of music and not others; certain types of deals are done with some acts and not others. Greater investment is accorded to certain types of familiarity and newness and not others. It is part of my argument that we cannot fully explore the details of the conventions, codes or rules of genres through textual analysis, nor can we begin to explain how some (and not other) genre transformations might occur without fully understanding how corporate organization actively intervenes in the production, reproduction, circulation and interpretation of genres” (29). “The media or music industry cannot simply ‘construct’ a market, ‘produce’ a type of consumer, nor determine an artist’s meaning (as implied in some of the more media-centric approaches to musical activity) and try as they might they continually fail in any attempts to do this” (30).

Chapter 2 –  Corporate strategies work to minimize economic uncertainty in production and consumption processes.  Gendering in “finding” acts – music men, and increasingly music women.  Increasingly capable technologies impact the recruitment of new acts, how acts are managed, and how music is distributed. Corporations are held by stockholders – carefully negotiating the right amount of conservativism and freshness. “Popular music history is a testament to the way in which genres are far from static and constantly change as interacting musicians move across aesthetic and geographical borders. Yet strategic calculation is built on a desire for stability, predictability and containment. Musicians confront a continual pressure for stasis, but are required by contract to deliver ‘new’ albums. Staff within corporate office seek the predictable ‘sure-fire hits’ while being aware that the success of their company depends upon continual changes and fighting against any possible inertia by finding the ‘unknown’—new genres, artists and audiences” (52-53).

Chapter 3 – Corporate culture and the meanings that are sustained through the physical environment they operate out of, the acts that they book, and how they conduct their business impact how genres are sustained. Often, stereotypes based  on nationality sustain orientations toward presumed corporate dispositions. Geographic orientations often segregate genre clusters – country music production located in Nashville, latin music centered in Miami, etc.

Chapter 4 – “Rap has usually been approached as an aesthetic form of African- American expression: a resistant, oppositional, counter-cultural style created via the appropriation of technology and existing musical signs and symbols (scratching, sampling, mixing), drawing on a long tradition of diasporic creativity (with varying inflections of both an essentialist and anti-essentialist argument that point both back to and away from the slave routes of the Atlantic)” (84). Rap as a cultural practice founded in appropriation of existing material – images, sounds, technologies, and synthesis wherewithal.  “The creation of rap has also highlighted the tangible connecting points that link the often inadequate concepts of ‘production’ and ‘consumption’, and has illustrated how consumption can become production. In the process, creative practice and aesthetic discourse have produced a particular type of cultural-political identity which can be understood in terms of a long tradition of black creative activity, not only within the United States (Fernando Jr, 1995; Vincent, 1996) but within the context of a diaspora of the black Atlantic (Gilroy, 1993)” (84). Musical expression as a way to circumvent systemic oppressions to obtain “American Dream” – tensions between black entrepreneurialism and materialist capitalism. Utilization of street-teams and informal means of promotion – however, also these teams are used to build credibility and rapport with fans – “taking it to the streets” by building organic fan base.

Chapter 5 – extension of music culture in other economic forms – tourism, merchandise, clothing, theme parks, etc.  Country as a way to demonstrate ethnic whiteness – perpetuation of historical images of cowboys and westerns – and the appropriation of this toward mainstream economies through vocal and costuming cues. Forming meanings that tie with abstract concepts of rurality, community, family, etc. Geographic signifiers are sustenance for meanings. Cultivation of intimate relationship between artist and audience is crucial for the maintenance of these values of community – tours, meet-n-greets, merchandise aids to connect artists and audience, giving audience a sense of belonging – this is crucial for cultivating industry support for an artist – “Fans are central to the production, reproduction and circulation of numerous genres of music and for this reason a number of writers have developed or employed theories of the active audience, as a challenge to assumptions about passive consumption or against crude models suggesting the manipulation of behaviour by the entertainment industry.17 When thinking about active audiences it is also important to remember that fans and their activities are not simply located ‘outside’ the world of production and the corporate office. Not only do fans visit, and hang around outside, record company offices, they also bombard record companies  with letters, requests and complaints—actions that are often utilized by music industry staff when recruiting for consumer panels or creating databases of an artist’s ‘fan base’, and which have become increasingly formalized through Internet access and company websites […]can an artist establish and maintain a point of identification between themselves and the lives of their fans, a connection that will be taken to be genuine or authentic, of some shared interest, lifestyle or mutual understanding?18” (128).  Peterson (1997) notes that authenticity of genre is sustained through several signifier (here: “accent and styles of singing voice, instrument, clothing, body movement style, etc.” (130)) – “Authenticity is neither true nor false. It is not simply about codes, fabrications and artifice any more than it is about the spontaneous organic unmediated expression of human art and mutual understandings. It is about relationships and, usually these days, overtly socially, technologically and spatially mediated relationships. Authenticity mediates social relations that have been ‘disembedded’ out of their immediate experiential contexts of face-to-face interaction by the modern music media and provides a glimpse of how actual experience does connect (in whatever naïve or knowing way) with the invented tradition or codified real.21” (131).

Chapter 6 – Latin and salsa music as important to “cultural political agenda of activist struggling for social, economic, and political recognition” (132). Though Latin identities are spread across many geographies, race-ethnicities, classes, gender, etc., music works to create a collective identity. Many labels use sexuality, geography, romanticization to emphasize Otherness of music. Gendering of musical forms – salsa romantica for women, sexualized macho salsa caliente for men.  Transcultural nature of salsa results in repeat reappropriation and modification across genre.

Chapter 7 – globalization vs. (re/de)territorialization. “As Steve Jones (1993) has noted, ‘world music’ began to gain currency at a moment that saw the increasing use of the international category and the adoption of ‘global’ strategies by the music industry. World music is a label that has been used since the late 1980s to refer to an eclectic mixture of styles, rhythms and sounds, and like so many musical categories it initially emerged to resolve a marketing dilemma within the entertainment industries. The category was formulated following a meeting in London of staff drawn from various small labels who wished to construct a market space to place a diversity of music, variously labelled as ‘ethnic’, ‘traditional’ or ‘roots’, which was increasing in popularity” (165). “There is no doubt that the presentation of world music often involves an exoticism and romanticization of music from ‘other’ places (Goodwin and Gore, 1990). The repackaging is not for people who live within these territories, but for those outside who may have no immediate experience of them” (168).

“Musical appropriation sings a double line with one voice. It is a melody of admiration, even homage and respect, a fundamental source of connectedness, creativity, and innovation…yet this voice is harmonized by a countermelody of power, even control and domination, a fundamental source of asymmetry in ownership and commodification of musical works” (see here 169 – Feld, 1994, p. 238)

Chapter 8 – “Apart from the fact that ‘control’ is often more tentative than it might appear (as I have stressed in much of this book), the implication of my argument is that we also need to understand how industries are formed within a broader context or, to return to my refrain; how culture produces industry. For example, the possibility of gaining access to, participating in and becoming formally recognized as a cultural producer (whether in the domains of literature, painting, music, clothing design, theatre, film or other practice) is clearly dependent upon presenting a ‘marketable’ product. But it is also informed by patterns of power and prejudice arising from the way in which the formation of particular industries has been shaped by such factors as class, gender relations, sexual codes, ethnicity, racial labels, age, political allegiances, family genealogy, religious affiliation and language. Depending where you are in the world, some of these may appear to be more significant than others […] It is shaped by the cultures of production, the culture within the industry and the industry within culture: there are multiple mediations between the appearance of ‘talent’ and its recognition by an ‘audience’. (177).

“Playing within the conventions of a genre may bring fulfilment and recognition; breaking the conventions of a genre may lead to rejection and no obvious new synthesis; but breaking the conventions may also lead to fulfilment and recognition” (183).


Adorno, T. and Horkheimer, M. (1979) Dialectic of Enlightenment, London:Verso.

Feld, S. (1994) ‘Notes on World Beat’ in C.Keil and S.Feld (eds) Music Grooves, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 238–16.

Fernando Jr, S.H. (1995) The New Beats: Exploring the Music Culture and Attitudes of Hip-Hop, Edinburgh: Payback Press.

Frith, S. (1996) Performing Rites. On the Value of Popular Music, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jones, S. (1993) ‘Who fought the law? The American music industry and the global popular music market’ in T.Bennett, S.Frith, L.Grossberg, J.Shepherd, G. Turner (eds) Rock and Popular Music: Politics, Policies, Institutions, London: Routledge, pp. 83–98.

Garnham, N. (1990) Capitalism and Communication: Global Culture and the Economics of Information, London: Sage.

Gilroy, P. (1993) The Black Atlantic, Modernity and Double Consciousness, London: Verso.

Goodwin, A. and Gore, J. (1990) ‘World Beat and the Cultural Imperialism Thesis’, Socialist Review, Vol. 20, No. 3, pp. 63–80.

Miege, B. (1989) The Capitalization of Cultural Production, New York: International General.

Peterson, R. (1997) Creating Country Music, Fabricating Authenticity, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Vincent, R. (1996) Funk, the Music, the People and the Rhythm of the One, New York: St Martin’s Press.


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