Among other things, we’re in the midst of putting together a funding proposal for a study of Music Consumption in the Digital Age, in partnership with Fat Northerner Records. We recently went to Manchester to meet with a group of music industry representatives, to generate interest in the project and, hopefully, to attract people who would act as an advisory board, if the bid is successful. We asked Ruth Daniel of Fat Northerner to reflect upon the proceedings.
Music, research and pies
Well, a meeting in Manchester wouldn’t be a meeting without a fine selection of pies on offer and for that reason we met in the lovely CUP, owned by team Mr. Scruff. We were meeting to discuss an idea for a research project I had back in October. Inspired by Andrew Dubber’s blog post about a panel at Gigbeth where a bunch of 6 young girls had been grilled by the industry about their music downloading habits, I felt that there hadn’t been enough research done speaking to people about how they consume music. I thought it would be interesting to explore this area – finding out how changes to technology have affected how music is produced, consumed and sustained.
So, I got on a train and went to see Andrew. He felt these ideas were particularly relevant to the Interactive Cultures team at Birmingham City University and I was quickly introduced to them. The team were interested in developing a bid, working closely with industry to carry out a research project over 3 years, looking into music consumption.
A few meetings later and we find ourselves in CUP with a selection of people from the independent music industry. Along with the Interactive Cultures team, those present from the industry included: Jayne Compton (Switchflicker); Dan Rafferty (Jibbering Records); Jeff Thompson (Fat Northerner/Un-Convention); Mike McNally (Consultant/AIM); Jenny Moore and Lisa Meyer (Capsule); Howard Mills (Humble Soul); Liam Walsh (Modern English Recordings); and Sarah Purcell (Concrete Recordings).
Some of the questions I think about:
- As music appears more disposable, how do people connect with bands?
- And what does that mean in terms of the development of scenes, youth culture?
- Can music become a central source of identity in these times of de-centred identities?
- As there is less investment in the development of bands, how do bands sustain a career, does this impact on the way music is produced?
- Do new formats impact on the way music is made?
- Do artists have time to be creative and create music or do they spend more time interacting with their fans?
- How have older generations changed they way they consume music?
- What is important to the consumer in the music domain?
- What are ways of monetising music?
- How can future new music break through?
- How do online social networks play a part in fan interactions with bands? Is this more or less meaningful than previous ways of interacting?
- How important is the live experience for consumers?
- What do brand band relationships mean for the way music is produced?
- Can music scenes emerge in the future?
- Will scenes be localised or global? Online or emerge from the streets?
- Do bands need long term development? Or will careers become shorter?
- How proactive should bands be in their own promotion? What creative innovations have worked for the promotion of indie label bands?
- What successful creative collaborations have happened between music and other art forms?
- What tangible product do people want?
- Do bands need to diversify? Do they need to be promoters, clothing lines etc…?
- Is there still room for genuinely rock ‘n’ roll personalities to emerge? Or are will they simply be products of A&R and media imagination?
After presenting my ideas about the sorts of questions I have from a label and general interest perspective, the group engaged in fiery debate about the areas that should be covered.
I think the most important thing stressed by the Birmingham team was that the research would simply be to speak to consumers and report back in a way useful to industry – not to predict the future or state where the industry is going. I feel this will be an exciting project to be involved in. Most research into music consumption has been commissioned by major label industry and larger companies and often looks into areas such as illegal downloading, to provide statistics to influence government agenda. This research has no agenda. It is simply to investigate what is happening and why.
It excites me when academia meets industry and can work together on new research. I think the work of the Interactive Cultures group at BCU is really exciting and members of the team are very much involved in the heart of current music industry debates. Feedback after the event suggests that the industry people present also share my excitement in working with the team at BCU on this seminal research project.
Ruth Daniel co-founded Manchester indie label, Fat Northerner Records in 2003. In the proud tradition of great British indies such as 4AD, Warp, Creation and of course Factory, Fat Northerner only release music by artists they believe in.
Fat Northerner has worked with over 60 bands and was one of the first labels to fully embrace the digital revolution. Their recent project involves current bands reworking Salford punk-poet John Cooper Clarke’s material and has attracted interest from many top artists, bands and spoken word artists.
Ruth is co-founder and chair of Un-Convention, a music conference aimed specifically at the grass roots of the industry; the goal is to bring together like minded individuals to discuss the future of Independent music. Ruth is also Director of a new online live music industry project with fellow UKYME nominee Ian Chamings. Ruth was shortlisted for UK Young Music Entrepreneur 2008. Ruth believes in making music as culture, rather than music as commerce.