Toby Bennett (Southampton Solent)

Knowing Musical Capitalism: Academics, Analysts and Thought Leaders in the “New” Music Industry

This paper considers the music industry as a knowledge industry. While knowledge (data, insight, etc) have historically been important to companies and individuals working in music, across a range of areas, they have also seen fierce resistance. Only in recent years, however, has knowledge become central (Frith, 2000; Williamson et al., 2011; Jones, 2016) as music industries become increasingly embedded in a ‘triple-helix’ arrangement (Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff, 1997) alongside universities and policy-makers. This view complements but challenges narratives of “digital disruption” (c.f. Leyshon, 2014; Rogers, 2013), which tend to isolate business models and marketing practices away from the broader socio-economic arrangements in which they are embedded.

Instead, the paper argues we should follow and investigate the ‘cultural circuits’ – connecting artistic, technological and commercial production “inside” music to their various “outsides” – that operate across a more ‘knowing’ form of capitalism, where “theory” does not simply reflect but makes “reality” (Thrift, 2005). These reflexive intersections manifest in an array of individuals, texts, infrastructures, practices, pedagogies and rituals. Consider the rise of thought leaders, management books, conferences and music business degrees, for example. At the same time, they reproduce, challenge or exacerbate the long-established arrangements through which the craft, commerce, theory and practice of popular music are rendered legitimate. To what extent do emergent forms of knowledge production continue or critique the status quo?

Cited works:

Etzkowitz and Leydersdorff (1997), Universities and the Global Knowledge Economy: A Triple-Helix of University-Industry-Government Relations (London: Pinter)

Frith, Simon (2000), ‘Music Industry Research: Where Now? Where Next? Notes from Britain’, Popular Music 19:3, 387-393

Jones, Michael L. (2016), ‘Revisiting “Music Industry Research”: What Changed? What Didn’t?’, in Lee Marshall and Dave Laing (eds.), Popular Music Matters: Essays in Honour of Simon Frith (Abingdon: Routledge), 45-60

Leyshon, Andrew (2014), Reformatted: Code, Networks, and the Transformation of the Music Industry (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Rogers, Jim (2013), The Death and Life of the Music Industry in the Digital Age (London: Bloomsbury)

Thrift, Nigel (2005), Knowing Capitalism (London: Sage)

Williamson, John, Martin Cloonan and Simon Frith (2011), ‘Having an Impact? Academics, the Music Industries and the Problem of Knowledge’, International Journal of Cultural Policy 17:5, 459-474



Dr Toby Bennett is a postdoctoral research fellow in Creative and Digital Industries at Southampton Solent University. His recently completed PhD (KCL) explored work, the music industry, and their mutual transformation, particularly in the context of the major record label. Previously he spent five years at Universal Music Group and, since then, he has worked with bodies like UK Music, The Hub and the Cultural Institute at King’s to report on and intervene in the various intersections between academia and the creative economy.