You are here

Understanding the Music Industries

Understanding the Music Industries

December 2012 | 248 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

Everyone knows music is big business, but do you really understand how ideas and inspiration become songs, products, downloads, concerts and careers?

This textbook presents a full overview of the many elements of the music industries, and offers a sustained focus on 'understanding' the processes that have driven and continue to drive the development of those industries.

More than just an expose or ‘how to’ guide, this book gives students the tools to make sense of technological change, socio-cultural processes, and the constantly shifting music business environment. The crucial focus on research and analysis means readers can understand and track the ongoing development of the music industries and place themselves in the front line of innovation and entrepreneurship in the future.

Packed with case studies, this book:

  • Takes the reader on a journey from Glastonbury and the X-Factor to house concerts and crowd-funded releases
  • Demystifies management, publishing and recording contracts, and the world of copyright, intellectual property and music piracy
  • Explains how digital technologies have changed almost all aspects of music making, performing, promotion and consumption
  • Explores all levels of the music industries, from micro-independent businesses to corporate conglomerates
  • Enables students to meet the challenge of the transforming music industries.

This is the must-have primer for understanding and getting ahead in the music industries. It is essential reading for students of popular music in media studies, sociology and musicology.

Questioning 'Traditional' Models of the Music Industry
Structure of the Book

1. Studying the Music Industries
Key Findings
Getting Started
Organizational Structure
Political Economy
Culture Industry
Historical Analysis
Technological Development
Media Ecology
Digital Technologies

Further Reading

2. The Recorded Music Industry
Key Findings
The Structure and Size of the Recording Industry
A Brief History of the Recorded Music Industry
The Majors: Business Structures and Characteristics
The Independent Sector: Definitions and Types
The Ideology of Independence
Strategies for Dealing with Uncertainty and Risk

Further Reading

3. Songwriting and Publishing
Key Findings
Songwriters, Performers and Publishers
Songwriting as Commercial Practice
Songwriting Methods and Tools
Music Publishing
Traditional Income Streams
'New' Income Streams

Further Reading

4. Music Production
Key Findings
Changing Models and the Mythology of the Recording Studio
The Production Process
Production Careers and Roles
Project Studios, MIDI, and Other Developments

Further Reading

5. Music Distribution
Key Findings
Introducing Music Distribution
Physical Distribution
Mass-Market Retailers
Independent Retailers
Second-Hand Retailers
Online Music Distribution
Streaming Services
Music Media Distribution
Unauthorized Distribution

Further Reading

6. Music Promotion
Key Findings
Marketing, Branding and Gatekeeping
The Promotional Campaign
Music Journalism
Point of Sale Marketing (POS) and In-Store Music
Sponsorships and Endorsements
Grassroots Marketing
Social Media/Mobile Media

Further Reading

7. The Live Music Industries
Key Findings
The Resurgence of Live Music
A Brief History of the Live Music Industry
Motivations for Live Concert Touring
Authenticity and Live Performance
Live Music Sponsorship
Roles and Responsibilities
Live Performance Contracts
Concert and Festival Ticketing
The Relationship between the Recorded and the Live Music Industries

Further Reading

8. Music Audiences
Key Findings
Understanding Music Audiences
Music on the Move: From the Walkman to the iPhone
Music and Social Media Consumption
Heritage and Nostalgia
Record Collecting

Further Reading

9. Copyright and Music Piracy
Key Findings
Introducing Copyright
Copyright Basics
Key Terms in UK Copyright Law
US Copyright Law: Key Differences
Collection Societies
Music Piracy
Music Industry Responses to Piracy
Artist Responses to Piracy

Further Reading

10. Contractual Agreements and Relationships
Key Findings
Artist Management Agreements
Music Publishing Agreements
Recording Agreements
Further Reading
Complexity and Symbiosis
Be Wary of Metanarratives
Diversity and Reorganization
Where Next?


This is an invaluable book for anyone who wants to know how the modern music industry works. Students will find it clear and enjoyable to read, musicians will find it revealing and helpful, and budding music entrepreneurs will find it provides real insights. It is up-to-date, informed by the realty of the modern music business, and balances theory with practice.
Tim Wall
Professor of Radio and Popular Music Studies, Birmingham City University

Helpful for reserach projects in course, written papers etc.

Professor Dr. Christoph Jacke
Faculty for Cultural Studies, University of Paderborn
July 29, 2016

The book is a nice support for any course on the music industries, their functioning, role, problematic issues, etc. It has a good balance of theoretical concepts and empirical examples.

Ms Nune Nikoghosyan
Department of Sociology, University of Geneva
December 14, 2015

Useful for business students who wish to critically examine music as an industry

Dr Diepiriye Kuku-Siemons
Northampton Business School, Northampton University
June 22, 2015

very helpful introduction to international popular music and media studies

Professor Dr. Christoph Jacke
Faculty for Cultural Studies, University of Paderborn
September 16, 2015

A good overview and collection for an introductive course.
It contains many interesting case studies with very current themes. Unfortunately the structure seems a bit random.

Mr Nicolas Ruth
Media and Business Communication, Mensch-Computer-Medien
April 16, 2015

Very good resource, although of course crippled by the reality of its own existence as a printed text!

Mr Alex Germains
Popular Music Studies, Liverpool John Moores University
June 27, 2014

Great book, really useful for music and music business students.

Dr Paul Oliver
Music & Music Business, University of the Highlands and Islands
December 3, 2013

I found the books accessible and informative for certain aspects of this course but as the course isnot entirely about popular music, it cannot be essential reading.

Ms Gina Gregory
Dept of Humanities, University of Central Lancashire
July 10, 2013

A great source that pulls together useful information and examples across many facets of the music industries - managing to stay relevant to current technological changes with a grounding in established industry structures.

Mr Samuel Nicholls
Faculty Of Arts, Environment & Technology - School of Film, Music & Performing Arts, Leeds Metropolitan University
March 5, 2013

Sample Materials & Chapters


Chapter 1

Chris Anderton

Dr Chris Anderton is Associate Professor in Cultural Economy at Solent University, Southampton, UK. His research interests focus on the music industries, music culture and music history. He is author or co-editor of several books including Understanding the Music Industries (2013), Music Festivals in the UK. Beyond the Carnivalesque (2019), and the forthcoming books Media Narratives in Popular Music and Researching Live Music: Gigs, Tours, Concerts and Festivals. He has also guest edited issues of the academic journals Rock Music Studies and Arts & the Market, and published in numerous other edited collections and... More About Author

Andrew Dubber

Martin James

Martin James is professor of music industries at Southampton Solent University.Martin joined Southampton Solent University from the University of Sunderland in July 2007. He studied for his first degree at Nottingham Trent University where he was awarded a BA (Hons) Communication Studies.He gained an MA Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Sunderland, where he also received a PhD. His doctoral thesis was called ‘Versioning Histories and Genres’, a commentary on his books State of Bass: Jungle – The Story So Far(1997) and French Connections: From Discotheque to Discovery (2002).Prior to becoming a lecturer in 2004,... More About Author

For instructors

Purchasing options

Please select a format:

ISBN: 9781446207956

SAGE Knowledge is the ultimate social sciences digital library for students, researchers, and faculty. Hosting more than 4,400 titles, it includes an expansive range of SAGE eBook and eReference content, including scholarly monographs, reference works, handbooks, series, professional development titles, and more.

The platform allows researchers to cross-search and seamlessly access a wide breadth of must-have SAGE book and reference content from one source.