Music Business and the Experience Economy: The Australian Case

Peter Tschmuck, Peter Pearce, Steven Campbell, eds.
Books, Music Business
ISBN 978 3 642 27897 6
Reviewed by , May 1st, 2014

Books that focus on music as business are relatively uncommon, so it is surprising to find an entire volume from international publishing house Springer devoted to the Australian music sector.

The idea for the book arose in Townsville, when Peter Tschmuck, from the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, was having dinner with colleagues from the business school at James Cook University. The book’s origins are reflected in Pearce’s opening chapter, which considers the similarities between food and music and the changes in consumption activity that underpin both in contemporary Australia. It’s an unusual link and one that highlights the insights that occur throughout this book as academics from an array of fields bring their disciplinary tools to the business of music.

This volume is aimed at the university sector and should sit in most university libraries. It’s not a how-to book for music managers, which is not to say that some of the insights presented might not be useful, however that’s not its audience. This is a book that will help undergraduates studying popular music and it’s a fantastic resource, with chapters providing excellent reference lists and a range of contemporary research perspectives.

Phil Graham’s chapter on copyright in Australia highlights the way that the fortunes of composers in Australia today are affected by the Statute of Anne. Now this statute is from 1710, so it does not just precede digital distribution, it almost precedes music publishing!  Graham’s chapter considers changes in the structure of music business in Australia over the last few decades and the way that the role played by musicians in the economy has been largely ignored due to an outdated view of musicians as unproductive workers.

Australia had the seventh largest recorded music market in the world in 2011. Peter Tschmuck  looks in detail at sales of recorded music in Australia since 2000 and maps the drop in CD sales during this time. Tschmuck  finds that CD album sales (adjusted to constant dollar values) dropped from $757 Million in 2001 to $222 million in 2011, while CD single sales dropped from $61 Million to almost nothing. Although sales of digital music increased during this time, they have not filled the revenue gap, with digital sales only reaching $111 Million in 2011. There is no clearer evidence of the dramatic and rapid change in the structure and scale of the recorded music business in Australia in recent times. Tschmuck also looks at the ARIA sales charts since 1988 and uncovers patterns in sales, from the AC/DC and Kylie Minogue superstar era (1988-1995), through the generational shift to Powderfinger and Savage Garden (1995-2002) and the Golden Age of Australian Pop (2002-2008) with Delta Goodrem and Guy Sebastian achieving wide success.

Guy Morrow’s chapter on the live music industry is particularly insightful as a result of his close association with the band, Boy and Bear. Other chapters in this volume look at file sharing, digital distribution models, music festivals, music and spectator sport, and music and brands, demonstrating that there is no shortage of business perspectives on the music industry. The one area I would like to have seen more fully presented in the book is a longer historical perspective, one that looked at the patterns and linkages in the music business in Australian across the twentieth century, not just the last few decades.

Music Business and the Experience Economy should inspire scholars to develop better and broader approaches to the study of music that help us understand the Australian context of the global music business. This is a good beginning on that journey.

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