Why (not) me? - Logics of selection within the pop music industry
Sociology KU Leuven Gent, Belgium
In the field of the arts, some artist get a strong reputation, others don?t. In pop music this reputation mostly equals attention. This paper focuses on one central segment within this music world which I call the ?alternative mainstream?: the place were you can find the trends and hypes of the moment, where pop groups get attention and respect from the majors media, record labels, concert promoters, etc. When groups will have strong radio airplay and a broad media coverage, they will have more and better paid gigs too and still sell a little bit of records. But how do they get there? It?s up to the media, the managers and promoters to decide whether a group will get the attention he deserves. I?m therefore wondering on which basis such decisions are made.
Starting from how Becker sees an art world as a network of people doing things together on basis of conventions and Bourdieu?s ideas about symbolic bankers, the field struggle between the established and new ones and the cycle of consecration, I?ll propose a theoretical model of logics of selection by with I can demonstrate the way the decisions in the pop music field are made. This model is hypothetical, based on my own professional observations in this art world and will be investigated empirically by interviews with key actors in the scene. The inspiration for these logics is Pascal Gielen?s distinction between singular and collective regimes (in which he - following the Actor Network Theory - also focuses on the work of art itself). I?ll present these regimes in three different logics: actors within the music industry think in terms of artistic values, sound quality or the style of a musical piece or band (symbolic logic), the past reputation of an artist or his connections with the right people in the industry (social logic), or the potential commercial values, functionality or accessibility of the music (economic logic). I?ll look at the importance of these logics and what the effect of them will be on the careers of all those promising artists, dreaming about success and breakthrough.