Music Distribution

Music Distribution is concerned with how the products gets from the Institution to the actual Audience. This can happen in many ways and it has changed over time and will probably continue to do so.

Check this out for more info for your Case Study Music Distribution

The following is from

What is Music Distribution?

It might sound like a silly question but you’d be surprised how hard it can be to give an accurate definition of what music distribution actually is.

In the first instance, an image of physical albums being transported to shops around the country may spring to mind, and in essence that is the main concept. Music distribution is the process of getting music from artist to store, making it available to the public for purchase, whether that store be a physical or digital music retailer.

what is music distribution


The more traditional method of distribution; this is how albums get into shops. A distribution company signs deals with record labels or artists that then gives them the right to sell that label’s or artist’s music to shops that have an account with the distributor. Put simply the distributing company act as a middleman between the artist/record label and the store.


Digital distribution works much the same, just on a different platform. Instead of transporting albums to a physical store the distribution company will distribute music in digital format (usually mp3 or .wav) to online music platforms such as iTunes, Spotify and AmazonMP3.

Some digital distributors accept everyone that wishes to sell via their site. Others also sell via their own site but are more picky with who they allow to sell on it.

Horus Music accept musicians that provide music in a standard that would be deemed acceptable by the stores then distributes it to over 600 download, streaming, mobile and radio platforms in 170+ countries.

 See for yourself.



Record Company Structure & Interesting Labels

Once you’ve settled on a record company to research you might want to take a look at how that business is structured and how it has changed over time. Here’s a short chapter about how some record companies are organised:

Record Company Structure

and this on Music and New Technologies

Here’s a link to a BBC site about indie record labels vs the majors:

A couple of my fave labels:



And the amazing Luaka Bop label started by David Byrne. Find out about their history here.


How Music Works by David Byrne

How Music Works is a book by David Byrne about the music industry and in part about his experiences. It’ll be an amazing text book for this unit and I cannot encourage you more to purchase it. You can buy it at all good book shops and it’s also available as an interactive ebook.

Here is a chapter to get you started:

David Byrne – How Music Works


I’ll be updating this blog with a lot more about David Byrne as he’s had loads of articles published about the music industry so he’s able to supply us with a lot of information about the inside of the industry.

Check out his website and award winning journal (blog) here: 



What a Case Study Looks Like

You might be thinking, what does a music Case Study for Section B: Institutions and Audiences even look like? Here are some things which your case study should cover:

  • You’re looking at the interaction of the following three aspects: the institution itself (the music industry, which includes labels, distributors, artists, bands etc.) the product (which includes songs, albums and even the artist as a ‘brand’) and of course, the consumer (the audience)
  • You’ll also be considering the role technology has had on the Institution and Audience.  Both hardware, software and for both groups. Just think about how the different experiences your parents had with purchasing and listening to music to what you do?

Here is an example of a Case Study based on Lady Gaga:

Lady Gaga – Sony Music Entertainment

This is the kind of detailed research you’ll need to do.



Whilst the following is mainly about film we can easily apply it to music.

From Edusites Media:

Jill Nelmes, in ‘An Introduction to Film Studies’ defines synergy strategy as:

Combined or related action by a group of individuals or corporations towards a common goal, the combined effect of which exceeds the sum of the individual efforts. (Nelmes, 1996: 42)

Synergy can come in a number of different forms:

Product Placement

Companies pay to feature their product in a film, which often leads to a deal in which the film’s protagonist or other characters are featured in their advertising campaigns.


Promotional Partnerships, where the film or its characters will feature on existing products. This may be in the form of competitions.


Products based on the original, i.e. the Film. A film may be a spin-off of a television series, or a television series may be created as a spin-off of a film. We can also think of this as media convergence.

Pre-Existing Property

If a film is based on pre-existing material (for example a video game, novel or comic book) the pre-existing material is often re-released featuring imagery from the film on its cover, or a special edition is released in synch with the film’s scheduled cinematic release.


Companies created products specifically for the film, for example toys, calendars, video games. These products not only help market the film, but the audience’s knowledge of the film brings their awareness to the merchandise.

Vertical Integration

When distribution and some forms of exhibition are kept in-house, meaning other subsidiaries of the conglomerate (who owns the production company) distribute the film and create DVD releases of it.

We do not consider publicity (i.e. press appearances and interviews) as a form of synergythough.

Synergy is a common action of the multi-media conglomerates who own the Hollywood studios. Often they will incorporate products from their different subsidiaries. For example, one of their Studios will produce a film, one of their TV studios will create a spin-off series, and one of their games manufacturers will produce a game. This will benefit the conglomerate as their products will be cross-promoted by each other, multiplying the profits for the conglomerate. Remember conglomerates are horizontally and vertically integratedmeaning they have several companies in a number of different multi-media fields, which allows them easy access to synergy opportunities.

Looking at the synergy of particular case studies allows us to analyse the structure of Hollywood, how major high concept releases get the funding and profit they do and how they are able to dominate, through their distribution campaigns, over independent films. It is an important facet of Hollywood because it enables the conglomerates to continually accumulate large sum of profit, thus enabling them to continue to make major releases and dominate over the global market.

Another key issue with synergy is that it is in part responsible for the repetitive nature of Hollywood films. To encourage corporate partnerships, merchandise deals and other pre-sales, enabling large budgets to be sought means the films Hollywood produce have to be viewed as low-risk by the partners.

Safe films are those which seem to be almost guaranteed to succeed (remember there are never any guarantees in the film industry!). Partners and investors will want to see evidence that similar films have done well in the recent market, that the directors and stars’ recent films have been profitable and any pre-existing property or clear genre conventions help this.

Therefore, if you look at your local cinema listings, or a film magazine like Empire and Total Film for upcoming releases, you will see there are many similarities between the major Hollywood films. Filmmaking at this level is a business and films have been potential for synergy, therefore more potential for profit if they are safe investments.

Whilst we often say a film’s profit is dictated by the opening weekend box office figures; in today’s global society film’s often make as much, if not more profit, from the longevity of the film’s brand as a presence in the public sphere – this happens through synergy.

So to sum up:

  • Synergy is an important part of a film’s marketing campaign- making the public aware of the film’s existence.
  • Synergy is an integral reason for the success of the major conglomerates, who own Hollywood, and for their dominance over independents worldwide.
  • Synergy is also a key reason for the studio’s preference towards safe films, because the safer the investment the more likely it is that they will be able to attract corporate partnerships.
  • The synergy opportunities developed for a film can often be more profitable than the film itself and keep the film brand in the public sphere constantly- ideal if the studios are planning a sequel, which is more than common in contemporary Hollywood!

Technological Convergence

Technological Convergence is an important aspect of understanding how technology has developed. This will be important for Section B: Institutions and Audiences.

Essentially, what we’re dealing with here is how one or more aspects of technology are convergence to one piece of hardware. The modern mobile phone and games console are great examples of technological convergence.

I found this presentation, which outlines it pretty good so let’s take a look:


Our main question next is how does this relate to the music industry. To answer that we must consider how technological convergence affects music producers/artists/labels (the Institutions) and the consumer (the Audience)

From Wikipedia:

Technological convergence is the tendency that as technology changes, different technological systems sometimes evolve toward performing similar tasks.

Media convergence in this instance is defined as the interlinking of computing and other information technologies, media content, and communication networks that have arisen as the result of the evolution and popularization of the Internet as well as the activities, products and services that have emerged in the digital media space. Many experts[who?] view this as simply being the tip of the iceberg, as all facets of institutional activity and social life such as business, government, art, journalism, health, and education are increasingly being carried out in these digital media spaces across a growing network of information and communication technology devices.

Also included in this topic is the basis of computer networks, wherein many different operating systems are able to communicate via different protocols. This could be a prelude to artificial intelligence networks on the Internet eventually leading to a powerful superintelligence[2] via a technological singularity.

Convergent services, such as VoIP, IPTV, Smart TV, and others, tend to replace the older technologies and thus can disrupt markets. IP-based convergence is inevitable and will result in new service and new demand in the market.[3]

When the old technology converges into the public-owned common, IP based services become access-independent or less dependent. The old service is access-dependent.

Convergence culture

Henry Jenkins determines convergence culture to be the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behavior of media audiences who will go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they want. The convergence culture is an important factor in transmedia storytelling. Convergence culture introduces new stories and arguments from one form of media into many. Because of this culture a single piece of media content is represented in multiple forms of media.[40][page needed] For instance, The Matrix starts as a film, which is followed by two other installments, but in a convergence culture it is not constrained to that form. It becomes a story not only told in the movies but in animated shorts, video games and comic books, three different media platforms. Online, a wiki is created to keep track of the story’s expanding canon. Fan films, discussion forums, and social media pages also form, expanding The Matrix to different online platforms. Convergence culture took what started as a film and expanded it across almost every type of media.[41]

Bert is Evil (images) Bert and Bin Laden appeared in CNN coverage of anti-American protest following September 11. The association of Bert and Bin Laden links back to the Ignacio’s Photoshop project for fun.[40][page needed]

Convergence culture is a part of participatory culture. Because average people can now access their interests on many types of media they can also have more of a say. Fans and consumers are able to participate in the creation and circulation of new content. Some companies take advantage of this and search for feedback from their customers through social media and sharing sites such as YouTube. Besides marketing and entertainment, convergence culture has also affected the way we interact with news and information. We can access news on multiple levels of media from the radio, TV, newspapers, and the internet. The internet allows more people to be able to report the news through independent broadcasts and therefore allows a multitude of perspectives to be put forward and accessed by people in many different areas. Convergence allows news to be gathered on a much larger scale. For instance, photographs were taken of torture at Abu Ghraib. These photos were shared and eventually posted on the internet. This led to the breaking of a news story in newspapers, on TV, and the internet.[41]

Media scholar Henry Jenkins has described the media convergence with participatory culture as:

…a “catalyst” for amateur digital film-making and what this case study suggests about the future directions popular culture may take. Star Wars fan films represent the intersection of two significant cultural trends—the corporate movement towards media convergence and the unleashing of significant new tools, which enable the grassroots archiving, annotation, appropriation, and recirculation of media content. These fan films build on long-standing practices of the fan community but they also reflect the influence of this changed technological environment that has dramatically lowered the costs of film production and distribution.[42]

Cell phone convergence[edit]

The social function of the cell phone changes as the technology converges. Because of technological advancement, cell phones function more than just as a phone. They contain an internet connection, video players, Mp3 players, and a camera. Another example, Rok Sako To Rok Lo (2004) was screened in Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, and other part of India through EDGE-enabled mobile phones with live video streaming facility.[40][page needed]

Social movement[edit]

The integration of social movement in cyberspace is one of the potential strategies of social movement in the age of media convergence. Because of the neutrality of the internet and the end-to-end design, the power structure of the internet was designed to avoid discrimination between applications. Mexico’s Zapatistas campaign for land rights was one of the most influential case in the information age; Manuel Castells defines the Zapatistas as “the first informational guerrilla movement”.[43] The Zapatista uprising had been marginalized by the popular press. The Zapatistas were able to construct a grassroots, decentralized social movement by using the internet. The Zapatistas Effect, observed by Cleaver,[44] continues to organize social movements on a global scale. A sophisticated webmetric analysis, which maps the links between different websites and seeks to identify important nodal points in a network, demonstrates that the Zapatistas cause binds together hundreds of global NGOs.[45] The majority of the social movement organized by Zapatistas targets their campaign especially against global neoliberalism.[46] A successful social movement not only need online support but also protest on the street. Papic wrote, “Social Media Alone Do Not Instigate Revolutions”, which discusses how the use of social media in social movements needs good organization both online and offline.[47]

A study title, “Journalism in the age of media convergence: a survey of undergraduates’ technology-related news habits”, concluded that several focus group respondents reported they generally did not actively engage in media convergence, such as viewing slide shows or listening to podcast that accompanied an online story, as part of their Web-based news consumption, a significant number of students indicated the interactive features often associated with online news and media convergence were indeed appealing to them.

Introducing Section B: Institutions and Audiences

Today we are starting Section B: Institutions and Audiences. This will be a Case Study based unit we will be working on until the exam in May.

Here some info from the specification:

Students should be prepared to understand and discuss the processes of production,
distribution, marketing and exchange as they relate to contemporary media institutions, as well as the nature of audience consumption and the relationships between audiences and institutions. In addition, candidates should be familiar with:

  • the issues raised by media ownership in contemporary media practice;
  • the importance of cross media convergence and synergy in production, distribution and marketing;
  • the technologies that have been introduced in recent years at the levels of production, distribution, marketing and exchange;
  • the significance of proliferation in hardware and content for institutions and audiences;
  • the importance of technological convergence for institutions and audiences;
  • the issues raised in the targeting of national and local audiences (specifically, British) by international or global institutions;
  • the ways in which the students’ own experiences of media consumption illustrate wider patterns and trends of audience behaviour

This unit will be approached through contemporary examples in the form of case studies based upon the following media area:


A study of a particular record label within the contemporary music industry that targets a British audience, including its patterns of production, distribution, marketing and consumption by audiences. This should be accompanied by study of the strategies used by record labels to counter the practice of file sharing and their impact on music production, marketing and consumption.