A holistic approach to consumption analysis in the popular music market

by Scheckter, Jonathan

Abstract (Summary)
This thesis seeks to gain a holistic understanding of consumption issues in the popular music market, such that it needs to account for the influence of 1) technological factors, 2) institutional factors, 3) cultural factors, and 4) an ontological aspect; as these are identified to be the most prominent aspects in the literature on the market. While there is a bourgeoning literature on the market, there has been little formal attempt to link such issues in a comprehensive fashion. The methodology applied provides a critique of the literature on specific consumption theories which have apparent pertinence to the music market. Each of the sociological, psychological, and economic theories (neoclassical and radical) is found to be too generalized to provide such an understanding, in that many issues concerning the music market would need to be eschewed if these theories were to be applied in an orthodox fashion. Moreover, the theories tend to point towards each other for the possibility of a credible, holistic consumption analysis. The most useful and all-encompassing consumption theory reviewed is the systems of provision approach advanced by Fine and Leopold (1993), in that the approach aims to be sensitive to the difference between commodities in terms of the economic and social processes and structures by which they become commodities, and thus it can allow one to consider adequately the four requirements identified above for a holistic understanding of the market.

This approach is then applied to the western music market with the aim of 1) testing the approach identified, and 2) making a specific comment of the market. The market is found to be characterized historically by three distinct periods, each with distinct systems of provision (i.e. each with the four factors identified above relating to each other in a certain manner). It is proposed that preference formations in the final period identified have been institutionalized to a large extent, and there is a low probability of change occurring. The systems of provision approach is argued to be beneficial in highlighting which aspects of the existing consumption theories are relevant to the market at a point in time, and to what extent. Thus the richness of the approach stems from its ability to gain a holistic understanding, and to identify theoretical discussion topics, such as those concerning political economy.

The approach is then applied to the South African music market, using the same historical methodology, in conjunction with current empirical evidence from the market. Doing this allows one to test the generality of the systems of provision approach, and to attempt to make a comment on the South African market. The techniques for obtaining empirical evidence are argued to be sound, but resource constraints prevented the research from reflecting a holistic view of the market. Nonetheless, a rich perspective is provided from interviews with prominent agents in the market, and thus the chapter is argued to provide the beginning of an understanding of preference formations in the South African music market, in which little research has been conducted (Stella, 2005).

Bibliographical Information:


School:Rhodes University

School Location:South Africa

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:economics and economic history


Date of Publication:01/01/2006

© 2009 All Rights Reserved.