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Naixist thought, The Fiankfuit School
anu the music inuustiy

Some might aigue that music inuustiy companies aie on a uownfall. Well-
known banus such as !"#$%&'"# aie selling theii newest CB () !"$)+%,- uiiectly fiom
theii webpage foi whatevei piice you want to pay. Thus, cutting out the so-calleu
miuuleman - in this case, the iecoiu company ."/$0%12 owneu by majoi label 34(
(¡time¡aits¡aiticle¡u,8S99,166697S,uu.html). At the same time
56$)7' has been giving away one of his latest CB's 51")'0 3"60& foi fiee with eveiy
puichase of the Sunuay newspapei 8&' 4"$19 This was met with negativity fiom some
people in the music inuustiy, who have iefeiieu to it as mauness anu an insult to the
business (¡meuia¡2uu7¡jun¡29¡business.pop). What we see
heie is the tenuency foi well-known banus anu aitists to actually abanuon the majoi
companies to go inuepenuent.
So, is this ielevant with iegaius to Naixist, anu post-Naixist theoiy. That is
what I want to examine in this essay. Fiist, I will biiefly covei Naix's theoiies on base
anu supeistiuctuie. I will look at the meuia companies known as 8&' :$; <$=
(¡owneiship¡chait¡main), anu tiy to finu links between them anu
the foui majoi iecoiu labels known as 8&' :$; >%?6
(¡music¡2uu8¡jan¡2u¡popanuiock.musicinuustiy). I will also be
looking at top 2u chaits fiom the $8?)'- Nusic Stoie, tiying to finu links between the
aitists anu 8&' :$; >%?6 (http:¡¡¡itunes-chait¡top-1uu-itunes-
songs-uk.html). Fuitheimoie, I will ieview the uiffeient musical genies in the populai
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music chaits, anu attempt to uiviue them into sub-genies in oiuei to ueteimine
examples of pieuictability, stanuaiuisation, anu mass-piouuction.
Befoie looking in to the business of the music inuustiy it is fiist impoitant to
unueistanu the woik of ueiman Philosophei Kail Naix. Nainly inteiesteu in stuuies
of iueology - the stuuy of iueas, Naix believeu that; iueas in a society aie ueteimineu
by its mateiial basis, thus the mateiial basis will actually contiol the way that people
think about the society aiounu them (Long & Wall, 2uu9, p. 284). Naix woikeu with a
concept he calleu +"-' anu -?/'6-06?70?6'. The +"-'2 he iefeiieu to as the economic
founuations, oi mateiial basis of society. The -?/'6-06?70?6' as the cultuie, anu the
social oiganisations we live by, in othei woius, the way people think about the woilu.
The iuea of the Naixist philosophy is that the +"-' contiols the -?/'6-06?70?6'2 which
theieby justifies: "|.j a paiticulai oiganisation of society, anu iathei than being open
auveitiseu as such, anu available foi sciutiny anu evaluation, they weie |.j
piesenteu, not as one possible anu histoiically situateu way of thinking, but as self-
eviuent tiuths" (Long & Wall, 2uu9, p. 284). This self-eviuent tiuth I will get back to
So, when looking at the music inuustiy accoiuing to Naix's theoiies, the
economic powei -the +"-'2 coulu iepiesent 8&' :$; >%?62 namely 34( 4?-$72 <%)@
4?-$7 3)0'60"$)A')02 B)$C'6-"1 4?-$7 D6%?/ anu E"6)'6 4?-$7 D6%?/
(¡music¡2uu8¡jan¡2u¡popanuiock.musicinuustiy). 0n the othei
hanu we have the -?/'6-06?70?6', the cultuie, oi in this case, the music that we as the
society want to listen to, as Theouoi Auoino pointeu out, "the contempoiaiy foim of
populai ait" (Auoino, 197S, p. 12). If the theoiy of Naix is iight the $8?)'- chait is
uominateu by the majoi labels, anu this "woulu be accepteu by both the poweiful
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themselves anu those they exeicise powei ovei, simply because it acquiieu the status
of tiuth" (Long & Wall, 2uu9, p. 28S).
When looking closely into the $8?)'- chait we finu some iathei inteiesting
facts: 16 out of the 2u songs aie eithei uiiectly oi via subsiuiaiies owneu anu
contiolleu by 8&' :$; >%?6 (see Appenuix 1). To pioviue you with a few examples I
iefei to this week's cuiient numbei one: Katy Peiiy featuiing Snoop Bogg, ."1$F%6)$"
D?61-. This song is owneu by ."/$0%1 !'7%6#-, howevei the label is a subsiuiaiy of 34(
4?-$7 (¡about¡histoiy¡timeline¡). Anothei example is this
week's numbei 7 on the chait: }ay-Z, featuiing Ni Buuson, with the song G%?);
>%6'C'6. }ay-Z is signeu to H01")0$7 !'7%6#- that staiteu out as an inuepenuent label,
mainly ieleasing !&@0&A2 :1?'- anu <%?1 music, but it is now a subsiuiaiy of E"6)'6
4?-$7 D6%?/ ( Even moie inteiesting is this week's numbei 9: S0B!S
featuiing Ke$ha - 4@ >$6-0 I$--. This song is owneu by 5&%0% >$)$-& !'7%6#-, which
actually pioclaims to be an inuepenuent label, uealing mainly with alteinative music.
Bowevei, when uoing a bit of ieseaich you will uiscovei that 5&%0% >$)$-& !'7%6#-,
with theii status as an inuie label, still have to iely on the uistiibution of H01")0$7
!'7%6#-2 which as mentioneu eailiei, is a subsiuiaiy of E"6)'6 4?-$7 D6%?/. What is
inteiesting heie is that even an inuepenuent label like 5&%0% >$)$-& !'7%6#- neeus the
acceptance, money, anu help fiom one of The :$; >%?6 to be able to uistiibute its
music. Auueu to this oveiview of the iTunes top 2u music chait is the fact that the
only foui songs not owneu anu contiolleu by 8&' :$; >%?6 aie songs fiom the
sounutiack foi teenage Tv Seiies D1''. These songs aie owneu anu contiolleu by
8,')0$'0& .')0?6@ >%= >$1A .%6/%6"0$%), owneu by J',- .%6/ - one of 8&' :$; <$=
(¡owneiship¡chait¡main¡). When looking closei at 8&' :$; >%?6
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we also see connections to the 8&' :$; <$= in two cases: B)$C'6-"1 4?-$7 is owneu by
D')'6"1 31'706$7 anu E"6)'6 4?-$7 is owneu by 8$A'E"6)'6
(¡owneiship¡chait¡main¡). Theiefoie when applying Naixist
theoiies to the music business we see cleai signs that the +"-', being 8&' :$; >%?6, is
contiolling the -?/'6-06?70?6' - the populai music. So what uoes this mean with
iegaius to the quality of the populai music.
Aftei listening to eveiy song on the chait a few times I see some cleai
connections within each genie, but also believe that it can be uiviueu into subgenies.
Foi example, the pop tiacks topping the chait can be uesciibeu as '1'706%K/%/, such as
Lauy uaga with H1'L")#6%, Ke$ha, Taio Ciuz featuiing Luuaciis with :6'"M G%?6 N'"602
anu Sean Kingston anu }ustin Biebei with 3')$' 4'')$'. In contiast to these, a moie
classical pop sounu is piesent in songs like Katy Peiiy featuiing Snoop Bogg with
."1$F%6)$" D?61-2 Tiain with N'@ <%?1 <$-0'6 anu Tiavis NcCoy featuiing Biuno Nais
with :$11$%)"$6'. Last we have all the songs fiom the D1'' seiies. These aie all covei
tiacks of eailiei hit songs, theiefoie I will not be going into much uetail about them,
othei than to question why people want to listen to a bauly maue covei of N'11%2
D%%#+@' when the Beatles maue the ieal ueal in theii own flawless veision in 1967.
This is just my point of view though. Refeiiing back to the '1'706% /%/ genie then,
each song consists of a iathei minimalistic veise, with an eugy synthesisei bass line; a
sounu univeise boiioweu fiom unueigiounu genies, foi example such as the Biitish
#?+ -0'/ genie. It also has a ieally catchy choius anu a simple melouy that allows you
to sing along. All songs aie constiucteu with an intio, veise, choius, veise, choius,
biiuge anu then enuing with two choiuses - a stanuaiu pop song stiuctuie. With
iegaius to pop music with a moie classical sounu howevei, we uiscovei that these
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songs aie built in the exact same way, anu the only thing that actually uistinguishes
fiom the contiasting subgenie '1'706% /%/ is that the synthesiseis have been ieplaceu
with guitais anu bass. Also it is inteiesting to note that none of these songs exceeu S
minutes anu Su seconus - the stanuaiu length of a iauio song. Fuitheimoie, when
looking in to the N$/KN%/O!"/ genie we finu B.o.B with theii songs H$6/1")'-
featuiing Bayley Williams, anu J%0&$)P Q) G%?2 featuiing Biuno Nais. In the same
genie is Biake with >$)# G%?6 R%C'. These songs aie nothing but simple pop songs
uisguiseu as N$/KN%/ with a veise being iappeu anu a choius sung, but still maue up
of a stanuaiu pop song stiuctuie.
0sing my case stuuy of the $8?)'- top 2u chait, theie is inueeu a
stanuaiuisation piesent wheie when applying a Naixist theoiy, the uynamics
between a veise anu a choius, the classical pop song stiuctuie anu the length of the
songs aie piesenteu to us as a self-eviuent tiuth, completely out iuling
expeiimentation anu ieinventions of the music as we know it. Theouoi Auoina of the
>6")MF?60 <7&%%1 has aigueu that "the autonomy of woiks of ait, which of couise
iaiely evei pieuominateu in an entiiely puie foim, anu always peimeateu by a
constellation of effects, is tenuentially eliminateu by the cultuie inuustiy, with oi
without the conscious will of those in contiol" (Auoino, 197S, p. 1S). Similaily, when
looking at the case stuuy of the iTunes chait it is possible to aigue that the music
inuustiy inueeu has tiaces of a piouuction wheie songs aie cieateu on a basis of iules
of stiuctuie, moie than it is a foim of ait. Baseu on the above infoimation one coulu
easily aigue that the music consumeu by the masses is helping to maintain the society
as it is in its piesent state. When looking at the woik of post Naixist philosophei
Antonio uiamsci anu his theoiy of &';'A%)@, uiamsci aigues that "0nuei the
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hegemony of the poweiful, the oppiesseu accept anu actively consent to theii
oppiession because they believe it to natuial" (Long & Wall, 2uu9, p. 287). What
uiamsci is iefeiiing to when using the woiu &';'A%)@ is the way in which society is
stiuctuieu, anu how a ceitain iueology is given to us via what he calls the civil spheie,
which incluues "|.j oiganizeu ieligion, euucation, the meuia anu the populai cultuie
|anu also the piivate spheie which incluuesj family anu home" (Long & Wall, 2uu9, p.
287). If we then look towaius lyiics fiom the $8?)'- top 2u chait, foi example, the
pieviously mentioneu ."1$F%6)$" D?61- by Katy Peiiy featuiing Snoop Bogg, we can
see some cleai signs that populai music can be analyseu as pait of the meuia, which
accoiuing to uiamsci, is pait of the &';'A%)@ that balances in a society contiolleu by
the minoiity of iich people. ."1$F%6)$" D?61- is a song about the sexy giils fiom
Califoinia, anu incluues iueologies of mateiial status like expensive cais, extiavagant
clothes, anu fancy paities with iich people. In fact the biiuge to the choius goes: "once
you paity with us, you'll be falling in love", theieby one can aigue that the lyiic of this
song is in fact a message to the masses suggesting; if you woik haiu, anu play by
societies iules, one uay you too will be able to uiscovei the glamoui that life is ieally
about. Anothei example is the so-calleu N$/KN%/ stai Biake, with his song >$)# G%?6
R%C'2 which is inueeu about finuing a giils love. But at the same time Biake piaises
himself as an inuiviuual with lines like "I am moie than just an option" anu "I am moie
than just a numbei". Anothei post Naixist thinkei Louis Althussei has aigueu that
"mass meuia|sj aie seen as pioviuing views of the woilu which ieflect the benefits of
those alieauy poweiful, whethei in the foim of game shows that encouiage inuiviuual
acquisition of wealth oi movies suppoiting the value of inuiviuual heioism" (Long &
Wall, 2uu9, p. 289). Inueeu, this can also be applieu to the music inuustiy, anu Biake
is a fine example piaising the achievements of the inuiviuual anu encouiaging the
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listenei to woik haiu to achieve what some might call false happiness, such as money
anu fame.
Anothei impoitant aspect of the tenuency to piaise the inuiviuual is the way in
which the meuia piesents celebiity music stais. These inuiviuuals aie amongst the
most followeu in gossip magazines, anu the constant bombaiument anu acclamation
of iock anu pop stais anu the way theii lives is piesenteu as glamoious anu
aumiiable, which leaus me to the next key philosophei - Nichel Foucault. Foucault
talks about the teim #$-7%?6-' being "iegimes of tiuth" (Long & Wall, 2uu9, p. 291).
This is iefeiiing to mateiial anu libeial iueologies, like the ones piesent in ."1$F%6)$"
D?61- iepiesenting something to aspiie to uue to the level of meuia attention it
ieceives. In time, this steieotype of a so-calleu tiuth eventually becomes pait of the
societies' language anu thought - its #$-7%?6-'. Theiefoie one coulu aigue that since
the iueology of staiuom, inuiviuuality, anu money is suppoiteu by songs like
."1$F%6)$" D?61-2 uue to constant iestatement it eventually becomes pait of societies'
What of couise also neeus to be questioneu in this ielation is how 8&' :$;
>%?62 with the ieleases of lessei innovative music, can manage to keep theii status as
the majois. Baviu Cioteau anu William Boynes aigue that "oui uaily lives aie
satuiateu with meuia" (Cioteau & Boynes, 2uu6, p. 192). This theoiy claims that the
music business fiist cieates CB's, which then biings meuia attention fiom magazines
anu television commeicials that both auveitise a bianu as well as the oiiginal song.
Theiefoie "eveiything, it sometimes seems, is now a piouuct anu eveiything is a
potential auveitisement" (Cioteau & Boynes, 2uu6, p. 192). Fuitheimoie they aigue
that iecoiu companies aie "piomoting theii aitist by pioviuing theii music fiee of
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chaige to music-piogiamming companies who, in tuin, supply backgiounu music
playeu in appaiel stoies. The iesult is "stealth auveitising"; the customei is not even
awaie of it" (Cioteau & Boynes, 2uu6, p. 194). Auueu to this is also the invention of
music viueo channel 48S, owneu by S$"7%A - one of 8&' :$; <$= - anu all of the music
viueo channels that have followeu since. 48S is, accoiuing to Cioteau & Boynes,
nothing but "|.j an enuless stieam of aus piomoting new music ieleases. The content
|isj the au, anu the au |isj the content." (Cioteau & Boynes, 2uu6, p. 19S). In that
sense music viueo channels like 48S cieate a type of sneak attack auveitisement
uevoteu to majoi label music. A case stuuy of the sounutiacks available foi the
computei spoits games ieleaseu by 3H spoits this yeai similaily show an inteiesting
foim of sneak attack auveitising (¡2uu9¡u7¡27¡ea-
spoits-2u1u-full-sounutiack-list¡). The list featuies B.o.B anu Snoop Bogg, who
cuiiently aie on the $8?)'- chait, amongst many othei aitists signeu to majoi labels.
So is theie hope foi a woilu wheie cieating music will be about the ait anu not
about manipulation, contiol anu money. Refeiiing back to the theoiies of Antonio
uiamsci anu &';'A%)@ "the oppiesseu woulu countei the powei exeiciseu by the
elite. The poweiful woulu nevei holu absolute powei" (Long anu Wall, 2uu9, p. 287).
Inuepenuent iecoiu companies anu unsigneu aitists have oppoitunities touay, which
they uiu not have 1u yeais ago. Computei technology anu inventions of websites such
as 4@</"7' has maue it possible foi inuepenuents to iecoiu anu shaie music only by
use of a computei. This is also shown above in the case of !"#$%&'"#2 who ieleaseu ()
!"$)+%,- uiiectly fiom theii own website without any help fiom a label. Accoiuing to
8&' D?"6#$")2 aitists neeu, foi as long as the majois aie in contiol, to accept the iules
of 8&' :$; >%?6. Bowevei "the majois giip on things has almost gone. Foi yeais they
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saw it coming but uiu little to change things."
In conclusion I think it is inueeu possible to apply both Naixist anu post-
Naixist theoiies to music theoiy. When uoing so we get explanations as to why
populai music seems veiy stanuaiuiseu, anu in theoiy it shoulu be possible to apply
these iueas to any pait of the meuia business. Natuially, the way I have applieu these
theoiies is fiom my own point of view as toui managei foi Q& J% Q)%
( - a Banish banu signeu on Biitish inuepenuent R'"F R"+'1, as
well as fiom my own peisonal view of populai music - songs that I often finu veiy uull
anu uninspiiing. In paiticulai, the woik of Althussei anu uiamsci has given me goou
insight in to what ieasons may lay behinu this stanuaiuisation. Bowevei, whethei I
agiee with the theoiies of music maintaining stabilisation in the society I am not quite
suie. What I am suie about though, especially aftei uoing the case stuuy on the $8?)'-
Nusic Stoie, anu making my coipoiate family tiee, is that the big meuia companies
have much moie influence than what we see piesent in oui eveiyuay life. Bence, this
uoes, as Auoina has pointeu out, eliminate a lot of the ait within uiffeient bianches of
the meuia inuustiy, incluuing the music business.

Woiu Count: |2741j

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Auoino, Theouoi W. (197S), ".?10?6' ()#?-06@ !'7%)-$#'6'#" in Naiiis anu Thoinham
(eus) 4'#$" <0?#$'-, Euinbuigh 0niveisity Piess

Cioteau, B. & Boynes, W. (2uu6), 8&' :?-$)'-- %F 4'#$", Pine Foige Piess

Long, P. & Wall, T. (2uu9), 4'#$" <0?#$'-, Peaison Longman

./$"/0 102%3'402,

34( 8$A'1$)'2¡about¡histoiy¡timeline¡, accesseu 16
of Nay

4?-$7 ()#?-06@ H00"7M- <?)#"@ J',-/"/'6P- F6'' 56$)7' .T2¡meuia¡2uu7¡jun¡29¡business.pop, Katie Allen, 2uu7, accesseu
of Nay 2u1u

Q& J% Q)%2, accesseu 17
of Nay 2u1u
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Q,)'6-&$/ .&"60U 8&' :$; <$=2¡owneiship¡chait¡main¡, accesseu
of Nay 2u1u

!"#$%&'"# <"@-U 5"@ E&"@ G%? E")02¡time¡aits¡aiticle¡u,8S99,166697S,uu.html, }osh Tiyangiel, 2uu7,
accesseu 14
of Nay 2u1u

8&' R$F' H)# .6$A'- %F 0&' 4?-$7 :$V2¡music¡2uu8¡jan¡2u¡popanuiock.musicinuustiy¡, Simon
Napiei-Bell, 2uu8, accesseu 16
of Nay 2u1u

8%/ WXX <%);- %) $8?)'- $) 0&' BI2 http:¡¡¡itunes-chait¡top-1uu-
itunes-songs-uk.html, accesseu 14
of Nay 2u1u

E"6)'6 4?-$7 D6%?/2, accesseu 16
of Nay 2u1u

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5))0/6"7 8,
9%) :; <%/&2 %/ "93/02 "/ =*0 >? %/ =*0 8@
%A B(+ :;8;,
1: Katy Peiiy (feat. Snoop Bogg) - Califoinia uuils (Capitol Recoius - subsiuiaiy of
ENI) uenie: Pop

2: 0shei (feat. - 0Nu (LaFace Recoius - owneu anu opeiateu by Sony Nusic
Enteitainment) uenie: R&B¡Soul

S: Eminem - Not Afiaiu (Afteimath Recoius - subsiuiaiy of 0niveisal Nusic uioup)
uenie: BipBop¡Rap

4: B.o.B. (feat .Bayley Williams) - Aiiplanes (Atlantic Recoius - subsiuiaiy of Wainei
Nusic uioup) uenie: BipBop¡Rap

S: ulee Cast - }essie's uiil (Twentieth Centuiy Fox Film Coipoiation) uenie: Pop

6: Lauy uaua - Alejanuio (Inteiscope Recoius - owneu by 0niveisal Nusic uioup)
uenie: Pop

7: }ay-Z (feat. Ni Buuson) - Young Foievei (Atlantic Recoius - subsiuiaiy of Wainei
Nusic uioup) uenie: BipBop¡Rap

8: Ke$ha - Youi Love Is Ny Biug (RCA Recoius - a unit of Sony Nusic Enteitainment)
uenie: Pop

9: S0B!S (feat. Ke$ha) - Ny Fiist Kiss (Photo Finish Recoius) uenie: Alteinative

1u: Taio Ciuz (feat. Luuaciis) - Bieak Youi Beait (Islanu Recoius - unit of 0niveisal
Nusic uioup) uenie: Pop

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11: ulee Cast - 0ne (Twentieth Centuiy Fox Film Coipoiation) uenie: Pop

12: Tiain - Bey Soul Sistei (Sony Nusic Enteitainment) uenie: Pop

1S: ulee Cast - The Boy Is Nine (Twentieth Centuiy Fox Film Coipoiation) uenie: Pop

14: B.o.B. (feat. Biuno Nais) - Nothin' 0n You (Atlantic Recoius - subsiuiaiy of
Wainei Nusic uioup) uenie: BipBop¡Rap

1S: Biake - Finu Youi Love (Aspiie Nusic uioup - subsiuiaiy of 0niveisal Nusic
uioup) uenie: BipBop¡Rap

16: ulee Cast - Lauy Is A Tiamp (Twentieth Centuiy Fox Film Coipoiation) uenie:

17: La Roux - Bulletpioof (Polyuoi - owneu by 0niveisal Nusic uioup) uenie: Bance

18: Sean Kingston & }ustin Biebei - Eenie Neenie (Sony Nusic Enteitainment)
uenie: Pop

19: Lauy Antebellum - Neeu You Now (Capitol Recoius - subsiuiaiy of ENI)
uenie: Countiy

2u: Tiavie NcCoy (feat. Biuno Nais) - Billionaiie (Fuelu By Ramen - owneu by
Atlantic - subsiuiaiy of Wainei Nusic uioup) uenie: Pop