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Differentiated Access to Platforms: The Artist-Producer in the Reorganization of Musical Sectors in Brazil and Central Africa

Abstract

If the hegemony of transnational platform models prevails on musical industries, it relies on the latter's ability to interface strategies that are anchored in social spaces that are only very partially and very differently globalized. Moreover, these platforms are gradually undergoing a process of territorialization: linguistic variations of interfaces, differentiated treatment of messages according to IP, application of national law, available catalogs, etc. The militant rhetoric of dematerialization, ubiquity and DIY (or disintermediation) helps to mobilize commercial and artistic players around the world and deeply permeates common sense in different social spheres. But the incorporation of these platforms into the different sectors and social configurations of cultural industries has, on the contrary, every interest in being approached by the social sciences, from a materialist point of view anchored in delimited circulation spaces and taking into account the chains of intermediation that are more and more complex, and less and less visible.
The focus on the figure of the self-produced artist — central in the Californian imagination of platforms, but viewed here from very contrasting Southern countries — aims to highlight specific forms of reconfiguration of musical economies. By relying on an exploratory prosopography (interviews, observations and secondary sources) we will examine four polar cases, strongly anchored stylistically and economically : in Brazil, with a formalized music industry (institutions and market) from the 1930s, the “traditional” pole of choro and instrumental music linked to samba and the urban music pole (rap or funk) show a precariousness in the conditions of professionalization of artists. In a Central Africa with a less formalized market, we will examine on the one hand the pole of Cameroonian bikutsi, perceived as “heritage” and on the other the pole of Gabonese rap, classified as urban, revealing an anomic formalization of the music market. The relationship with the platforms of these “self-produced” artists (a position which is not at all new) will be examined in a comparative way — at the local level as from one country to another —, in the light of several criteria :
- the forms of institutionalization of the local market and its reconfiguration with the platforms;
- the degree of blurring of the borders between professionals and amateurs, between formal and informal economy, between home studio and professional studio;
- socially constructed predispositions (age, place of residence, inherited social and cultural capital) of artists;
- career-related forms of accumulation (social, economic, symbolic, technical capital);
- the central or peripheral place given to the placement of products on the platforms in the activity (part of the physical, stage, media, merchandising);
- platform access modes and investment strategies (including aggregators) as well as the strategies for taking into account editorial and prescription algorithms in product exposure, the range of possibilities invested to "monetize content";
At a time of the proliferation of available content, these artist-producers are exposing themselves either to a paradoxical form of autonomy (producing more to be seen and paid less) or, on the contrary, to an early incorporation of audience logics into every musical gesture. While they are far from the panopticon of the majors, they keep in their sights the strategic intermediaries necessary to make the commercial exploitation of phonograms "viable", that is to say sufficiently profitable to make them a way of life.
While these technological infrastructures help establish the principle of a perfect market for symbolic goods, they should not be reified as a phenomenon establishing its hegemonic logics in a homogeneous manner. They are of different types, suppose different regimes of truth, whether or not they invest the territories considered here, opening the door to modes of appropriation in art worlds which are differentiated and where collective power relations are also formed, facing players in the digital economy as well as institutional players. The comparative and differentiated study of the relations between artists-producers and platforms thus seems to constitute a good avenue for mapping the space of relations implemented and their asymmetries, while providing indicators of position in musical fields of which it is necessary to strive to restore the perimeters or at least the extent.
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Dates and versions

hal-04027792 , version 1 (14-03-2023)

Identifiers

  • HAL Id : hal-04027792 , version 1

Cite

Vassili Rivron. Differentiated Access to Platforms: The Artist-Producer in the Reorganization of Musical Sectors in Brazil and Central Africa. Digital Platforms in the Global South: Shaping a Critical Approach, Philippe Bouquillion; Christine Ithurbide; Tristan Mattelard, Jun 2021, Paris, France. ⟨hal-04027792⟩
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