By Professor Martin Cloonan
Martin Cloonan is Professor of Popular Music Politics at the University of Glasgow’s Music subject area. He is currently Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded project The Musicians Union: A social history.
In October 2015 Routledge published the book Popular Music Industries and the State: Policy Notes, co-authored by Shane Homan (Monash University, Australia), Jen Cattermole (Otago University, New Zealand) and myself. It emerges from research carried out as part of an Australia Research Council project which ran between 2009 and 2011, and has previously spawned special editions of the International Journal of Cultural Policy (19:3, 2013) and Perfect Beat (14:2, 2013) which the authors edited.
The new book surveys popular music policy in three Anglophone nations: Australia, New Zealand and Scotland. Our concern was to explore with musicians, music industries’ personnel and policymakers how government policy affects music making and selling in a context in which talk of “globalisation” has become somewhat routine. We were keen to explore the importance of “local” interventions in popular music at a time when the global industries are dominated by two major promoters and three major record companies.
The book has four central themes:
- the (changing) role of states and industries in popular music activity;
- assessment of the central challenges faced by smaller nations competing within larger, global music-media markets;
- comparative analysis of music policies and debates among nations (and also among organisations and popular music sectors);
- analysis of where and why the state intervenes in popular music activity and how (and whether) music fits within the ‘turn to culture’ in policymaking over the last 20 years.
Brief, nation-specific case studies are highlighted as a means of illuminating broader global debates. Separate chapters deal with issues such as music and identity, musical cities, copyright and indigenous music.
Publication of the book marks another stage in my interest in music policy which spawned an earlier book Popular Music and The State (Ashgate, 2007) and which has seen me act as consultant to bodies such as UK Music and Creative Scotland. I remain fascinated by issues around what sorts of social conditions are best for musicians and what roles governments can play in enhancing musical life. At a time when a report has just been produced for Boris Johnson on London’s music venues which suggested the sorts of market interventions which are anathema to free marketeers, it seems that such issues are more vital than ever.