Independent Music Labels: Histories, Practices and Values
03-04.12.2020 | Lisbon | NOVA FCSH
Within the field of popular music studies, little attention has been given to the impacts of independent music labels outside the Anglo-Saxon context, particularly in the production, dissemination and consumption of music in semi-peripheral countries such as Portugal. On the other hand, when the scope of the reflection goes beyond the Anglo-Saxon context the study of major record companies has been privileged over small structures of local / national scope which operate independently from these large companies and/or media groups with a transnational reach. Starting from broader discussions about the relationship between the local and the global in music production, this colloquium proposes a discussion on the impact of independent music labels with a particular focus on the Portuguese context and/or in contexts that are similarly located outside the main production centers. We will take as a starting point some recognized (yet open to scrutiny) assumptions about independent labels in the field of music production: the dissemination and making available of local musics and artists in opposition to the hegemony of global (mostly Anglo-Saxon) artists and genres released by multinationals; the valuing of aesthetic and artistic dimensions in music making at the expense of its commercial potential; the forms of organization and work that are innovative and adaptable to the changing contexts in the record sector, particularly in the new millennium. This is an inter and multidisciplinary colloquium accepting proposals in disciplines such as musicology, ethnomusicology, sociology, anthropology and history, among others. We also hope to establish a dialogue between the academy and the record sector with the presence and participation of independent label managers.
The subthemes we propose are:
1. Independent labels and the dissemination of music genres and styles
One of the most recognized impacts of independent labels has been the release and making available of marginal and ‘alternative’ local music practices and styles in relation to a ‘mainstream’ promoted and supported by major companies. With this subtheme we intend to reflect on the impact of the role assumed by these structures: on the styles, artists and music practices that gain exposure with the work of these labels; and the ways in which their recording and dissemination transforms these musical styles and practices.
2. New organizational practices in independent music labels
Independent labels tend to be simple and flexible structures characterized by proximity and rapid articulation between the various agents, whose ability to react to changes in taste and to the emergence of new styles and musical scenes often puts them in an advantage situation over the majors. Recently, interest in its study has been revived by the surge of new forms of digital distribution and by its impact on the emergence of small structures (called micro-labels) for the release and distribution of music. How are independent labels organized in the new millennium? How do technological changes related to disintermediation processes in the distribution of music shape organizational practices within these structures?
3. Relationship with other structures within the music industries
Despite the attribute of independents, the small local structures do not act alone or are completely isolated from other sectors within a field of musical production. Important synergetic relationships are established with other sectors such as the concert producers, artists’ management, music distributors and, crucially, with the media, among others. What strategies are developed by labels in relation to these structures? What are the structural aspects of these synergetic relationship?
4. The independent edition of music in a Portuguese context: from Estado Novo to the New Millennium
Since the middle of the last century, with local labels Orfeu/Arnaldo Trindade and Rádio Triunfo, until recently, with an inestimable number of micro-labels composing the field of music production in Portugal, local and independent music production has assumed a structuring role in the recording sector in Portugal. With this subtheme, we aim to focus on the history of independent music labels in Portugal, either through a diachronic approach to the changes that occurred in this subfield of musical production, or through a particular analysis of historical cases. Reflections on the notion of independence in the Portuguese context are also important in this topic.
5. Values and ideologies in independent labels
One of the aspects most in focus and debated when we approach independent labels concerns the fact that they are arguably anchored in different ideologies and values, both aesthetically and professionally, from those found in multinational companies. Notions of creativity, innovation and aesthetic value are often placed in counterpoint to the commercialism and conservatism that supposedly characterize the music industry. How are these notions articulated discursively and put into practice professionally within these labels? What other values emerge when we approach different case studies within the independent music edition?
We invite proposals of up to 300 words in one of these topics. Proposals must come with a title, an author (or more if it is co-authored) and affiliation. It must include the methodology used, the paper’s goals and summarize the context and argument of the paper. Proposals must be sent by June 15th 2020 to the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof. David Hesmondhalgh (School of Media and Communication, University of Leeds)
ORFEU (1956-1983): The Politics and aesthetics of popular music production and consumption in modern Portugal
Instituto de Etnomusicologia – Centro de Estudos em Música e Dança (INET-md)