With the international growth of digital networks in the early 21st century, many commentators predicted a more democratic future for cultural production and consumption. This talk investigates the accuracy of such predictions, mainly focusing on the case of music but also commenting on developments in television. The increasing power of streaming services as gatekeepers to music and television content brings with it the increasing penetration of giant tech corporations and start-ups into the realm of music and television, with business models based on data collection and analysis. There are political-economic and moral-economic implications in terms of ownership of intellectual property, user privacy and questions of transparency. There are also cultural implications, including increasing importance of music playlists, many of them mood-driven, and across music and television the use of algorithms to organise user ‘discovery’. This talk seeks to address the degree to which these developments represent positive ones for those committed to cultural democracy.
David Hesmondhalgh is Professor of Media, Music and Culture at the University of Leeds. He is the author of The Cultural Industries (4th edition, 2019), Why Music Matters (2013); and co-author of Creative Labour: Media Work in Three Cultural Industries (2010) and Culture, Economy and Politics: The Case of New Labour (2015).