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Does concentration leave room for musical diversity ?

Are Live Nation, AEG, Fima­lac et al a conve­nient bogey­man for pro­fes­sio­nals concer­ned about defen­ding their turf, paper tigers that jus­ti­fy the redi­rec­tion of public funds towards a regio­nal mar­ke­ting poli­cy or a genuine threat to the expres­sion of diversity ?

Live Nation, AEG, Fima­lac… the mere men­tion of these com­pa­nies alone is enough to pro­voke an out­cry among cultu­ral sta­ke­hol­ders atta­ched to a public poli­cy that cham­pions a par­ti­cu­lar idea of cultu­ral diver­si­ty. Sym­bo­li­sing a phe­no­me­non of unpre­ce­den­ted concen­tra­tion that affects live shows and the world of music in par­ti­cu­lar, the action of these inter­na­tio­nal groups in France has been clear for all to see for ten years, but its ori­gins can be tra­ced back to the late 1990s, when the Com­pa­gnie Géné­rale des Eaux – rena­med Viven­di by Jean Marie Mes­sier – acqui­red Uni­ver­sal to found a conglo­me­rate that aimed to control both the contai­ners and their content[1]. The 360-degree approach is born[2].

The balance of the music mar­ket had pre­vious­ly been based on a long-stan­ding sec­to­ri­sa­tion, with a robust recor­ding indus­try ; although domi­na­ted by a hand­ful of majors, diver­si­fied and rela­ti­ve­ly inde­pendent media and those hand­ling live per­for­mances ope­ra­ted in part thanks to a timid recog­ni­tion by public autho­ri­ties under­going a pro­cess of decentralisation.

The digi­tal explo­sion, with its impact on the pro­duc­tion and consump­tion of recor­ded music,[3] upset this pre­ca­rious balance and left the field open to new players who step­ped into the breach of a frag­men­ted and dere­gu­la­ted mar­ket. Coming from adver­ti­sing, sport and finance in search of new oppor­tu­ni­ties, they were the first to unders­tand the impor­tance of data [4]. They then went on to indus­tria­lise this 360-degree approach, absor­bing as many of their com­pe­ti­tors as other com­po­nents of the music indus­try (ticket issuers, venues, fes­ti­vals[5]…), lea­ding to the threat of a mar­ket situa­tion both oli­go­po­lis­tic (when a small num­ber of sel­lers has a mono­po­ly on sta­ging shows) and oli­gop­so­nis­tic (a small num­ber of buyers for a large num­ber of sel­lers, in this case, artists). Stu­dying the retail sec­tor and agri-food mar­ket[6] shows us that the conse­quences of this kind of confi­gu­ra­tion are usual­ly : infla­ted prices for the consu­mer, loss of ear­nings for the pro­du­cers and the stan­dar­di­sa­tion of pro­duc­tion to reduce costs. The only thing mis­sing from this pic­ture was a glo­bal eco­no­mic and com­mer­cial agree­ment that would remove regu­la­to­ry power from a govern­ment res­pon­sible for cultu­ral diver­si­ty ! All that would remain when it came to pre­ser­ving musi­cal diver­si­ty and the crea­tive vibran­cy of an entire sec­tor was the ima­gi­na­tion of inde­pendent sta­ke­hol­ders keen to work in the gene­ral inter­est. Ulti­ma­te­ly, they would end up having to reinvent methods of pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion, through sha­ring, media­tion with local mar­kets and the mobi­li­sa­tion of resources of unique fes­ti­vals, culti­va­ting their dif­fe­rences and offe­ring unri­val­led expe­riences, in new media, where proxi­mi­ty is real or vir­tual. But they can­not by them­selves over­turn a power­ful trend that poses a serious threat to the expres­sion of cultu­ral diver­si­ty by wea­ke­ning the alrea­dy wea­kest sta­ke­hol­ders with an industry.

Never­the­less, while this pic­ture of the situa­tion seems to be sha­red by a majo­ri­ty of pro­fes­sio­nals, stu­dies to sup­port it are still too sec­tor-based to hope to convince poli­cy­ma­kers to put cor­rec­tive mea­sures in place to ensure the sus­tai­na­bi­li­ty of a sys­tem also in need of modernisation.

Final­ly, it is clear that our ana­ly­sis must take into account the inter­na­tio­nal dimen­sion of a phe­no­me­non in which growth is also based on fas­ter exchanges and a concen­tra­tion of pres­crip­tive media [7], which poses the risk of a world­wide stan­dar­di­sa­tion of musi­cal tastes. Due to the increa­sed mobi­li­ty of a sec­tion of huma­ni­ty that no lon­ger thinks twice about tra­vel­ling seve­ral hun­dred kilo­metres to attend a large gathe­ring of head­line acts, this same glo­ba­li­sa­tion move­ment raises the ques­tion of com­pe­ti­tion bet­ween cities for whom these vast masses are a regio­nal mar­ke­ting tool that allows them to reshape their image for a mini­mal direct cost [8]. In this context, the reac­tion of public poli­cies, when reflec­ted by a mas­sive invest­ment in events or faci­li­ties favou­ring inter­na­tio­nal expo­sure at the expense of a local net­work and action to struc­ture a sec­tor, has a cata­ly­tic effect on the phe­no­me­non of concen­tra­tion des­cri­bed above.

The eco­no­mic concen­tra­tion of the music mar­ket is the­re­fore pro­tean and its effects are yet to be eva­lua­ted glo­bal­ly and objec­ti­ve­ly to sup­port changes in the sec­tor and the place and role of its public policies.

Be that as it may, the world has pro­ba­bly never lis­te­ned to so much music and those who create it, thanks to the digi­tal world, can pro­duce and dis­tri­bute their work like never before. The chal­lenge we all col­lec­ti­ve­ly face is the­re­fore to ensure that all musi­cal expres­sion can exist in a way that res­pects eve­ryone and in the inter­est of all those dedi­ca­ted to other acti­vi­ties… Such ini­tia­tives alrea­dy exist and can be found in third places, where trans­dis­ci­pli­na­ri­ty breaks down walls, in everyone’s interest.

[1] La conver­gence médias vue par Jean Marie Mes­sier [Media conver­gence accor­ding to Jean Marie Mes­sier] (Chal­lenge – 03/09/2015)

[2] La révo­lu­tion 360° a‑t-elle eu lieu ? [Has the 360-degree revo­lu­tion taken place?]  (Irma – 05/01/2011)

[3] 10 chiffres pour com­prendre la crise du disque [10 figures to help you unders­tand the record cri­sis] (L’Express – 10/01/2009)

[4] Pan­do­ra branche une billet­te­rie en ligne sur ses big datas [Pan­do­ra connects online ticke­ting to its big data] (Pros­ce­nium Think Tank – 09/10/2015)

[5] Live Nation orga­nise 32000 concerts par an, gère 128 salles et avait, en 2018, 4000 artistes sous contrat, et vend par sa filière Ticket­mas­ter 550 mil­lions de tickets dans 40 pays dif­fé­rents [Live Nation orga­nises 32,000 concerts per year, manages 128 venues and had, in 2018, 4,000 artists under contract, and sells 550 mil­lion tickets in 40 dif­ferent coun­tries through its Ticket­mas­ter chan­nel] (Les Echos – 30/07/2018)

[6] Les marges dans la filière agro-ali­men­taire en France [Mar­gins in France’s agri-food sec­tor] (Cairn Info – Mars 2009)

[7] “En 2017, You­tube concen­trait à lui seul 46% des heures dédiées à l’écoute de la musique à la demande dans le monde” [In 2017, You­Tube alone accoun­ted for 46% of hours dedi­ca­ted to lis­te­ning to music on demand world­wide] (IFPI stu­dy)

[8] Gros coup de colère au Main Square Fes­ti­val [A fit of anger at the Main Square Fes­ti­val] (Libé­ra­tion – 15/06/20019, upda­ted 28/01/2015)

Stéphane Krasniewski

© Stéphane Barbier


After managing a puppet theatre company for several years, in 2004, Stéphane Krasniewski joined the team at Les Suds in Arles as administrator and then co-programmer alongside Marie José Justamond, the festival’s founder.
He became its director in January 2019.
President of Zone Franche, the world music network, since 2018, he is also a member of the National Council of the Syndicat des Musiques Actuelles [Union for Modern Music].

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