A package deal: Branding, technology, and advertising in music of the 20th and 21st centuries

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Title: A package deal: Branding, technology, and advertising in music of the 20th and 21st centuries
Author: Samples, Mark Christopher, 1981-
Abstract: This dissertation explores the history and influence of branding strategies on the music industry during the 20th and 21st centuries in order to give insight into the commercial ideologies that underlie music commodities and the ideologies of the musicians and companies that make them. The project is organized into four case studies that span the history of recorded music, from pre-1900 phonograph advertising to 21st-century popular music. After an introductory chapter that frames the study and presents its main themes, Chapter II explores the early years of the recorded music industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to uncover the birth of modern branding as a commercial strategy in the music industry. I argue that branding practices were an adaptation to the development and challenges of new technologies. With their seminal and successful Red Seal line of records, the Victor Talking Machine Company responded to the development of mass duplication processes, harnessed high-brow cultural cachet, and aggressively marketed their products on a mass scale. Chapter III investigates the anti-commercial attitudes of communities, musicians such as Joan Baez, and--paradoxically--businesses in the urban "folk music revival" of the 1960s. Relationally-focused branding strategies were emphasized in order to counteract the perceived corruption of a commercially-focused industry. Chapter IV brings the discussion into the 21st century by introducing and analyzing the music and career of American "indie-folk" musician and composer Sufjan Stevens, especially as mediated through the alternative music press. Stevens aligns himself with what I call the "artist brand," which simultaneously pits him ideologically against commercialism and provides him with a powerful marketing strategy. Chapter V describes how Apple Inc.'s attention to product design and packaging in their original iPod solved a tension between digital music technology and the listening experience. Through an analysis of iPod advertisements, I argue that Apple sought to promote the iPod as an enhancer of cultural status and the listener as a star. This dissertation introduces branding as an influential factor in music commodification and advocates for the development of more music-branding studies.
Description: xvii, 264 p. : ill. (some col.)
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1794/11638
Date: 2011-06

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