Music Industry's Turbulent Relation with Streaming: Political Economy of Spotify

Saygın, Tahsin Mert
Amidst the advent of digital technologies and increasing Internet use, there have been fundamental changes in how (popular) music is produced, distributed, licensed, and consumed in the 21st century. This thesis provides an overall picture of the process that resulted in recording industry revenues rising above the year in which they began to decline and makes the most important actor of this process – Spotify – its subject of study within the political economy framework. Even though illegal file-sharing is still not entirely over, Spotify succeeded in making nearly 200 million people pay every month for recorded music. Hence, another purpose of this thesis is to reveal what was behind this ‘success’. Operating in an oligopoly with a few companies, the streaming format is the ground for the market’s very existence. This study argues that Spotify occupies a key position as it is institutionalizing digital music, while owning what the music industry needs the most: the enormous user data and the means (e.g., algorithms, playlists) of demand manipulation. It speeds up the circulation of capital, provides a significant source of income for major labels, and offers them the tools to minimize their risks. Based on a medley of available online resources and eight in-depth interviews with various actors in the music industry, this study employs a combination of qualitative and quantitative research.


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Citation Formats
T. M. Saygın, “Music Industry’s Turbulent Relation with Streaming: Political Economy of Spotify,” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2022.