Published March 14, 2023 | Version 1.0
Project deliverable Open

Production networks in the cultural and creative sector: case studies from the European music industry

  • 1. Stockholm University
  • 2. SGH Warsaw School of Economics


The CICERONE project consists of seven work packages (WPs). This report is part of WP2, which constitutes the empirical backbone of CICERONE. It contains case study research that focuses on networked production in eight cultural and creative industries: 1) architecture, 2) archives (including libraries and cultural heritage), 3) artistic crafts, 4) audio-visual media (film, TV, videogames, multimedia) and radio, 5) design, 6) festivals, as well as performing and visual arts, 7) music and, 8) publishing.  The purpose of the case study research is to understand key linkages and mechanisms in real-life CCS production networks and their relationships to context-dependent variables.

Drawing on the case study research, the CICERONE project explores policies that may contribute to enhancing the impact of the cultural and creative sectors on competitiveness, cultural diversity and environmental sustainability. It also explores how to support post-Covid recovery of the sector itself. Furthermore, the case study research facilitates the identification of gaps in extant sources of quantitative data, suggesting approaches on how these can be plugged. For this reason, WP2 is not just the empirical backbone of CICERONE, it also provides critical inputs for the work in other WPs (most notably WP4 and WP6).

This deliverable (D2.7) reports on the case studies on the European music industry. Together with the reports D2.1 to D2.6 and D2.8, it provides strategic snapshots of the rich and variegated tapestry of European production networks in cultural and creative industries.

Music is one of the CCSs that has experienced a rapid transformation over the two past decades, as digitalisation has changed the format and distribution of recorded music. These changes make the sector especially relevant for a Global Production Network analysis, as networks are being reconfigured with new actors and products reshaping the market. The sector contains three sub-industries or streams: the recorded music industry, the live music sector, and music publishing. These three streams are dominated by a few global majors that own and receive the majority of remuneration for the music created. This sector analysis involves case study research on the music sector that does not belong to these majors, namely the independent music sector. This part of the sector has been most acutely affected by the changes accompanying digitalisation, as concentration of the music market towards the majors has been one of its effects. From a European perspective, the independent music sector also represents the vast majority of current music actors and activities, accounting for 80% of employment and products.

The case study research undertaken builds upon an in-depth literature and statistical analysis, identifying the production network configuration of the sector. The report is divided into three different parts. The first part contains an in-depth literature review, outlining key dimensions of the music industry. The music sector comprises a three-tiered stream creating different types of music products, which will be outlined to begin the review. This is followed by a description of the numerous job profiles in the sector, as well as the working conditions of the sector, which are marked by high degrees of civil society engagement and precarious labour conditions. Music products made by these professionals, although increasingly digital, are embedded in the places they are produced, not only through the networks of institutions and workers but also through the tastes and consumption habits of those who consume the music. Lastly, the first part of the report discusses the issue of policy, which is imperative to the sector, as revenues are generated through different types of contracts and rights to music products and their use. The second part of the report involves statistical mapping to present an estimation of the size of the sector in terms of employment and enterprises, both on a European level and in Poland and Sweden. Here, we also highlight some of the existing issues with estimating the size of the industry using databases.

Using a global production network approach for studying the CCS, and the music industry in particular, means that the framework departs from a conceptualisation of the entire network of production, following the different stages of production. Through the literature review, the report outlines the network configuration of the sector, identifying five types of governance models that guided the case study selection. Here, we describe the two case studies from the independent music sector that ere chose, one representing the established network of a merit-based, niche genre – jazz – and another representing the development of a new network of a debuting artist in a popular music genre.

The results of the case studies highlight a few key dimensions of the sector. First, it is an industry based on connections deeply embedded in the areas in which the actors operate. Personal connections and having successfully completed projects before, are imperative for career progression. Both cases are defined as network types with relatively horizontal governance models, where relationships built on trust and merit influence whether actors collaborate on projects. This makes the barriers to entry high for breaking into a network and developing contacts, especially for young career workers and artists. Labour is precarious in one’s early career, but long hours and poor pay were also found with workers who had years of experience. Here, support for early career networking or grants for debut albums and singles can support new workers in the sector. Education, both in music and in entrepreneurial skill, could alleviate this barrier to entry into the sector. The COVID-19 pandemic severely affected the industry, and many actors struggled during and after this period. However, the pandemic did not strike evenly throughout the network; it affected the live sector and the artists the most, but did not impact the recording sector as significantly. Awareness of how networks are configured can aid in locating where precariousness is in a production chain, either to alleviate it or to know which actors need support in periods of crisis.

The independent cases also considered the longevity of music careers as a factor separating them from the major companies. Instead of finding hit songs, they sought durability with their artists. The new forms of streaming mean that value can build up over time, and a smaller but faithful fan base can be profitable over a longer time span. For both cases, successful careers did not need to be defined by instant hits but by streams building up over time, and a 10–20-year-long music career and co-operation were deemed more desirable than a short-lived career.

Digitalisation changes have also impacted the networks in other ways. Competition has increased as a result of new digital platforms and the ease of production. Digitalisation was found to be positive for artists to connect to audiences quickly, but it also meant higher levels of competition, as there are more music products available. Further, new actors from the IT sector, which add little value to the production chain itself, receive part of the remuneration. A lack of both control and insight into the streams and remuneration on platforms was also raised as an issue. In addition to the music products adding value to these platforms, PR agents and social media managers also direct data to these platforms, but they have little control over what happens with their data once it has been directed.

Finally, it is worth noting that technology is evolving rapidly, and the resulting changes are followed by rapid shifts in the consumption habits of music consumers. These, in turn, influence the behaviour of the various actors in the network and its configuration. Meanwhile, regulations (e.g. regarding the appropriate remuneration of creators for music distributed) on streaming services are not keeping up with these changes. Despite attempts to amend copyright and related rights, they have still not adapted to the digital world. A thorough redefinition of these rights would enable a reduction in current tensions between the various actors in the network, especially between artists and the new technological powers. Instead of tensions, an additional synergy could arise in the network of production that would enhance the value produced within it.


D2.7 Production networks in the CCS. Case studies from the European music industry.pdf

Additional details


CICERONE – Creative Industries Cultural Economy Production Network 822778
European Commission