Research Blog Series: Intermediaries

Morten Hviid presents research on the impact of digitisation on the book, music and video games industries and the interaction between creators and new digital platforms, for the Research Blog Series


Project: Intermediaries

Investigators: Morten Hviid (UEA), Sofia Izquierdo Sanchez (University of Huddersfield), Sabine Jacques (UEA). Project initially led by Emily Laidlaw (University of Calgary)

What did your research aim to do?
The purpose of this project was to investigate the structure of selected creative industries, in particular the relationship between content creators, traditional intermediaries and platforms, to determine whether the current ecosystem maximises creativity and economic growth. To do so, we decided to focus on three key industries: books, music, and video games. Firstly, we map out the impact of digitalisation on the industry structure and then investigate the barriers for creative works from the moment of creation to the retail sector. As the project developed, the ability of the creator to either carry out or project-manage the entirety of the creative process up to the distribution became a more central question. In particular, we intended to understand what are the benefits, costs and challenges deriving from digitalisation for creators relying on new intermediaries (digital platforms) to access the market.

How did you do it?
The papers arising out of this research integrate descriptive, empirical and theoretical research methods. The project relies on economic, legal and political economy insights.

What are your key findings?
The three industries rely heavily on digitalisation. In all the markets we looked at, the retail segment has become more concentrated over time with a small number of large retailers. Post-digitalisation, this segment is increasingly dominated by internet platforms that cover a number of industries. The publisher/record label segment was already concentrated pre-digitalisation and continues to be so with a few large players.

Through disintermediation, (entrance of new internet based service providers) creators are increasingly able to manage the process of turning their idea into a product. This has weakened the publishers and labels in terms of their gate-keeper role and given creators greater freedom in terms of how they engage with consumers. This may also have improved the earnings potential for less well-known creators or future creators. However it appears not to have undermined the power of the large publishers and labels, at least not yet.

Despite the industries being very different in terms of processes and structure, the delivery to the final consumer in all cases seems to be moving towards streaming.

What impact has your work had so far/what impact do you anticipate it will have?
While the research has the potential for impact on the industries, there has been no documentable impact yet and any impact will depend on developments in the industry. The various research papers arising from the research have been presented at CREATe and other events.

Challenges encountered/Lessons learned
Reliable data was very hard to find/acquire. In particular, the market for books is challenging as self-published books increasingly are published without ISBN numbers and hence not included in official statistics.

The industries have turned out to be unexpectedly different in terms of structure, development and behaviour.

Are there additional/new research questions still to be answered in this area?
We would like to highlight two avenues for further research:

  • Why are these industries so different when the end delivery mode appears to be the same (streaming)?
  • Who should project manage the creation of the end product arising from the creative endeavour?

We are currently working on these two problems.

How has your association with CREATe helped to take things forward?
Meetings organised by CREATe has enabled valuable feedback, discussions and contacts. The interdisciplinary ethos of CREATe has been helpful to provide a more rounded assessment.

To find out more see the following CREATe Working Papers:

From publishers to self-publishing: The disruptive effects of digitalisation on the book industry; CREATe Working Paper 2017/06 (March 2017) https://zenodo.org/record/321609/files/CREATe-Working-Paper-2017-06.pdf.

Digitalisation and intermediaries in the music industry; CREATe Working Paper 2017/07 (April 2017) https://zenodo.org/record/809949/files/CREATe-Working-Paper-2017-07-version-2.pdf 

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