Regulatory Propaganda at German Music Industry Conferences 2013

Regulatory Propaganda at German Music Industry Conferences 2013 (by Prof. Leonhard Dobusch & Prof. Elke Schüßler, Freie Universität Berlin)

Presented by Prof. Dobusch

Thank you for inviting me here. I really enjoyed yesterday seeing the range of research projects and work packages. I was so impressed that I tweeted about it yesterday that I am here at the mecca of empirical copyright research of Europe! And I mean it.

Since this presentation should focus on methods I won’t bore you with the theoretical background of this paper but let me just mention one stream of literature, because when you see the title you know we are looking at a discourse around German music industry conferences and you might ask yourself why conferences? And the reason is in organisation theory literature where there is a stream called field configuring events and it theorises that in fields that assemble across a core issue, like issue-based fields it’s conferences or industry events where different stakeholders come together where they negotiate not only regulation or standards or whatever but they also negotiate how they perceive their own field. So in a way they configure at these events how those fields and how those industries further develop. And that was our theoretical starting point.

Let me come now to our research question and the methods with which we addressed it. It was a very general research question, how do different actors in the transforming industry address regulatory uncertainty in processes of business model innovation? So this business model theme brings us back to the initial keynote that we had yesterday. You see that it is very generally put. One of the reasons is of course that we have not written this paper for a copyright audience but for an audience that is more interested in business models and industry development, innovation and so on. But, however, the field for investigating this question is of course the music industry in Germany. We can say that music is one of the core copyright industries since at least the main existing business models of selling music heavily depend on copyright and its respective enforcement.

And when we focussed on the debate in Germany there were two reasons for that. First, there are several studies already addressing and covering discourse on this international copyright treaties, but as we all know this debate happened in the 1990s and what we are struggling with right now is implementation of these treaties on international levels and there’s much less research on that. And for another reason we think that Germany is quite an interesting case, and you will see this also in our findings that because you have this huge success of the Pirate Party which has piracy in its name. When you’re in Germany you will find that there are even articles of why do they call themselves pirates because they’re not so copyright focussed after all. But nevertheless it played a role, and it plays a role in the regulatory discourse dealing with copyright.

What were the units of analysis? Of course more general the regulatory discourse around copyright regulation in Germany on a national level. Actually, we did not know in advance that we will really focus on just the national discourse; we had codes where we were looking for references to international debates, or international legislation. But at least in our material there were none. So really we can say, at least in Germany, the discourse was very national focused and very focused on national legislatures. So while our main unit of analysis was the regulatory discourse, around copyright we tried to approach it by looking at debates about copyright based business models around core industry events and the respective groups of actors involved.

So, how did we do that? In the first step we had to identify the industry events of interest. So we did this by checking event calendars in two of the main industry journals. One is called Music Week and the other is Music Market and both of these journals they have event calendars, and of course they are also just festivals, whatever, so we were looking for a period of 10 years from 2001 to 2010 what industry events with a conference section were listed in these event calendars and we also tried to cross check this list with searching some non-mainstream online news portals where we knew that they also reported on non-mainstream events that maybe did not make it into these mainstream journals. But we were not successful in identifying a significant number of events in these non-mainstream outlets that hadn’t been mentioned in the industry journals.

How did we narrow down our list of events? We selected those events as I said before that host a conference format where industry based issues are discussed. So we excluded everything where they were just festivals, just musical performances or no conference sections. Maybe there were also discussions but we said that this is not of interest for our regulation focused approach and we only focused on events in Germany and series hosted in Germany. So we excluded also if there was an international event series that was by accident hosted in one German city during our observation period, we also excluded that.

What we found by tracking the event landscape – actually this was a preparatory work but we also found some interesting thing is that the overall number of music industry events with conference sections grew over time. So, while, or maybe even because, the industry was struggling or even considered to be in crisis we observed growth in a number of different music industry events and event series held in Germany and as we also found when we looked at these different events was that a lot of those were founded to address the crisis and to find solutions and to bring actors together and often, also the whole set-up of the event was also giving direction. So there were events that were more, we have to go beyond what we did so far and others that were more like okay we have to extend our current business model.

So this event landscape of music industry events was the basis for selecting four events that we investigated in greater detail. I have to admit and this is qualitative research, you know what I’m talking about, we hadn’t planned to start with four events actually in the beginning we started with two events. We wanted to look at Popcom which is the main industry event in Germany and was the main event, and we wanted to compare it to the CO Pop Conference in Cologne, but as we learnt more about the industry event related discourse, things happened that led us to include two other events in our sample, one is the All Together Now which was founded in 2009, very late in the process, when the Popcom, the main event was cancelled which, as you will see, had a major impact on the discourse.

As you can see we collected all sorts of data around these events, we attended events, we made observations, we talked to organisers, we talked to industry experts, we collected documents around those events of course but, and this is what we focused on in our paper actually then was industry press and mainstream press reporting on these events. So, there were both methodological and pragmatic reasons for this choice. Methodologically we would argue that the media are a proxy for the impact that a certain event has beyond the event itself. To the degree that the event is reported in the media one can say that the claims made at these events reach a wider audience than just the narrow industry actors themselves that attended. And this is also important because regulatory discourse especially addresses third parties.

So what we observed at the conferences is that the different camps so to say they did not really talk to each other. Okay, they sat at the panels and they were talking about the same things, but what they were addressing was the politicians, the regulators and the wider public. They wanted to convince the third party in a way to support their claims and they knew they wouldn’t convince the pirate party member sitting on the same panel. That was clear and that’s also I would say a methodological reason why it might make sense to look at the media coverage of these events. A more pragmatic reason of course was that only the press coverage, we had data for the whole period of 10 years so we really could make a longitudinal assessment of the discourse which wouldn’t have been possible by just doing interviews, just for pragmatic reasons.

So what we did when analysing the press is we identified 434 passages in articles about these conferences that explicitly, one way or another, referred to copyright and copyright regulation, so this was the first step we identified these passages and I am going to give some more details on that in the next slide. Then we identified 34 different claims related to copyright. So what we did was an argumentative discourse analysis following [Hyer] he’s a political scientist from the Netherlands, actually it’s not very new his approach, he first developed it in the early 1990s but what he distinguishes is claims and story lines. And this is something that we applied to the business models and there you can see that our understanding of business models differs quite substantially from the notion that Charles Baden-Fuller introduced yesterday because we said business models are in our understanding and the understanding that we put forward in the paper, they are story lines in the sense of [Hyer] in the way you could also call them worldviews in that they contain comparable claims as with regard to what type of good music is, how music production should work, how music distribution should work and how this should be organised and economically sustained. So, you can say each story line that we identified comprises of different claims that are compatible to one another but of course not identical. And these claims of course are voiced by different actors which are often reported in the event related media coverage but what we also found, and I want to strengthen that because they played a role, at least in our analyses, a lot of actors involved are media actors themselves – media commentators, the journalists writing the articles, commentating on the events.

How did we do the analysis? We made an inductive three step approach, so first we identified, just looking only at these instances where copyright was mentioned we identified and coded these 34 different claims, so just started, found a claim and then found a different one as you know how that works. Then we grouped the claims into story lines and then we categorised the story lines as either conservative or reformist. Conservative does not mean conservative in terms of they don’t want the law to change. In a way they also wanted the law to change, but to change in a way to preserve the existing business model of selling music as a commodity. And then when bringing together these claims and story lines with the actors which we coded alongside, so we not only coded the claim but we always coded an actor that had voiced the claim, so when bringing these together we were able to identify discourse coalitions. And just one additional sentence on this concept of discourse coalitions – discourse coalitions differ from ordinary coalitions so to say in that actors not necessarily need to negotiate that they will put forward and really build a coalition, but that discourse coalitions emerge in discourse. So people voice claims and these claims align and this is what in a way in effect makes them participants, members of a discourse coalition.

Again, what did we find? We identified three different story lines. One was, as I mentioned, music as a commodity, the conservative business model that existed. Then another story line that said maybe selling music as a commodity doesn’t work anymore but we still can earn money with music by using it as a service or as a promotion tool. And the third story line that we found was that no we have to abandon this idea of earning money by selling or commercialising music altogether we should rather embrace new digital technologies and reconceptualise music as a public good and to change the law and to fund music production while on some payments like the cultural flat rate. You’ve heard about that I suppose?

And what you can see in the graph quite nicely is, and which we could only find out due to our longitudinal approaches that the intensity of the regulatory discourse varied over time. So the total number of claims was high in the beginning of 2001 to 2003 when the vital copyright treaties and the TRIPS treaty had been implemented in German law, and when there was a debate around anti circumvention provisions. And there was hope amongst industry players that with digital rights management in place everything will turn out fine.

And then the second peak was 2008/2009 when everyone saw after EMI had first abandoned digital rights management that this was not the solution. So again there was a call for the legislators to change copyright and then this very high peak was when the Popcom conference was cancelled and the cancellation which actually was more related to the economic crisis in 2009 was justified with evil file sharers destroying the music industry. So this led also to the foundation of competing events so this is the one thing, you can see different intensity of discourse, and the second thing you can see is that not all three story lines had been present all the time. So the music as a public good model was introduced only very late in the process it is was introduced not by actors that were taking part in discourse in the first years, but by new actors. So this is also something that we found that actors didn’t change their position overall.

There is one exception which we also accounted for in our analysis was Tim Renner, former head of Universal Music in Germany, he in a way became a dissident and moved from the very conservative to the very reformist camp. But this is the only exception that really played a role in our analysis. So the discourse coalition that we identified we had more reformist and more conservative coalitions, as you see this is a static analysis so while we analysed the claims over time the coalition is static. One justification of this could be that people didn’t change their position, on the other hand, and this brings me to my last slide, this is of course a limitation of our study.

So, two final issues: One, we were unsure when we started that the longitudinal approach would be very much helpful but in retrospect we would say that what made our paper interesting at least to us was the longitudinal approach. To track it over time and if you would have just looked at the last five years we would have missed the peak in 2000 to 2004. And this is interesting because it points also to a cyclical nature of these copyright and regulatory debates and so I can only call for more of these longer timeframes analysis of copyright discourse. What we also found, as I mentioned, was the stability of actor positions and the issue that new claims were mostly voiced by new actors, and not by actors that had taken part in the discussion. Limitations, of course there are many, I will just mention two. We only covered the event related regulatory conversation. Of course there are several other fields of discourse you could also have looked at, for example, the academic discourse and as I said we also did not manage to accomplish, and this is also to do with the fact that even though it was a long timeframe there was not enough claims to really assess the actor influence over time when we assessed the discourse coalition.


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