Pleasure and Pain: Rethinking the Nature of Independence in Independent Record Labels

Janika Reuter

Student thesis: Master thesis


Purpose The purpose of this paper is to investigate the nature of independence in independent record labels. It is aimed at filling the gap in the literature, where the focus is usually on independent labels that are connected to majors. The study mainly employs literature on the historical emergence of independent labels and concepts of commerce and art, creativity and autonomy.
Methodology I chose a qualitative research method because I was interested in how independent record label staff experienced and made sense of the independence status in their everyday lives. As a social constructivist study, the focus was on an open-ended data collection process which involved face-to-face interviews, email interviews, photographs and website texts. The study object was record label staff from five independent labels from Germany and Denmark. Six of the respondents were founders and (co-)owners of their own labels, one respondent was employed by a label as a product manager.
Findings The research has shown that the nature of independence in independent record labels is constructed by a mix of features which include the celebration of the ordinary, a care for label communities and collective creation, the fusion of art and commerce as well as a high appreciation of self-rule.
Originality/Value The study’s contribution is threefold. Firstly, it further develops the idea that Romantic heritage is responsible for the existence of independent record labels. It also suggests that another part of the cultural heritage from Romanticism, namely the Romantic idea of turning back to the ordinary, has influenced the way in which independent labels are constructed. Secondly, it complements the discussion on the two seemingly conflicting concepts of art and commerce. I argue for an understanding that independent record labels work at combining art and commerce by developing business models and strategies which make it possible for them to merge the existence of a commercial entity with the privilege of making free artistic choices. Thirdly, by focusing on fully independent labels, the paper fills the gap in the literature where documentation of professionalised independent labels is only concerned with independent labels that merge with majors.

EducationsMSocSc in Management of Creative Business Processes , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages86
SupervisorsRobin Holt