Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Thatcherism and independent popular music recording in the UK (1979-1990)

Baillie, Mark Alexander (2022) Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Thatcherism and independent popular music recording in the UK (1979-1990). PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Discourses in the popular music press and trade journals of the post-punk period often portray ‘independence’ as an ideological end-in-itself (rather than merely an economic necessity) and opposition to corporate major labels is represented in terms of attempts to disrupt prevailing power structures in the music industry. A paradigm is constructed of major vs. indie - of protagonists and antagonists - which is often reinforced in the rhetoric of musicians, music journalists and recording industry representatives. Independence is valourised and a connection is established between the conditions of the production and distribution of music, and its cultural value. Simultaneously, such discourses frequently cite an intrinsic opposition to the policies and political philosophy of the government of Margaret Thatcher, a resistance not only embodied in numerous anti-Thatcher songs and gestures, but in the organisational practices of the independent music sector and the emergence of an ideology of independence which emphasised collectivism and co-operation (as evinced by the formation of the Cartel, a UK-wide distribution network which linked independent labels with independent retailers). Nevertheless, closer observation of the relationship between Thatcherism and popular music culture suggests a more complementary relationship than is generally suggested. For example, The Enterprise Allowance Scheme an initiative instigated to support small businesses and help create the ‘enterprise culture’ Thatcherism demanded, proved invaluable to numerous start-up record labels during this period including three of the most successful and iconic: Creation, Earache and Warp. Could, therefore, the independent labels set up during this period be regarded as examples of classic Thatcherite entrepreneurship? Or rather can the collectivism of the independent sector be seen as a repudiation of core Thatcherite values?

Similarly, a critical examination of narratives around independence exposes considerable ambiguities around the relationship between independents and majors and the simplistic dichotomy of the ‘good’ independent and ‘bad’ major is frequently contested in media discourses. Such narratives also play out with regards to the vital area of distribution, as a variety of independent distributors emerge to challenge the dominancy of major label distributors. Distribution has been historically controlled by the major labels and the attempt to challenge this dominance can be regarded as the defining feature of the independent popular music recording sector during the punk and postpunk period. Examining this underresearched area of the recording industry will shed significant light on; discourses around independence, the relationship between Thatcherism and independent popular music culture (collectivism vs. entrepreneurship) and attempts to establish a genuine alternative to the economic and industrial power of major labels. The larger implication of the study will be to consider the legacy of the independent popular music recording sector of the post-punk era and the extent to which the model of independent distribution which emerged remains important to independent music production in today’s much-changed industry environment.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Music
Supervisor's Name: Williamson, Dr. John, Cloonan, Prof. Martin and Kallioniemi, Prof. Kari
Date of Award: 2022
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2022-82827
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 26 Apr 2022 10:33
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2022 10:36
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82827
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/82827

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