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Making music in the global economy

April 2013

Dr Allan Watson from Staffordshire University researches the economic geographies of the creative and media industries

Making music in the global economy

This research summary is based on research by Dr Allan Watson, a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at Staffordshire University. Allan researches the economic geographies of the creative and media industries. He has a particular focus on the film and music industries, the latter of which he addresses in this research.

The music industry is global. Like other media industries it involves the global circulation of ideas, symbols, images and finance. However, these flows do not exist everywhere – they are geographically specific. Media industries tend to be concentrated in key cities of world commerce, which act as ‘local anchoring points’ for the global network of trade.

London is one of the world’s most successful exporters of music. In 1997/8, the UK’s media industry created £112.5 billion in total revenue, of which £4.6bn (4%) was generated by music. During the same year, 122,000 people were employed in the UK music industry.

Players in the global music industry

The music industry is made up of a number of different players, each operating in the global economy in a different way. We can identify three main types of companies:

  • Major corporations: part of major global networks of marketing, promotion and distribution. As of 2008, there were four main Transnational Corporations that dominate the global music industry: Universal (25.5% share of the world market), Sony BMG (21.5%), EMI (13.4%) and Warner (11.3%)
  • Independent companies: there are many medium and large companies involved in medium and long-term production projects. They often work with the major corporations especially for marketing.
  • Small independent recording companies: There are even more of these companies, which operate on a highly localised scale of production and distribution. They do not often operate within a global economy and have very little contact with the major corporations and larger independent companies

In order to better understand the globalisation of music production, this article investigates the geography of major media corporations. These TNCs operate on a global scale but are also very specifically located. Furthermore, they also interact with independent companies that wish to extend their geographic reach.


AQA – A2 unit 3, Human option (Development and globalisation) Investigates the spatial organisation of TNCs in the creative sector. Explains the flows and networks of globalisation.

Edexcel – AS unit 1, topic 2 (Going global) A strong case study for the formation of networks in a shrinking and increasingly interconnected world. Highlights the importance of particular places.

OCR – A2 unit F763, option B2 (Globalisation) Builds on the advantages of working at a global, rather than local, scale. Develops the concepts of spatial interrelationships and interconnected activites.

WJEC – A2 unit G3, theme 5 (Globalisation) Illustrates the structure of creative industries in the ‘new economy’ after the global shift. Links to the role of communications technology in globalisation.

In the Members' Area:

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  • Case study: Arctic Monkeys

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