International conference organised by MSH Paris Nord, MSH des Alpes, MSH d'Aquitaine, MSH de Paris, MSH Nord-Pas de Calais
and Gricis Université du Québec à Montréal, within the ACI programme
« Les mutations des industries de la culture, de l’information et de la communication : bilan, cartographie, observation ».
  Workshop 1.1 - Workshop 1.2 - Workshop 1.3 - Workshop 1.4 - Workshop 1.5
Workshop 1.5 Relations between the majors and « independents » or « alternative » producers
  Chairman :
- David Vandiedonck, University Lille 3, Institut Erasme MSH Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France, MSH Paris Nord, France

Speakers :
Michaël Bourgatte, Université d’Avignon et des Pays de Vaucluse, France
«The French Art film exhibition : an alternative proposal situated between independence and dependence»
>>> Download the communication (French)

Erik Hitters, Miriam Van de Kamp, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, Pays-Bas / Paul Rutten,
Université de Leiden, University College In Holland, Haarlem, Pays-Bas

«Challenging the majors’ supremacy - Independent music productions from Scotland and the Netherlands on the global market »

Bertrand Legendre, Université Paris 13 – LabSIC - MSH Paris Nord, France
« Majors, independents and alternative publishers : changes in the relations between actors in the book sector. An international approach »
>>> Download the communication (French)

Jacob Matthews, Université Michel de Montaigne - Bordeaux 3, France
«Music industry at the dawn of the 21st century: new uses, new exchanges?»
>>> Download the communication (French)

Sophie Noël, EHESS - CSE, Paris, France
« Small independent publishers versus the large groups; or, the refusal of cultural standardization »
>>> Download the communication (French)


« The French Art film exhibition: an alternative proposal situated between independence and dependence »

Michaël Bourgatte
Université d’Avignon et des Pays de Vaucluse, France

>>> Download the communication (French)

In France, these last twenty years were marked by movements of ebb and flow within the film exhibition sector, as much in terms of opening and closing down of cinema-houses as in terms of cinema-going. The introduction of the multiplexes at the beginning of the 1990s is likely to be the main element which highlights this phenomenon. If their massive setting-up allowed the French film exhibition to redistribute and favour an increase in cinema attendance, it was done to the detriment of a large part of the film exhibition already in place through out the country.

In this context, the independent Art exhibition is the one which has best adapted to the upheavals of the market, with a steady number of cinema-theatres (a little over a thousand) oscillating between 15 % and 20 % of the total number of French screens, accouting for 15 % to 20 % of the box-office takings. This part of the French exhibition owes its preservation to its involvement in a process of opposition to standardization which uses targeted and organized programming as well as intense topical activities - particularly actions to promote and foster initiatives towards a young public - supported by the French and European authorities and also by a large part of the audience.

The future of the film exhibition thus seems to be outlined on a "duopoly" with, on the one hand, the big commercial film complexes and on the other, the independent arthouse cinemas. The latter exhibit auteur films and movies from countries with a low film production. They also try to improve the visibility of the most experimental cinematographies. Lastly, they organize activities and support the development of educational policies in cinema toward audiences. So, we can truly speak about an "alternative proposal", a term that we can substitute for the expression "Art cinema" which is marked more by a form a subjective judgment.

This alternative type of exhibition exists in dialectics stamped at the same time by a claimed independence and by forms of dependence. Despite of a real dependence on the governmental or European policies and on networkings, it could be indeed that we are sliding gradually into a relation of interdependence regarding the increasing public responsibilities assigned to the Art cinema-houses.

Besides, this part of the French exhibition seems to depend more than ever on the audience loyalty which it generated. However, studies reveal the existence of groups of spectators organized around customs, codes and practices and who thus feel linked to this exhibition segment. On the one hand, the love and the knowledge of the types of films screened in these arthouse cinemas, the respect of certain principles (like seeing movies with the original soundtrack) or the feeling of wellbeing that is generated there lead most of them to remain attached to a particular Art movie-theatre. On the other hand, they all declare that an outing depends strictly on a conscious desire to do things together and to feel and to share effects felt by other bodies. The majority of the spectators thus develop forms of expectations and relationships with other spectators in a giving cinema-theatre. So, all these investigations lead us to notice a relation of interdependence between a place and its audience.

Seen in the Hegelian meaning of the word.

These studies are based on four investigative methods : information retrieval and statistical analysis of qualitative and quantitative data (questionnaires, interviews and observation).

«Challenging the majors’ supremacy
Independent music productions from Scotland and the Netherlands on the global market

Erik Hitters, Miriam Van de Kamp
Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, Pays-Bas

Paul Rutten,
Université de Leiden, University College In Holland Haarlem, Pays-Bas

Theories concerning the cultural industries generally assume that the global cultural flow of music is controlled by major record companies operating from central nodes within the global network. They have competitive advantages in scale, marketing and production power. From this point of view, opportunities for smaller music labels and popular music from relative small countries are too limited to be internationally successful. This paper investigates specific developments that presently undercut this logic.

Usually independent labels are embedded in one way or another into the structure of the majors. In this relationship the majors provide the international distribution while the independents are a source for potentially successful acts. Nowadays however, within the rock and dance music sector, some independent music companies are successfully marketing and distributing their acts themselves. Consequently, these independent music companies are not formally related to the majors. This suggests a new phase in the development of the relationship between majors and independents.

This paper maps the different stages of the development of the relationship between majors and independents in the music sector. Scottish rock act Franz Ferdinand and Dutch DJ Tiësto will be described as examples of successful acts from independent companies. The paper will furthermore emphasize the role of the internet and networks in the operation of these independent labels.

The empirical base of this paper are export data of music from the Netherlands, market data for the Dutch and Scottish music industry and interviews with representatives of the Dutch and Scottish music sector. These data are analyzed in order to support our assumption that there is a new phase in the development of the relationship between majors and independents. The different stages of this development will be illustrated by using secondary analyses of data and publications on market and organizational structures in the contemporary music industry.  

« Majors, independents and alternative publishers :
changes in the relations between actors in the book sector. An international approach »

Bertrand Legendre
Université Paris 13 – LAbSIC - MSH Paris Nord, France

>>> Download the communication (French)

This presentation claims to find out to what extent the mutations that took place in the recent years (technologies, financiarisation, concentration, globalisation) lead to reconsider the representation and the exchanges that take place in the book business.

Our first observation is that the classical insight of « the oligopoly and the ant’s nest » is far from accounting for a situation that cannot be restricted to the mechanism of a very small amount of very big actors dominating a very big amount of small structures. If differences in size do exist, it is nevertherless flagrant that  identical approaches and aspirations are partly shared both by  the majors and  by some « independents.»

A second observation is that a great number of new publishing structures choose to stay totally aside of the professionnal boards and partnerships, thus  bringing up the question of the articulation between the dominant part of the book business and its own « fringe ».

Those  two observations bring along a reflexion on the ability of resistance and renewal attributed to the new publishers. If, in the past, we have seen in publishing houses as Minuit, La Découverte, Le Seuil, and in the men who were in charge of those structures, the expression of such an ability, we can’t, consider the alliance formed some time ago to prevent the purchase of Vivendi by Hachette as anything else than a fleeting solidarity, some editors sharing at the time the same interests. Likewise, it seems that for the new generation of publishers, the critics are ownly made against the structural and economic mutations of the book business, whithout ever taking in consideration the political function of a post modern publisher.

«Music industry at the dawn of the 21st century: new uses, new exchanges? »

Jacob T. Matthews
Université Michel de Montaigne - Bordeaux 3, France

>>> Download the communication (French)

This presentation draws from recent research on contemporary popular music, exploring the relationship between mainstream and underground, from the point of view of music industry’s “traditional” production and distribution structures, as well as from that of digital networks dedicated to musical creation and distribution. It thus seeks to contribute to a greater understanding of changes in uses and practices in these various fields, whilst questioning the importance of underlying ideological processes which characterize the contemporary music industry at large.

First shall be presented the results of a series of empirical studies conducted over the past five years, regarding discourses and representations conveyed within alternative musical circles, as well as among mainstream protagonists of the phonographic industry. These studies point to strong convergences in the ideological productions of the diverse social actors mobilised in this field. This phenomenon can be related to the process by which these various actors’ traditional functions and statutes have become less clearly defined; the opposition between broadcasters and receivers, producers and consumers, being replaced by the figure of the “mediator”.

To fully understand what might be at stake behind these “mediations”, rather than emphasizing on the new possibilities digital ICTs supposedly offer in terms of self-promotion and self-production, it seems worthwhile to consider the way in which an increasing number of individual and collective uses of these ICTs – digital music sharing networks, for instance – contribute to the creation of new exchange values that the socio-economical system, as a whole, demands in order to reproduce.

Moreover, one can underline a significant number of trends which seem to indicate that the material decentralisation – observable, for example, with the development of new modes of distribution via P2P networks (to the detriment of traditional retail structures) – is accompanied by a greater ideological centralisation; the “active” participation of user-mediators becoming just as vital a condition for the development of music industry as media promotion and top-down marketing strategies.

Lastly, turning back to alternative circles, this contribution to the debate will consider the notion of “improbable use” in the context of cultural emergences. In what respect do present underground hives contribute to the creation of new social uses – or, to put it in somewhat unfashionable terms, new use values – which might durably opt-out of the dual dominant trends of commoditisation and cultural institutionalisation? Likewise, one might consider how uses in marginal musical scenes (and their ICT extensions) actually participate in the auto-regulation of a music industry “system” of which they may well be intrinsically constitutive, themselves.

«Small independent publishers versus the large groups; or, the refusal of cultural standardization»

Sophie Noël
EHESS – CSE, Paris, France

>>> Download the communication (French)

A new “generation” of small, independent presses have emerged in France in the late 80s and 90s, specializing in the field of social sciences with a distinctive critical edge. La Fabrique, La Dispute, Agone, Le passant ordinaire, Raisons d’agir… are some of the names which have made their way into bookshops. While this is not an historically new phenomenon – processes of creation/destruction of small companies have always characterized the publishing industry – it is taking place against a backdrop of increasing consolidation and rationalization of the publishing field, coupled with the seemingly decreasing autonomy of the publishing world vis à vis the economic field. Although financially fragile, these small presses’symbolic clout is far more significant than their actual economic weight and they epitomize the contradictions of publishing between « art and money », between commerce and culture.

As the French market becomes increasingly polarized between two dominant players and a handful of average-size publishers which can rely on efficient distribution structures, the situation of these small publishers may seem uncomfortable. However, if “self-exploitation” and unpaid work often characterize their activity, they also rely on important assets such as a still dynamic network of independent bookshops, subsidies from various State and regional bodies, and the development of direct sales via the Internet.

 This presentation will be based on in-depth interviews and research on a selection of 20 or so editors, booksellers and distributors. It is intended to map out some aspects of the French publishing field in order to understand how small presses position themselves vis à vis the bigger groups while trying to assert a “different” way of doing business, which I will try to define by paying attention to the interplay of economic and symbolic capital.

What are the specific constraints these publishers have to face? What practices and strategies are they implementing in order to survive? These are some of the questions that this paper will try to address.