Doctor of Philosophy
How do cultural producers square customary understandings of what it means to be authentic and autonomous creators in new contexts characterized by digital-era entrepreneurial pressures and online platform-mediated financial opportunities? This study examines how heavy metal recording artists experience these pressures; how some of them engage in platform-based crowdfunding, argue over its legitimacy, and rationalize varying degrees of acceptance and dependence. First, my analysis centers on a case study which follows the experiences of a progressive metal band as they navigate a new financial relation in conjunction first with the fundraising platform Pozible and then the patronage-based crowdfunding platform Patreon. Second, I undertake a political-economic analysis of the Patreon platform, interpreting it as a rent-seeking technology company situated in the broader context of platform capitalism. I suggest that Patreon perpetuates long-standing power disparities in the culture industries by concentrating the risks and duties of production, marketing and retailing more squarely upon its fundraisers. Third, I examine recording artists’ interpretations of the neo-patronage relation based on data culled from interviews with Patreon users. The results indicate that online crowdfunding remains an ideologically contested practice among cultural producers stamped with late twentieth-century masculinist “rock values.” The cultural weight of the older “recording contract”-based institutional model poses a problem for heavy metal recording artists who struggle to validate their participation in more entrepreneurial, platform-mediated work.
Summary for Lay Audience
Summary for Lay Audience
This study examines how recording artists are engaging new promotional and financial opportunities in the world of online platforms. First, I present a case study which follows the experiences of a progressive metal band using the patronage-based crowdfunding platform Patreon. It traces how the success of their endeavor gave rise to conflict and tension over its legitimacy in light of persisting late 20th century “rock values.” Second, I undertake a political-economic analysis of Patreon as a platform company. I explain how the company makes money and how the work of Patreon fundraisers sustains their business model. Lastly, I examine and contrast these heavy metal fundraisers’ own interpretations of their work using data from interviews. The results indicate that online crowdfunding remains a contested practice among recording artists who still find value and legitimacy in the older “recording contract”-based institutional model. Consequently, they struggle to validate their participation in more entrepreneurial, platform-mediated work.
Netherton, Jason, "Heavy Metal Fundraisers: Entrepreneurial Recording Artists in Platform Capitalism" (2021). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 7800.