Institut für Musikwissenschaft

Dissertationsprojekt von Stephen Ferron

The viability of England’s commercial folk music industry in the wake of unprecedented technological changes and market disruptions

The contemporary commercial folk music industry in England is facing existential challenges. Professional folk musicians and other industry stakeholders are finding it necessary to determine ways to navigate transformative technologies and other unprecedented market disruptions.

This dissertation examines the impact of those disruptive forces and evolving technologies – and analyses their impact on the musicians and their music. At the heart of the research are interviews with a range of folk musicians as well as curated panel discussions with producers and engineers, booking agents, festival organizers, and journalists. These are complemented by my own observations and experience in the industry.

The central question concerns, in the light of transformative technologies, finding an optimal way forward for the industry. There is evidence that the music still has a large and committed following; however, it is difficult to envision a business model that will encourage fans to pay for recorded music they can stream for free. It is also hard to imagine artists with limited resources choosing to book commercial studios with professional producers. This has led to a do-it-yourself recording boom, and its effect on the quality of music being released is worthy of examination. I aim to explore alternative revenue streams and to consider how the unwelcoming financial climate is likely to influence the future of the genre.

The commercial folk music scene in the UK is robust, and its stakeholders, through their creativity and ingenuity, have survived previous challenges. I am confident that they will do so again and look forward, through this research, to helping identify, document, and chart the next part of the journey.

Key terms: folk music industry, transformative technologies, market disruptions, revenue streams, home recording