Interrogating Talent: Struggles and Strategies in the Popular Music Industry

Sledmere, Adrian. 2010. Interrogating Talent: Struggles and Strategies in the Popular Music Industry. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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The term ‘talent’ appears across a range of activities; its meaning is taken for granted and rarely interrogated. This thesis provides a critical focus upon talent by evaluating the way it features in popular music. This begins via an engagement with Kant and then Bourdieu in order to locate talent within the vocabulary of ideas that Kant develops in relation to both aesthetics and then genius. It also interrogates exceptionality and generates a critical framework around the questions that Kant leaves unanswered.

The thesis draws upon the author’s career as musician/producer/songwriter and the experiences of a cross-section of individuals involved in the music industry. As part of a varied qualitative approach, forty-eight semi-structured interviews were conducted alongside an overview of the change that has taken place in the music industry over the last five years. This material is situated within a Bourdieuian critical framework that considers talent in terms of both narrative and traditional understandings of the music industry. This discussion references popular music studies writing in order to explore the intersection of talent with a number of key themes that have informed debates over popular music: Romanticism, authenticity, amateurism/professionalism, success and inclusivity/exclusivity. The value of this research resides in the way in which it delineates talents centrality to all of these areas. Here, it is suggested that talent has a specific range of meanings that are shown to be contested in very particular ways. Moreover, its endurance as a term evidences its natural and historical centrality to the process of discovery; the unearthing of new acts that will energise the market for popular music. Through an evaluation of developing areas like branding, new media, interactivity and live music this thesis argues that the concept of talent is central to the strategies and struggles that take place within popular music.

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Thesis (Doctoral)

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Date Deposited:

17 Feb 2012 18:00

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 11:15


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