Legitimising Strategies in the Field of Independent Cultural Production: the Case of Reissue Record Labels in the USA

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Abstract

This article examines the cultural practice of effecting an independent marketplace for reissued music in the United States, based on ethnographic fieldwork in Austin, Texas with independent record labels and consumers. As the music industry is not a homogenous entity (Williamson and Cloonan, 2007), I argue that the practice of legitimising an independent marketplace requires the formulation of a ‘mainstream’ market to which the independent is opposed, and the erecting of marketplace myths (Arsel and Thompson, 2010) to substantiate the independent marketplace’s claims to differ from the mainstream. Legitimising strategies (Strachan, 2007) protect the investments made by producers and consumers of goods in their marketplace. To overcome the anxiety that commodified culture is inauthentic culture, the independent marketplace for reissued music is idealised as a realm of soft capitalism that enables the commodification of cultural goods without the stigmatisation of profiteering, exploitation and ‘inorganic’ music associated with the mainstream (Negus, 1992).

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