Death by Streaming or Vinyl Revival? Exploring the Spatial Dynamics and Value-Creating Strategies of Independent Record Shops in Stockholm
Brian J. Hracs and Johan Jansson (Online First) Journal of Consumer Culture (PDF)
The contemporary retail landscape is in flux and there is a growing perception that patronizing bricks and mortar shops is more expensive and time-consuming than shopping online. For music, illegal downloading and streaming have restructured the retail landscape and put thousands of record shops out of business. Yet some retailers remain attractive consumption spaces. Drawing on a qualitative case study of independent record shops in Stockholm, this paper considers three value-creating strategies that sustain these physical retailers in the digital age: cultivating in-store consumer experiences, creating value through curation and tapping into global markets by going online.
Curating the quest for ‘good food’: The practices, spatial dynamics and influence of food-related curation in Sweden
Sofie Joosse and Brian J. Hracs (2015) Geoforum, 64, 205-216. (PDF)
What is ‘good food’? Is it fair trade, local, organic or ethically produced? With an ever-expanding array of products and ‘qualities’ to consider, consumers in the global North may find it increasingly difficult and time-consuming to make the ‘right’ choices. As a result, a range of intermediaries, including food apps and collective buying groups, are emerging to support and influence people with their food choices. While intermediation refers to all activities linking producers and consumers, this paper narrows the focus and considers one important, yet poorly understood, intermediary function within the food marketplace: ‘curation’.
Experience the Difference: The Competitive Strategies of Food-Related Entrepreneurs in Rural Denmark
Isaac K. Arthur and Brian J. Hracs (2015) Geografiska Annaler, Series B, Human Geography 97(1): 95-112. (PDF)
As food production becomes increasingly integrated, globalized and competitive, small-scale food-related enterprises in many European countries are struggling to market and monetize their products. This paper focuses on the development and implementation of new and hybrid commercial strategies by food-related entrepreneurs in three rural communities in Denmark. Building on Pine and Gilmore (1999) we assert that entrepreneurs use different experiences with varying levels of intensity and consumer engagement for different purposes. Whereas ‘passive’ experiences such as storytelling are used to educate consumers about the specific qualities of products, more active and participatory experiences are sold as add-ons and standalone products. The findings contribute to our understanding of food-related entrepreneurship in rural contexts, consumption, value creation and the experience economy more broadly.
Aesthetic Labour in Creative Industries: The Case of Independent Musicians in Toronto
Brian J. Hracs & Deborah Leslie (2014) Area 46 (1): 66-73. (PDF)
In this paper we examine the changing nature of aesthetic labour in creative industries. Drawing on a case study of independent musicians in Toronto, we argue that the spatiality and temporality of aesthetic labour has shifted as a result of technological change in the music industry and the decline of record labels. In particular, we demonstrate that aesthetic labour in the music industry has become more time-intensive and takes place across a growing range of spaces, including the stage, the home an online. This paper contributes to existing studies in geography that consider the spatial dynamics and precarious conditions of creative labour.
Cultural intermediaries in the digital age: the case of independent musicians and managers in Toronto, Regional Studies. This paper explores the limitations of the contemporary do-it-yourself model of music production and the recent shift towards re-specialization in Toronto in Ontario, Canada. It argues that freelance managers are re-emerging as key intermediaries who catalyse and facilitate new organizational forms and strategic partnerships between creative workers. Attention is paid to how digital technologies and shifting market dynamics influence and alter the relationships and contracts between these individuals. The spatial concentration of managers and other ‘helpers’, including fashion designers, photographers and web designers, is also used to explain why music production remains clustered in space despite the decentralizing potential of digital technologies.
Standing Out In The Crowd: The rise of exclusivity-based strategies to compete in the contemporary marketplace for music and fashion
Brian J. Hracs, Doreen Jakob & Atle Hauge (2013) Environment and Planning A 45(5): 1144-1161 (PDF)
Geographers have studied the complex relationships between cultural production, consumption, and space for some time, but the marketplace for cultural products is being reconfigured by digital technologies and broader societal trends. For producers of fashion and music the contemporary marketplace is a double-edged sword featuring lower entry barriers and fierce competition from an unprecedented number of producers and ubiquitous substitutes. Global firms and local entrepreneurs struggle to stand out in the crowd and command monopoly rents for their unique goods and services. This paper examines how independent cultural producers use ‘exclusivity’ to generate attention and distinction. Drawing on qualitative research with independent musicians and fashion designers in Toronto, Stockholm, Berlin, and New York it presents three mechanisms through which exclusivity can be created. These include exploiting consumer demand for uniqueness, enrolling consumers into the production and promotion process, and manipulating physical and virtual space.
This paper nuances our understanding of the ongoing transition within the North American music industry. It extends the existing analysis of the so-called “MP3 Crisis” by exploring the ways in which digital technologies have challenged the entrenched power of the major record labels. In particular, new insights are offered based on interviews with music industry executives who have been active in shaping the industry’s response to illegal file sharing. The paper also uses interview data from musicians to investigate the implications of restructuring at the macroscale on creative talent at the microscale. As such, it documents the structures and spatial dynamics of digitally driven independent music production in Canada for the first time.
A Tale of Two Scenes: Civic capital and retaining musical talent in Toronto and Halifax
Brian J. Hracs, Jill L. Grant, Jeffry Haggett & Jesse Morton (2011) The Canadian Geographer 55(3): 365-382 (PDF)
Although Toronto has been the centre of the Canadian music industry for many decades, recent interviews reveal that industrial restructuring may be affecting the choices that musicians make about where to live and work. In an era of contemporary independent music production, some smaller city-regions, such as Halifax, Nova Scotia, are becoming more attractive to musicians. This article explores the ways in which musicians consider the economic and social dynamics of city-regions in making their location choices. Musicians recognize Toronto’s advantages in size and economic opportunity, yet those in the music scene described it as an intensely competitive and difficult work environment. By contrast, respondents in Halifax talked about a supportive and collaborative community that welcomed newcomers, encouraged performance, and facilitated creativity. In the contemporary context, where independent musicians are adopting new strategies to pursue their vocation, communities high in civic capital may gain an advantage in attracting and retaining talent.
Although economic geographers have paid significant attention to the competitive dynamics, organizational and employment structures of specific cultural industries, the existing research privileges large firms and established centres such as New York, London and Los Angeles. Moreover, despite the conceptual articulations of spillovers and “related variety” few attempts have been made to examine the collaborative linkages between two or more related industries and, more specifically, how changing macro-economic forces are affecting individual producers at the local scale. In this paper we address these gaps and argue that the growing prevalence of independent production is transforming the nature of the long-standing connection between music and fashion. Specifically, that strategic collaborations between indie producers are becoming crucial to competing in the contemporary landscape of cultural production and consumption. We also assert that the motivations and mechanisms of these contemporary collaborations differ from their historical counterparts in important ways. Indeed technological advancements and the demands of indie production are changing the networking practices that facilitate these partnerships and the ways in which indie producers value and exchange goods and services.
Occam’s Curse, Dialectics, and the Creative City
Kevin Stolarick, Brian J. Hracs & Richard Florida (2010) City, Culture and Society 1(4): 175-177 (PDF)
Places/Spaces of Celebration and Protest: Citizenship, civic conversations and the promotion of rights and obligations
Brian J. Hracs & Bryan H. Massam (2008) Canadian Journal of Urban Research 17(1): Supplement Pages 63–81 (PDF)
Built places/spaces have long been sites for civic conversations and the engage- ment of citizens to exercise their rights to celebrate, protest and bear witness. Two basic propositions concerning civic conversations, collective interests, as well as rights and obligations of citizens are offered. Planners are encouraged to promote places/spaces for civic conversations as important elements to promote decent societies. Civic conversations are part of the broader milieu in which citizens conduct their lives, and the comments by Taylor on the malaise of modernity is suggested as a challenging contemporary context for planners as they seek to pro- vide places/spaces for citizens to express opinions about the world. We also offer brief comments about citizenship, which provide further contextual material for an understanding of the planning of places/spaces. It is suggested that planners need to find creative ways to provide access to virtual places/spaces from physical places/spaces so that recent trends in technology using the Internet can complement the traditional public sites where citizens congregate.