Cultures at work: why "culture" matters in research on the "cultural" industries

TitleCultures at work: why "culture" matters in research on the "cultural" industries
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2003
Journal TitleSocial and Cultural Geography
Other Author AffiliationsChris Gibson

This article considers why 'culture matters' in the context of the 'cultural industries'. The 'cultural industries' have become a more popular area of research in recent years, especially within economic geography, as the economic significance of 'creative' pursuits such as music, visual arts and film production to urban areas begins to be recognized. This article discusses evidence from music scenes on the New South Wales Far North Coast to develop two main points in relation to this emerging research agenda: first, that activities in popular music production and performance--a key 'cultural' industry--need to be understood in terms of mutually constitutive 'cultural' and 'economic' relations and events; and second, that a critical textual approach now familiar within cultural geography is an essential starting point for analysis, to uncover assumptions and meanings which define the 'cultural industries' as cultural. Perceptions of popular music as a 'cultural' pursuit have a major impact on the meanings of 'work', and on the labour relations apparent in sites of production (both in the recording process and in live venues). Such impacts were magnified on the New South Wales Far North Coast, where grass roots popular music production has become an increasingly important and defining feature of regional identities, yet where the paid conditions of musical 'work' have become more insecure over time. 'Culture' matters, because its mobilization as a descriptor for certain kinds of activities influences not only the way these activities are represented within geographical research, but also because it influences how musicians, agents and venue managers perceive the 'work' of music, thus shaping the terrain upon which creative expressions are produced and consumed.