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Journal Article

Cycles in Symbol Production: The Case of Popular Music

Richard A. Peterson and David G. Berger
American Sociological Review
Vol. 40, No. 2 (Apr., 1975), pp. 158-173
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2094343
Page Count: 16
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Cycles in Symbol Production: The Case of Popular Music
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Abstract

This study questions the common assertion that culture forms go through cycles. Data on the structure of the music industry and the sorts of music produced over 26 years are examined. Periods of market concentration are found to correspond to periods of homogeneity, periods of competition to periods of diversity. A relatively long period of gradually increasing concentration is followed by a short burst of competition and diversity, with changes in market structure preceding changes in music. Assertions that consumers necessarily "get what they want" or "want what they get" are not supported. The degree of vertical integration at three key points (creative factors, merchandising and distribution), as well as diverse mechanisms in the industry's task environment, are found to be important in explaining these associations. Their nature suggests the fruitfulness of comparative studies of the production of symbol systems in the arts, science, and religion.

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