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Sociology Paper, The Music Industry and Society

Updated on October 7, 2010


The Music Industry and Society

Melissa Sheffield

Walden University

September 12, 2010


Instructor Vigdor

The Music Industry and Society

When evaluating the impact the music industry has on society it is important to consider varying perspectives including functionalist, conflict and interactionist views. Each of these perspectives offers unique insights into the subject. In order to gain understanding of its effect on society we must consider how these perspectives overlap and diverge (Schaefer, 2009). The music industry does not simply affect society in a positive or negative way; it is not limited to causing conflict or creating new gestures or expressions. There are many aspects of the industry which we will examine beginning with the functionalist perspective.

The functionalist perspective emphasizes the contribution the music industry makes to society’s overall stability. Music is a way people can communicate their values and powerful messages of faith or activism. People relate their lives to specific songs or groups much like popular sports teams. Music is a functional way to communicate feelings and beliefs to many different cultures and communities. When there is conflict in the world the music industry embraces expression through artists to unite listeners in common interest. The music industry also utilizes the public’s love of music to raise money for victims of natural disasters through televised concerts and benefits. The music industry contributes to the progressive growth and function of society but conflict perspective that suggests the industry promotes stereotypes, exploitation, and greed.

Conflict sociologists examine the struggle over power and wealth within the music industry and its negative influences on our youth (Schaefer, 2009). Music is a big business, with internet revenue, radio support and concert sales, the music industry is a powerful force within our media. Music videos and lyrics can glamorize violence, geographical rivalries, sex and drug/alcohol abuse. The industry can promote specific artists who encompass their image of perfect bodies, glamorous lifestyles, and sexual prowess than is unattainable for most impressionable American youth, leaving them feeling inadequate. A struggle for power within the music industry causes conflict. Many artists will leave their music label in order to attain greater artistic freedom or better contracts. The industry and producers have the ability to control messages, influence lyrics, build specific fan bases, and promote artists or groups most likely to make money leaving less desirable but sometimes more talented artists in the shadows.

The interactionist sociologist is interested in analyzing the effects music has on a micro level, the small groups within specific communities, schools, or peer groups (Schaefer, 2009). Interactionism or symbolic interactionism suggests members of a society use nonverbal communication and symbols to communicate shared social meaning (Schaefer). Artists and the music industry influence dance forms, language (slang or new terms such as “for shizzle” coined by rapper Snoop Dog), and propagate fashion fads such as “bling” (flashy jewelry) or “grills” (gold/silver tooth coverings). Interactionist’ would also consider the effect music has on unifying communities or groups through commonality of interest.

Music has positive and negative effects on society as explained by the three different perspectives discussed. Music can aid in early child development and it can motivate athletes and crowds at football games. Gang and geographical rivalries can use music to communicate messages of hate and music can promote violence or sexual promiscuity. Church members can sing praises and use music to lift their spirits and unite as one group through song. The music industry has a profound effect on society and through these perspectives, we can better understand how generations of listeners are changed or influenced by it. 




Schaefer, R. T. (2009). Sociology: A brief introduction (8th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.


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