Let’s talk about stratification and music in context of equality of opportunity, equality of condition, and equality of outcome. “Music” in this blog is going to be considered how certain artists compete in the music industry. We will discuss equality in terms of their resources, both financial and social, and its plausibility in the realm of music.
And, just to give Dalton Conley the credit he deserves, all of these definitions and elaborations are expansions based on his original ideas…
According to Conley, equality of opportunity suggests that an inequality of condition may exists as long as the “rules” of the “game” remain the same. In other words, Band 1 is allowed to sign million-dollar endorsements, play on MTV, and have their hit single featured in a major motion picture while Band 2 plays in the grandmother’s garage for shows every other weekend as long as they’re both dealing with the same record labels, agents, social networking resources, etc. But, what is the reality of such a situation? Is the playing field ever going to be completely level? In a competitive environment such as the music industry, equality of opportunity is inevitably impossible. But, why? The bottom line is that a myriad of obstacles sit between bands and fortune and fame. Location, money, and personal relationships to name a few… Those who live in Podunkville are going to have significantly fewer opportunities than those who live in Dallas or Los Angeles. Heirs of the Hiltons are going to be more likely to provide the financial expenses required of the music industry (recordings, travel, merchandise production, etc.) than those struggling to stay about the national poverty line. And, as well all know, it’s not about what you know, it’s about WHO know you know. The music industry is no difference. Those with insider connections for some reason or another have a significant advantage over those who do not. Essentially, this sociological concept seems highly unrealistic without some sort of governmental regulation. In this case, no such regulation exists. Strike 1.
Equality of condition is a bit more realistic, but still lacks complete plausibility. More or less, the idea of equality of condition suggests that all should assume an equal starting point. Well… We all came from a womb, right? If only it were that simple… Unfortunately, the family I come from may have a greater location, financial situation, and personal relationships than yours or vice versa. The idea of having a similar or completely even starting point in the music industry is nearly just as unlikely. If we were to assume that, we’d have to assume everyone began learning music at exactly the same age, that everyone had the same personal relationships, that everyone lived in a comparable socioeconomic environmental, and on and on and on… Strike 2.
The third idea, equality of outcome, just makes me want to chuckle when I think about it in context… Out of context, it sounds like a peachy idea, but in context is an entirely different story. Equality of outcome essentially proposes that everyone winds up with the same amount of toys once the shopping spree is over, regardless of how clean or dirty the rest of the customers play. Basically, either we’re all getting record deals or we’re all playing grandmother’s garage for the rest of our lives. Strike 3.
But what would the music industry be without competition? Could it even functionally exist in such an “equal” environment? Competition is what brings profit to those who are successful. For those who use music as a way to make a living, inequality of opportunity, condition, and outcome must exist.
As a musician, I would now like to take this moment to thank the sociology gods for the absence of equality within the music industry. Even for those who started at the bottom of the totem pole, success gained demands gratification for those who have earned it.
All in all, my point is to say that equality in general cannot exists in the midst of the music industry. Various social relations with company representatives, location, finances, and other networks afford different artists different options. Equality in music simply cannot exist.