Making Media Work

Making Media Work: Cultures of Management in the Entertainment Industries

Derek Johnson
Derek Kompare
Avi Santo
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Making Media Work
    Book Description:

    In popular culture, management in the media industry is frequently understood as the work of network executives, studio developers, and market researchersthe suitswho oppose the more productive forces of creative talent and subject that labor to the inefficiencies and risk aversion of bureaucratic hierarchies. However, such portrayals belie the reality of how media management operates as a culture of shifting discourses, dispositions, and tactics that create meaning, generate value, and shape media work throughout each moment of production and consumption.Making Media Workaims to provide a deeper and more nuanced understanding of management within the entertainment industries. Drawing from work in critical sociology and cultural studies, the collection theorizes management as a pervasive, yet flexible set of principlesdrawn upon by a wide range of practitionersartists, talent scouts, performers, directors, show runners, and morein their ongoing efforts to articulate relationships and bridge potentially discordant forces within the media industries. The contributors interrogate managerial labor and identity, shine a light on how management understands its roles within cultural and creative contexts, and reconfigure the complex relationship between labor and managerial authority as productive rather than solely prohibitive. Engaging with primary evidence gathered through interviews, archives, and trade materials, the essays offer tremendous insight into how management is understood and performed within media industry contexts. The volume as a whole traces the changing roles of management both historically and in the contemporary moment within US and international contexts, and across a range of media forms, from film and television to video games and social media.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2498-9
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction: Discourses, Dispositions, Tactics: Reconceiving Management in Critical Media Industry Studies
    (pp. 1-22)

    As represented in popular media, management is that force in our collective work worlds that renders labor inefficient, pointless, or suspect through its bureaucratic hierarchies, authoritarian mechanisms of control, and often the corrupted or inept personalities of those who rise to the position of manager. In the British workplace sitcomThe Office, manager David Brent plays the fool, more concerned with his own ego than the productivity of workers under his employ. In the cult comedyOffice Space, manager Bill Lumbergh plays the overbearing villain, a source of conflict who repeatedly tells the protagonist, “Yeah, I’m going to need you...

    • 1 Building Theories of Creative Industry Managers: Challenges, Perspectives, and Future Directions
      (pp. 25-38)

      Perhaps the fictional embodiment of “Management” that best matches the underexplored aspect of cultural industries’ managers can be found in HBO’s relatively short-lived, Depression-era supernatural tale of a traveling carnival in the aptly titledCarnivàle. Here management is a never-seen, possibly mystical, force not dissimilar from the Wizard of Oz, and is referred to simply as “Management.” It seems feasible that “Management” is no more than a fictitious construction invented to police the carnival crew and assert a threatening presence in a way that the diminutive carnival manager, Samson, played by Michael J. Anderson,Twin Peaks’dancing and backward-speaking Man...

    • 2 Towards a Structuration Theory of Media Intermediaries
      (pp. 39-62)

      The analysis of media industries raises two important, related questions for critical theory. First, what is the impact of particular kinds of industrial relationships, organizations, and priorities on the autonomy of creative workers in the industry? And, second, what is the impact of these forces on the diversity of content that the industries produce? While related, these questions are also analytically separable: creative autonomy does not inherently lead to content diversity, and content diversity can—in theory, at least—stem from conditions of restricted creative autonomy.

      This essay tackles the second of these questions, positing a theory of media intermediaries...

    • 3 Linear Legacies: Managing the Multiplatform Production Process
      (pp. 63-89)

      In 2006 the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) launchedCreative Future, a five-year editorial strategy that promised the wholesale transformation of the public service broadcaster to “enable 360-degree commissioning and production and ensure creative coherence and editorial leadership across all platforms and media” (BBC 2006a). The epigraph above from Mark Thompson, Director General at the helm of the BBC, heralded the boldness of this strategy, signaling a move away from specific platforms towards a multiplatform approach that positioned audience reach at its core, whilst simultaneously enabling the BBC to ful-fill a redefinition of public service goals for a digital age (Strange...

    • 4 Enterprising Selves: Reality Television and Human Capital
      (pp. 90-110)

      In his 1978–1979 lectures at the College de France, Michel Foucault traced the neoliberal turn in capitalist democracies to the reformation of individuals as the subjects of human capital. Trends of deregulation, privatization, public sector downsizing, and welfare reform, along with the demise of collective bargaining and long-term employment security, characterize neoliberal societies, broadly defined (see Harvey 2007; Duggan 2004; Rose 1996). But these developments coincide with, and depend upon, a fundamental “shift in the way in which humans make themselves and are made as subjects” (Reade 2009: 28). As Jason Reade (2009) eloquently surmises, the new regime of...

    • 5 Record Men: Talent Scouts in the U.S. Recording Industry, 1920–1935
      (pp. 113-141)

      In a 1971 interview, recording industry talent scout “Uncle” Art Satherley recounted his deep involvement in recording songs by key figures in country and blues music. Decades after he had left the recording industry, Satherley still felt it necessary to defend the people and the music he had recorded, from Ma Rainey to Gene Autry, from Patsy Montana to Blind Lemon Jefferson. Again and again, Satherley voiced an affinity for the “country people” whose music he recorded—music that, despite its popularity, had been regularly dismissed for decades as having little cultural or aesthetic value. Though this had started to...

  6. 6. Re-Casting the Casting Director: Managed Change, Gendered Labor
    (pp. 142-164)

    Though any commercial industry’s mass-produced merchandise finds its ways to shelves in complex ways, this is especially true of the American media industry, which has developed complex work systems to manage a production process that is simultaneously factory-like and individuated in order to produce goods that are simultaneously commercial and artistic. Texts are created through an interlocking series of soft systems, developed over a century of massive technological and social change, and are held together by multiple, contradictory industrial mythologies, resulting in production processes that are often as messy, disconnected, and chaotic as their most successful products are clean, harmonious,...

    • 9. “Selling Station Personality”: Managing Impending Change in Postwar Radio, 1948–1953
      (pp. 213-234)

      Within radio lore, one of the most oft-told tales concerns the origins of Top 40 radio. In this story, which has a number of permutations, some night between 1953 and 1955, Todd Storz, the enterprising owner of KOWH in Omaha Nebraska, is sitting at a tavern waiting for one of the waitresses to get off duty. He notices that the customers and later the waitresses keep repeating the same songs on the jukebox. Asked by Storz why she kept playing the same songs again and again, an anonymous everywoman allegedly replied “I like ’em.” Although KOWH was currently programming a...

    • 10 Tweeting on the BBC: Audience and Brand Management via Third Party Websites
      (pp. 235-253)

      In spring 2011, Twitter was at the center of two very different but ultimately related media storms. In April,Gleeexecutive producer Brad Falchuck was outraged when an extra tweeted the characters due to be named prom king and queen, threatening her that she would never act again (Andrew 2011). A month later, a much larger storm erupted in the United Kingdom when Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs was identified on Twitter as being the subject of a high court “superinjuction” forbidding any news outlet from revealing his extramarital affair. Giggs demanded that Twitter reveal the identity of the user...

    • 11 Market Research in the Media Industries: On the Strategic Relationship between Client and Supplier
      (pp. 254-274)

      Diana Christensen, the ferocious TV programming executive in the classicNetwork(1976), pointed to the significance of market research within the media industries more than thirty-five years ago. Yet again, Paddy Chayefsky was amazingly prescient with his landmark film in telegraphing the role of market research as a guide for the media industries. Chayefsky’s brief reference cannot encapsulate, however, the complexities of media market research in the current industry. Within contemporary business, market research is commonplace and accepted as a routine and expected part of business practice in most industries, from packaged consumer goods to pharmaceuticals, finance, and insurance. Across...

    • 12 Listening and Empathizing: Advocating for New Management Logics in Marketing and Corporate Communications
      (pp. 275-294)
      SAM FORD

      Among the managerial logics employed by corporate employees charged with creating media texts and communicating directly with external audiences, the actual communication experience of those audience members is rarely a primary focus. Instead, the “audience” is often discussed as an abstraction, a statistic, a target, a recipient, or even as a nuisance to be avoided, silenced, or otherwise dealt with as efficiently as possible. Soap opera writer Tom Casiello writes that, despite an obsession with focus group results and ratings, “there wasn’t a lot of focus on The Audience” as actual human beings in his industry (2011: 275). Across corporate...

    (pp. 295-318)
    (pp. 319-322)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 323-330)