Social Institutions (Module 5 Case)

Published 23 May 2017

Why does the economic social structure called middlemen form?

There is an interconnected relationship that exists in every society and in between them. This basic sociological idea is emphasize in the structure-functionalist and conflict approaches in understanding sociological phenomena. The structure-functionalist approach highlighted the interdependence of the various institutions in a social system. Taking into consideration the case of artist-audience relation, it is obvious that one needs the other to function. Under cultural norms, there are producers or publications that act in between the artist and the audience to bridge the gap that affects the delivery of product or services.

The middlemen form of economic social structure corresponds or acts as a moderator between the source or supply of products and services and the consumers. The middlemen “negotiate products between the producers and the consumers, the owner and the renter, the elite and the masses, and employer and employee” (Butler 2005:5). In the case presented, regarding the relationship of artists and producers or publishers, the economic social structure is a middlemen form because there is a mediator or a negotiator between the artists and the consumers or fans. Through the use of the web or the internet to publish and market the artists’ music, books or products; the middlemen form is cut off.

The conflict approach indicates the fact that the society has several parts that compete with one another. Thus, it is usually the case that a conflict of interest exists. In the case of artist-middlemen-audience, there are 3 players each with their own interest. The artist wants to gain from their products. The middleman would take a few percent commissions by helping the artist reach the masses or by widening and/or promoting the market for their products. The audience would buy or purchase the product. The conflicts arise since the middlemen’s salary basically results to the reduction of the artist’s profit and an increase in the price of the product which burdens the consumer. Upon the introduction of the internet, the work of the middlemen steadily decline. Entrepreneurs, in this case the artist, become more self-reliant since they can communicate with the consumers (audiences) and sell their products directly. It also creates a more profitable and less time-consuming business interaction. Consumer reaction, which is a determining factor of the impact and marketability of the product, is more easily determined.

Will middlemen continue to exist?

Nonetheless, middlemen will continue to exist. As Nick Gillespie (2000) pointed out “the dreaded middlemen… is not only incidental to the transaction, but an active participant who brings artist and audience together for a mutually satisfactory interaction”. Aside from this fact, middlemen exist in various socio-economic relationships in capitalists systems. In artist-audience relation, the middlemen will continue to exist since it is concerned with the modification of the artist’s work and at times help in improving the quality of the product. For instance, as what Gillespie noted, brokers and other middlemen “often add significant value to cultural offerings, especially for the audience” such as the case when “record labels and publishers convey meaningful information to potential buyers” (2000).

Is it `good` or `bad` that artists can reach audiences directly?

Depending on the situation, the interaction between the artist and the audiences might either lead to a failure or a success. One good thing is the increased ability of the audience to communicate directly to the artist and vice versa. This way the artist can create more satisfaction by taking into consideration what the audience wants. Nonetheless, in a bigger picture, removing the middlemen might reduce the quality of the product. Moreover, the direct contact between artist and audiences might reduce the status and popularity of the artists since they are prone to more mistakes and are more liable to the audiences than before.


  • Author. (2009). Lecture Notes.
  • Butler, J.S. (2005). Entrepreneurship and self-help among Black Americans: A reconsideration of race and economics. SUNY Press.
  • Gillespe, Nick (2000, August/September). Cutting Out the Middlemen. ReasonOnLine. Reason Magazine.
  • Perman, Stacy (2006, September, 7) How Artists Can Skip the Offline Middleman. Business Week.
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