Netography 4 – The Political Economy of Drumeo

Lister (2009) states that the internet has developed unsystematically, driven by the tensions between cultural and commerce. Drumeo illustrates this point, it is both a cultural resource and a commercial concern . As such it is interesting to consider the political economy of drumeo and ask how it has shaped the website as a learning community.

Lister (2009) analyses the internet using a Marxist approach which provides a useful framework for my own analysis of Drumeo. Capitalism’s need for profit and protection of property rights establishes the underlying base conditions which the superstructural features of a social instution form from. Drumeo’s professed goal is to “help EVERY drummer in the world” (Falk, 2017). It is this that guides the sites superstructural output and it offers a wealth of material that is accessible to all for free via youtube and their own blogs.

However, Drumeo is only one facet of Railroad Media Inc. who have a considerable number of employees who rely on Drumeo to turn a consistent profit so they can have a livelihood (Drumeo, 2017).  This tension between the base condition of profit making and cultural superstructure of knowledge creation and communication  in turn shapes the community. This results in numerous cultural features, for example there are multiple enjoinders to join the community in the free video lessons but also a monthly subscription fee to access said community.

With high quality free materials available acting as an advertisement Drumeo has to work hard to create unique data , which is one of the key factors in a successful Web 2.0 business (O’Riley 2005 cited in Lister 2009, p.44). Arguably the most unique data is the student learning plans and analysis, where you can submit a video of your playing and then a drumeo instructor will analyse it and provide exercises to improve what weaknesses they have identified in your playing. This is done during a streamed lesson where students can also send in their questions to the instructor live. This community feature is limited to paying members only and is a key selling point of Drumeo. As such it is highly unlikely that these features would ever be offered as free content.

Lister also talked about how property rights can determine the shape of a community’s cultural output. Drumeo as a for profit company also has to operate within strict applications of property rights. For example, it cannot claim fair usage in the same way non-profit individual users can when posting cover songs for educational purposes (for example click here). Thus, despite having a lot of song transcriptions on their site and a lot of the community activity geared towards learning and recording cover versions, they are limited in what content they can host. None of the song transcription lessons can have the actual recording of the song playing at any time. As well as being determined by property rights Drumeo seeks to determine others usage of their cultural output by  protecting their own property rights. This includes their free material  which it is heavily copyright protected and branded (for example click here).