Cheer Up Matt!: my off-the-cuff definition wasn’t meant to exclude anybody from anything, it was just a marketing thing really. I might as well have said that everything with a distribution deal creates an ‘imagined community’ (and of course it’s not an either/or thing – it’d be easy to name loads of records that are made within communities and then take on a wider pop life beyond anyone’s control. “If anyone else likes it, it’s a bonus”, to coin a phrase). I think I shouldn’t have set “imagined” against “real” though – “known” would have been better.

I don’t find the idea of “imagined communities” depressing or divisive. At the extreme a record made for such a beast would be released like a message in a bottle, with no idea of who might or might not buy it or even know about it. Of course that never happens: the marketing departments of labels big and small strain around the clock to make sure records reach people who will appreciate them (& hand over cash). But the idea(l) of it appeals to me. Pop is like a never-ending series of SETI searches – somewhere out there might be a bunch of people who will like that or relate to this, and the record acts as a probe to find them, to open communications. (It’s a bit like doing a blog, in fact.) Of course, the imagined community might not exist, but the hope is always there that it does.