Announcement: ‘Online networks and the production of value in electronic music’

Investigators: Daniel Allington (Open University), Anna Jordanous (King’s College London), Byron Dueck (Open University)
Funder: Arts and Humanities Research Council [1]
Duration: 3 Feb to 31 July 2014

Cultural value is one of those areas in which (as the saying goes) perceptions are also realities. Thus, sociologists have argued that the production of cultural value is actually the production of a form of belief. Although popular accounts of how art gets made tend to focus on brilliant individual creators, research has highlighted over and over again that their work typically emerges from a creative milieu, in which value (or belief in value) comes into existence. This highlights the complex relationship between professional, semi-professional, and amateur cultural production, and may explain why so many cultural producers create work primarily for appreciation by their peers.

This project will make an incisive contribution to our understanding of how cultural artefacts and their value are produced in the digital age by focusing on a specific art form: music. We will gather evidence from the SoundCloud website, which many musicians use for commenting on one another’s work. And we will focus on a specific genre that has a special relationship with that website, i.e. electronic music. We will combine social network analysis of evaluations implied by ‘likes’, ‘follows’, and ‘shares’ on the website with linguistic analysis of the kinds of language used in comments. We will also observe and interview musicians at gigs in order to understand how they locate value in their relationships with one another, both online and off.

Findings will be disseminated not only through academic venues but through a public access event featuring lectures from academics who have carried out related studies and performances by electronic musicians involved in the research. We will also write a public report explaining our findings to a general audience (including emerging musicians who may wish to understand the role that social media can play in building a career), and we will release the source code to all the applications we create, with full instructions that will enable other researchers to adapt those applications to study data from other sources. Knowledge will be further disseminated through professionally-produced audiovisual podcasts and press releases to specialist media, with regular progress updates provided through our blog.


1. From a certain point of view, this is the announcement.