Networks of value in electronic music: SoundCloud, London, and the importance of place

Bibliographic details

Allington, D., Dueck, B., and Jordanous, A. (2015) ‘Networks of value in electronic music: SoundCloud, London, and the importance of place’. Cultural Trends 24 (3): 211-222.

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While recent debate has often focused on a reified “cultural value” (whether opposed to or aligned with monetary value), this article treats “value” as a verb and investigates the acts of valuing in which people engage. Through ethnographic research in London’s electronic music scene and social network analysis of the SoundCloud audio sharing website (which is dominated by electronic dance music and, to a lesser extent, hip hop), it uncovers substantial patterns of geographical inequality. London is found at the very centre of a network of valuing relationships, in which New York and Los Angeles occupy the next most privileged locations, followed by Berlin, Paris, and Chicago. Cities outside Western Europe and the Anglophone world tend to occupy peripheral positions in the network. This finding suggests that location plays a major role in the circulation of value, even when we might expect that role to have been curtailed by an ostensibly “placeless” medium for the distribution and valuing of music. While there are reasons for the metropolitan emplacedness of dance music – given the importance of the relationship between production, consumption, and live DJing – the privileging of particular cities also mirrors patterns of inequality in the wider cultural economy. That London should appear so supremely privileged reflects both the exporting strength of British creative industries and the imbalanced nature of the UK’s cultural economy.