On relationships and value

It’s a scary thought, but we’re halfway through the funded stage of this project. The timescale is tightly compressed and it’s been a bit manic at times (especially right now, with a workshop next week and a public event in less than a month).

But we’ve already learnt so much. So I’d like to reflect briefly on an observation Byron made last month, reflecting on the interviews he’d been carrying out with electronic music producers: ‘when I ask questions about valuing and appreciation, people answer about relationships.’ Outside the spheres of commercial music (where value is expressed in economic terms) and art music (where it is expressed in terms of grants, academic appointments, etc), human relationships are the beginning and the end of musical value. So perhaps it’s true that when musicians build relationships through music, they are producing not the opportunity to produce value (the aim of ‘business networking‘), but value itself.

Hints of that relationship-building – which is also value-production – can, I think, already be discerned in the network graphs we’re constructing. This is something to do with the nature of SoundCloud, which – though it is now also used as a way of publicising commercially-published music (hence the nearly five million followers of the node in one of our graphs that turned out to represent Justin Timberlake) – is still used as a tool by which musicians (professional, semi-professional, and amateur) can share their work with one another. Even in the very first graphs that Anna created on this project, arbitrarily limited to a few hundred accounts around a randomly-chosen seed, you can see a large number of reciprocal relationships (visible as pairs of curved arrows), where two SoundCloud users have chosen to ‘follow’ one another.

I’ll leave you with a recent photograph from our fieldwork. Look at it carefully. It shows two of London’s leading instrumental grime producers. One of them is playing a set. But can there be any doubt that there is some larger activity that they are jointly engaged in?

Producers at work: Boxed in Dalston


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