Online networks and the production of value in electronic music: executive summary

On Monday, we submitted a report of our preliminary findings to the AHRC’s Cultural Value Project. Research is still ongoing, and we’re planning an ambitious follow-up study. The report is not available to the public yet – and in any case, the whole thing ran to 69 pages, plus covers etc – but here’s a taster.

Hardcopy of report: Online Networks and the Production of Value in Electronic Music

Executive summary

Daniel Allington, Anna Jordanous, Byron Dueck
22 September 2014

Digital distribution has greatly reduced the economic value of recorded music, and thus the potential for generating income through music. While this challenge to professional music-making has gathered pace, music production software has facilitated the creation of professional-sounding tracks in home studios. At the same time, social networking and new media websites have provided music makers with new spaces in which to negotiate and produce cultural value for their work, taking on tasks that would once have been the sphere of specialists in marketing, publicity and criticism. These phenomena appear to have had a particular impact on electronic music, which is typically made by lone, but highly networked, individuals and is often circulated non-commercially.

Notwithstanding the above developments, a record deal is still considered the mark of success and a reflection of a music-maker’s value, and local, regional, national, and world-regional scenes remain important sites for the production of cultural value in music, with London being an unusually privileged location. For the most part, music-makers assert their concern for all listeners, but close attention to their activity (and how they describe it) suggests that interactions with peers are especially important for the production of value for their work.

There is a complex relationship between the two areas of work referred to as production (a blanket term covering all activities involved in the creation of an audio track) and DJing (combination of audio tracks into a continuous mix): except in online venues, DJing tends to be better remunerated than production, yet production is accorded more cultural value than DJing; DJs play a significant role in the production of cultural value for producers, yet status as a DJ often depends on having cultural value as a producer. Live performance is vital to the production of both cultural and economic value, and there is evidence for exclusion from the production of value in terms of gender, location, and genre, where ethnicity and class may be implicated in the latter two.

Feedback that confirms, complicates, or contradicts these preliminary findings is especially welcome!

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