When is a music audience? The challenges of a sociological perspective of music audiences in the platform age

Raphael Alexandre Nowak, Jo Haynes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Music listening today is dispersed across multiple devices, platforms, and spaces. It can be characterised as an activity that is purposeful, meaningful and focused, or as that which may accompany other tasks and thus as having varying roles and significance depending on contexts. What constitutes a music audience is increasingly difficult to specify as a unitary object of study. Moreover, research on music audiences is hindered by theoretical and methodological impasses that produce entrenched positions around what we think we know about music audiences and how we come to know them. These positions either prioritise structured, hierarchical interpretations around taste and listening or are pragmatic and value individual and collective meanings. Both are entangled within the limitations afforded to both quantitative and qualitative approaches that underpin such positions. The former tending to impose limited conceptions of the music field to feed back listening choices through, while
the latter is limited by the fragmented scope of the particular field of inquiry itself. More recent scholarship tends to treat music audiences as datified artefacts of streaming suggesting passive, inattentive listening. This chapter makes a critical case for the empirical return to audiences in music research. We argue for the need to rethink music audiences as research objects. In this sense, we do not provide an empirical toolkit or defend any particular method over another, rather our argument is more conceptual with regards to how we (as researchers) relate to our field and approach audiences to pursue knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Popular Music Methodologies
EditorsMike Dines, Shara Rambarran, Gareth Dylan Smith
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023

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