PhD Research


Title: How are Music Streaming Services, such as Spotify, Shaping How Music Taste and Consumption are Implicated in the Reproduction of Class Divisions?

Abstract

Music streaming services, such as Spotify and Apple Music, are transforming the way many of us access and consume music. Not only do these platforms faciliate acccess to vast catalogues of licensed music at little or no cost, but increasingly they are curating our encounters with it. These firms are gathering large volumes of very granular data about who we are and what we like to listen and combining this information with the latest advancements in machine learning technologies in order to shape what and how music is made available to us through the creation of playlists, recommendations and other forms of curated content. These transformations to way music is mediated invite us to consider if and how music streaming services are disrupting the social dynamics of consumption.

In the 1960’s, the influential sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu (1984), demonstrated to us how cultural taste and consumption are implicated in the reproduction of class divisions. Over time, sociologists have developed our understanding of the changing relationship between taste, consumption and class. For example the mass production of culture occuring in the latter half of the twentieth century has transformed the accessibility of culture and the concept of the “cultural omnivore” (Peterson and Kern 1996) was introduced to acknowledge how middle class taste has incorporated cultural abundance. 

More recently, social scientists have speculated about if and how music streaming services have the potential to disrupt the relationship between taste, consumption and class. For example, David Beer (2013) argues that in a context where culture now "finds us," the cultivation of taste has the potential to become divorced from traditional socialisation processes, whilst David Wright (2015) argues that the use of music recommendation technologies has the potential to reinforce divisions in class taste. However, little empirical consideration has been given to the question of if and how music streaming services are shaping the relationship between music taste, consumption and class. In response to this, my thesis engages in qualitative research to better understand how music streaming services are shaping how music taste and consumption are implicated in the reproduction of class divisions.