The ecological approach to live music: a critical review

Authors: Erik Hitters*, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Arno Van der Hoeven, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Pauwke Berkers, Erasmus University Rotterdam
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural Geography, Social Geography
Keywords: geography of music, ecology, creative industries
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Oakley, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Many studies into the creative industries have adopted the concept of ecology to focus on the integrated nature of the relationships among institutions, social groups, and their environment. In our POPLIVE-project on the economic and sociocultural value of local live music sectors, we use an ecological perspective on live music. This perspective, which has been developed by British music researchers (Behr, Brennan, Cloonan, Frith & Webster, 2016), focuses on the changing ways in which different actors contribute to the qualities of the live music sector. It views the live music sector as a (inter)local network of different social actors (e.g. musicians, bookers and policy makers) as well as materialities (e.g. venues size, urban setting).

Adding to related concepts like art worlds, cultural fields, local scenes or cultural milieux, such approaches principally map socially networked worlds of actors, institutions and intermediaries. Our approach adds a material dimension by including the spatial physical environment of live music (e.g. music venue size and the urban setting). Furthermore, the intangible aspects of live music ecologies concern, among other things, the musical experience and the histories associated with a specific venue.

In this paper, we aim to critically evaluate the concept of the live ecology. While recent studies in the UK have adopted an ecology of music approach to study live music, we know little about what makes a live ecology ‘healthy’ (sustainable) or how we should measure this. Also, despite the increasing popularity festivals, this emerging actor in live ecologies has largely been ignored.

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