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Agglomeration and Curation: The Case of Music Festival Artists

Authors: Patrick Adler*, UCLA/ University of Toronto
Topics: Economic Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Cultural Geography
Keywords: Curation, Music, Regional Inequality, Creative Industries
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this paper, I define curation as a key function within modern economic geography and illustrate its significance using a case study from the music industry.

In fields such as art, fashion, film, advertising, human resources, and speculative finance, product value is commonly tied to the decisions of key intermediaries rather than the stable scientific properties of those products. Films, unlike semiconductors or pharmaceuticals, are not prized because they meet specific performance criteria, but they might be valued highly because someone or something else (a critic, a chart) designates them as valuable. Curation, the selection or endorsement of products by trusted actors, is a value-enhancing activity that is nested in the system of social relationships more than in product characteristics per se.

Curation will be more important when there is a high degree of ambiguity over the symbolic value of a product ) and when there is a glut of supply in the market. The market for live musicians, then, is an attractive case for understanding the importance of curation. Using negative binomial models, I predict selection to music festivals in 2017-2019 for a group of some 300,000 musicians. I show that prior curation is highly influential on the curation decisions of music festival curators. I also show that curation decisions are spatially biased, both to the local contexts of programmers themselves and to music ‘clusters’ such as Los Angeles, Nashville and Atlanta.

I conclude with a discussion of the relationship between curation and agglomeration

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