The value of global sharing to musicians

Nancy Baym of Microsoft Research kicked off the session on the transnational dimensions of spreadable media at MIT8.

She gave an insight into her research on musicians and international audiences.

Her research takes on the two dominant discourses about music audiences. Listeners are viewed as pirates who steal music or as customers who are not paying enough for music.

Baym said both are economic metaphors that position musicians as manufacturers and distributors, rather than artists.

For her research, Baym wanted to find out how social media has affected the relationship of a musician with their audience. She interviewed musicians who had an audience before social media from the US, Canada, UK, Sweden, Norway, Spain, Australia and Germany.

In her brief presentation, Baym focused on the importance of travel and touring. Her research found that musicians view travel as part of their identity. It helps them discover followers in countries they didn’t know about. People who pirate music will pay to go and see an artist perform.

Social media has made international touring easier by helping bands connect with each other. But there are limitations, said Baym. Sometimes musicians find they do not have enough fans in one location to justify the costs of touring there

She concluded by arguing that the international distribution of content should not just framed within commercial concerns.

Instead, the international flow of music is an important social reward for musicians to connect with global audiences.

1 Comment

  • Bill Bennett says:

    I worry about making comparisons between journalists and musicians in this context. Journalists don’t get to put on live shows for paying customers. I don’t think there’s an equivalent.

    Sure, people sharing our copy – when it carries a byline – helps a journalist’s reputation, but that’s not bankable.

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