On 15th July 2014 The Harkive Project ran for the second time and once again invited people across the world to tell the story of How, Where and Why they listened to music on a single day.
This post is intended to give you a quick overview of how Harkive 2014 went. I’ll provide some basic numbers before sharing some thoughts on how I thought Harkive 2014 panned out, before closing with some information on what happens next.
In total 881 people contributed to Harkive 2014, posting a combined 2,455 contributions.
88% of those responding did so via Twitter, with 777 people sending 2,260 tweets with the Harkive hashtag, which accounted for 92% of all responses.
In total there were 3501 Harkive tweets from 1042 different accounts, meaning that around 250 people tweeted about Harkive without contributing to it. These non-contributory tweets took the form of promotional information about the project (832), retweets of other peoples’ contributions (349), questions about the project (58), or automated accounts tweeting information about trending topics (2).
Of the remaining 8% of responses (195 in total), Instagram provided almost half (3.5%) with Facebook, Email and contributions via the Submit form on the Harkive site providing the majority of the rest.
Overall, the number of people contributing to Harkive 2014 was down on 2013 – last year 1393 people contributed compared to 881 this year. Interestingly, however, the number of contributions held reasonably stable, with 2698 entries in 2013 compared to 2455 this year.
Fewer people contributed more, in other words, with the average number of contributions per person rising from 1.93 in 2013, to 2.78 this year. Twitter is largely the reason for this, with 87% of responses last year and 92% this year. The average number of tweets per contributor was 2.9 (up from 2.07 last year), with 85% (658) contributing between 1 and 5 tweets, 9.3% (72) contributing 6-10 tweets, 4.7% (36) between 10-20 tweets, and the final 1% (8) contributing 20 or more. The record number of tweets from one account in 2014 was an impressive 52!
Several companies and individuals were kind enough to donate prizes to Harkive. There are records, CDs, art-prints and even a ukulele. Everyone who contributed to Harkive 2014 has gone into the hat (it’s a database, in truth) and I’ll be drawing the winners today at 2pm (GMT) and will by live tweeting the results through @harkive. If you can’t follow live at 2pm today, don’t worry. I’ll be in touch if you’ve won.
As well as being incredibly grateful to all the people who took time to contribute, talk about and support this project once again, my main feeling when taking the time to reflect on Harkive 2014 is one of relief.
Having launched the project in 2013 with no great expectations or hopes of a huge response, I was amazed and somewhat shocked by the fact that so many people got behind the project, supported it with kind words, and – of course – contributed their stories. The big worry and question for 2014, then, was whether Harkive could come anywhere close to the success of 2013.
Bound up in this fear was my hope and intention that Harkive become an annual event. My feeling is/was that if Harkive is going to be useful or interesting then it would be in the way it could reveal things over a period of time. In a nutshell, when we look back over the responses gathered across a number of years we will be able to see how music listening has changed, and whether those changes were subtle or seismic. As such then, if Harkive 2014 had fallen completely flat, Harkive 2015 would have been very tricky indeed.
In trying to match the success of 2013 I took the decision to pretty much replicate the processes I used last year. The collection methods, the promotional tools and language, the timeframes I worked within, and so on, were all identical to the previous year. One of the things I’ll look at over the coming months is how Harkive 2015 will shape up.
In the run up to Harkive 2014 I faced a small amount of criticism and a few questions from people wanting to know what had happened to the 2013 data. Hopefully the next section of this post will explain a little above that, but those questions and that criticism is entirely valid. A lesson learned, then, is to communicate much more openly about how the project is developing. Rather than allowing harkive.org to lay dormant until July 2015, it makes a lot of sense to begin using the blog on this site as a means of posting regular updates on how Harkive and the data analysis is progressing. So, if you’re at all interested in seeing how things develop, this is the place. As always, if you have any questions, please do drop me a line.
What happens now?
Well, there are now two large data sets (one from 2013, and another from this year), and the hard, interesting work starts in September, when I will begin working on Harkive full-time for the next 3 years. I’m very excited by this and can’t wait to get started.
This research will take place at Birmingham City University under the supervision of Professor Tim Wall and Dr Nicholas Gebhardt and is being funded by the AHRC under their Doctoral Training Scheme. When I started working behind the counter of a record shop back in 1991 I had no idea that, 20-odd years later, it would eventually lead towards a PhD in the field of Popular Music. Life can be strange and interesting when you follow your nose!
So, as well as building towards Harkive 2015 and beyond, I’ll be looking at how Harkive can be developed as a project. I have some ideas here, and I’m looking forward to testing them out. My main task, however, will be to begin the process of analysing the data Harkive has collected so far. This will involve me learning from and collaborating with various academics, data analysts and other clever people in an attempt to develop methodologies for analysing the collected responses.
The biggest challenge here is the fact that Harkive hasn’t followed a ‘traditional’ path, certainly not in terms of academic research, anyway. By making contribution to the project reasonably ‘free’, I’ve ended up with information that is in a variety of shapes and sizes: tweets, essay-length emails, bits of audio, Facebook posts, Instagram images – it’s an unwieldy, strangely-shaped collection that makes analysis very tricky. As such, I’m going to have to devise new ways of making sense of it all. That’s my challenge.
Harkive will return again July 2015 and I do hope you’ll consider getting involved again.
Thanks again for supporting Harkive.
Birmingham, August 2014