I thought that some of you may be interested in how The Harkive Project is progressing and developing. I really appreciate the interest many of you have shown in the project, and how so many of you have been willing to tell your stories. Here, then, is a quick overview of what has happened since July, when the project ran for a second time.
I hope you find it interesting. If you’ve any questions about anything in this post, please do add a comment or drop me a line.
To begin at the beginning, then. As mentioned elsewhere on the site, Harkive started as my final project during my MA Music Industries studies at Birmingham City University. Not long after completing the MA, in September 2013, I was encouraged by BCU to apply for a new strand of funding being offered by the AHRC. I went for it and was really pleased to be one of 80 students offered a scholarship under their Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Scheme. I started my PhD at BCU in October this year, so I’m a little over 10 weeks in to what will be a three-year process.
The title I have given to the PhD project is ‘The Harkive Project: Rethinking Music Consumption’, and my study will attempt to map changes in technology, culture and environment over a three-year period through quantitive and qualitative analysis of responses gathered by The Harkive Project. The analysis will be framed by my central research question:What are the relative and interrelated impacts of technological, industrial and cultural change on the social, business and cultural environments of music consumption, and how are these articulated by those responding to The Harkive Project?
In order to unpack this question I intend to pursue three separate lines of enquiry, each of which will, I hope, uncover new knowledge around themes central to our understanding of popular music consumption and digital culture: meaning; identify; authenticity; ownership. These ideas will be explored through a series of sub-questions: How are ideas of identity expressed through the public broadcasting of personal consumption practices?; How do digital consumption practices compare to other ways of experiencing music?; Music Consumers and Cultural Work: What happens to ideas of ownership online?
We’ve seen some massive changes over the last 15-20 years in terms of how music is made, monetised, distributed and enjoyed. So, to put the above in slightly simpler terms, I think that what I’m trying to do here is search for the soul of music in the digital age. I’m really excited about the project, and I hope you’ll come along for the ride.
In order to answer these BIG questions there are a number of methodological issues that need to be addressed within the project. I’m working on these with some clever and helpful people, and there will be some interesting news about how the project will develop in terms of how your stories are collected in the coming months. The long and the short of it is that I need to resolve the issues with the somewhat ‘loose’ nature of the project so far without spoiling what is, I feel, special about it. I still want the project to have the ‘freeform’ nature it has had so far – where you just kindly tell me your stories in the manner that is easy for you (a Tweet, an email, or what have you), but in a way that means the collection of stories, when taken as a whole, is able to say something interesting and useful. This is the methodological challenge that is at the heart of the PhD, I suppose. I will keep you posted on how this progresses.
Other than wrestling with the challenges outlined above, I’ve also been lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak about Harkive at a couple of conferences recently. In July I visited Cork, Ireland, to speak at the IASPM ‘Words of Popular Music’ conference. Here I talked about the manner in which an element of Harkive 2014, and to an extent of Harkive 2013, was surprising to me. It revolved around how some of you as respondents acted collectively and collaboratively to promote and respond to the project and, ultimately, contribute to its success. In exploring this I hoped to raise questions about how music fans and listeners organise online; the motivations of individuals for consuming, sharing and discussing music in online environments; new modes of fan production; and cultural work. Cork was very beautiful, by the way, and it was rather strange to be presenting a paper about modern, digital pop music in a building that looked like this.
Shortly afterwards, in September 2014, I provided an overview of Harkive at Music Tech Fest in London, as part of their ‘Festival of Ideas’ day. Music Tech Fest is unlike ‘standard’ conferences – it’s a quick-fire process, with each speaker rolling into the next without much of a break in between and is a lot more like playing a gig at a festival than speaking at a conference. MTF archive all of the presentations on their site, so you can seek out my Harkive talk there is you’d like to see it. Here I am speaking..(thanks to @clutch for the photo)
The final conference paper to tell you about was in early November, at the European Radio Symposium, in Madrid, Spain. I was invited to speak back in July, shortly after Harkive 2014. This was a much more commercially-focussed event, with then central theme being the role of radio in the new digital environment.
Putting this paper together gave me the opportunity to look at the Harkive responses from a very particular angle, which was one of the aims of the project when I developed it initially; I hoped it would be useful from many different points of view, and potentially able to provide useful answers to many different questions. I’ll blog about this at a later date, because the results of my analysis were very interesting (SPOILER: It seems Radio is still really important to many of us, despite the plethora of other services at our disposal).
However, my paper also raised a larger, wider concern for me – and that surrounds the commercial applications for the data I collect. When I started Harkive it was not intended as a means or method of performing Market Research, but clearly it has the potential to do exactly that. In terms of my PhD, then, and in order to retain (what I hope is) some integrity with you, the people who contribute to it, I need to be aware of the fine line I’m walking. It’s an interesting tension, and my aim is to always walk on the right side of the line!
Other than the above, and if you’re still with me despite this rather long post, there is one more piece of news to tell you about. I’ve recently agreed to work with an American academic on a paper around Music Discovery. This is something I/we will be chipping away at over the coming months, and we have some good ideas about how to progress it. I’d like to look at what ‘Discovery’ means, and how that is changing (..and if it is changing). More news on that soon.
Thanks again for your interest in Harkive. I’ll try not to leave it so long between now and the next post. As I said at the top, if you have any questions about the above, or Harkive generally, please do drop me a line.
All the best,