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Creative Music Practice Across Platforms

Posted: January 17th, 2024 | Filed under: Calls for Papers | Comments Off on Creative Music Practice Across Platforms

Special issue of Popular Music on “Creative Music Practice Across Platforms” (spring 2025)

Over the last two decades, web-based communication has become increasingly dependent on a relatively small number of digital platforms, which can now be understood as the sociotechnical nucleus of today’s Internet (Dolata 2021). Platforms occupy a powerful position in modern media cultures, exerting decisive influence on the exchange of information, processes of communication, and the organization of work and markets, as well as creating digital spaces for social action (Dolata/Schrape 2023). Functional rules, defined by the tech companies behind the platforms, are expressed in the platforms’ interfaces and algorithmic logics (van Dijck/Poell/de Waal 2018). These functional rules do not determine the behavior of creative workers active on platforms, but they do substantially influence it – including in the field of popular music.

Unquestionably, platforms such as YouTube, Spotify, or TikTok have become important sites for the negotiation of popular aesthetics. Creative workers striving for success in digital spaces have to come to terms with the media formats characteristic of individual platforms and try to understand the logics of algorithmic filtering in order to render their content more visible (Bucher 2017; Cotter 2019) – in other words, they must learn to deal with the affordances of certain platforms (Bucher/Helmond 2018; Burgess 2021). Over time, media formats and activity profiles have emerged that are characteristic of specific platforms (Gibbs et al. 2015), leading to the more general and widely shared theoretical proposition that platforms significantly shape the processes of cultural production (Poell/Nieborg/Duffy 2022). Regarding popular music, it has even been hypothesized that musicians have to try to tailor or sonically “optimize” their music according to certain platform logics (Morris 2020; Raffa/Pronzato 2021).

In order to gain substantial insights into the relationships between musicians and digital platforms, it seems profitable to analyze all the activities that converge in the creation of musical content under the heading of practice (Duffy/Poell/Nieborg 2019). By practice is meant routinized behavior that is composed of several interconnected elements – physical and mental activity, material objects and their use, background knowledge, know-how, emotions, and motivations (Reckwitz 2002: 249). As a theoretical concept that serves to reflect on human modes of existence, it is connectable in many ways to key cultural and social science concepts such as gender, ethnicity, or identity. Examining music as music practice thus points the way to an integrated set of approaches linking rationales from various disciplines such as popular music studies, media studies, performance studies, gender studies, or science and technology studies.

This special issue seeks to bring together innovative contributions on music-related platform phenomena that illuminate the various constituents of practice in relation to creative action, from knowledge to corporeality to technology. In doing so, we aim to provide insights into the conditions under which music making in the 21st century becomes embedded in larger media ecosystems. Potential contributors are requested to focus on one or more of the following topics and questions:

– How do certain platform rules influence the tailoring of aesthetic objects? What does it mean, for example, to produce music “for” Spotify playlists or TikTok trends?
– How do field actors, e.g., musicians, producers, label managers, acquire knowledge about the functioning and creative realms of possibility of each platform?
– What role do monetization and concepts such as optimization and professionalization play in shaping individual use patterns?

– Which services of the platforms are used for what purposes (see, for example, analytics tools such as YouTube Analytics)?
– How are technical artifacts (computers, mobile devices, musical instruments, microphones, cameras, etc.) functionally coupled with each other to produce content?
– According to practice theory rationales, artifacts function as affect generators. By means of which functions and at which points of the creation process do the platforms succeed in triggering positive feelings (such as feelings of reward) among the users?
– Which aesthetic objects are intentionally not made public and for what reasons? At what point are aesthetic objects considered “platform-ready” and how are they curated (i.e. filed, updated, finalized, etc.)?

– How are the performers’ bodies presented and what artifacts (instruments, microphones, props, etc.) are used in the performance?
– How do performers develop a personal performance style, and what role do existing types of expression – and, more specifically, platform trends – play in this process?
– How are stereotypical beauty norms negotiated on – and perhaps perpetuated by – platforms?
– To what extent are performance styles shaped by categories such as race, gender, and intersectionality, and in what ways do music performers address questions of identity and belonging?

– How do field actors organize creative partnerships (duos/band/projects), both those designed for platform exposure and those existing beyond platform activities? How are these partnerships presented on each platform?
– What role does networking/exchange with other performers play (online/offline)?
– In what forms do field actors interact with online audiences?

– What ideas about the functioning of algorithmic systems exist among field actors?
– How do field actors define the role of performing music on platforms (TikToker, YouTuber, musician, performer, content creator, etc.) and how is this justified?
– How do field actors imagine the (also algorithmically generated) audience? How do they define the performer-audience relationship?

Potential contributors are asked to submit an abstract (no more than 300 words) and a short biography (no more than 100 words) to guest editors Benjamin Burkhart ([email protected]) and Christofer Jost ([email protected]). Selected papers will be evaluated in a double-blind peer review process. The deadline for proposals is 1 March 2024, notifications of acceptance will be communicated by 1 April 2024, and full manuscripts are due by 1 October 2024. The special issue will be published in spring 2025.

Works cited

Bucher, Taina (2017). The Algorithmic Imaginary: Exploring the Ordinary Affects of Facebook Algorithms. In: Information, Communication & Society 20/1, pp. 30–44.
Bucher, Taina / Helmond, Anne (2018). The Affordances of Social Media Platforms. In: Jean Burgess, Alice Marwick, and Thomas Poell (eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Social Media. London: SAGE Publications, pp. 233–253.
Burgess, Jean (2021). Platform Studies. In: Stuart Cunningham and David Craig (eds.), Creator Culture. An Introduction to Global Social Media Entertainment. New York: New York University Press, pp. 21–38.
Cotter, Kelley (2019). Playing the Visibility Game: How Digital Influencers and Algorithms Negotiate Influence on Instagram. In: New Media & Society 21/4, pp. 895–913.
Dolata, Ulrich (2021). Varieties of Internet Platforms and their Transformative Capacity. In: Christian Suter, Jacinto Cuvi, Philip Balsiger, and Mihaela Nedelcu (eds.), The Future of Work. Zurich / Geneva: Seismo, pp. 100–116.
Dolata, Ulrich / Schrape, Jan-Felix (2023). Platform Companies on the Internet as a New Organizational Form. A Sociological Perspective. In: Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research. Online first, pp. 1–20.
Duffy, Brooke Erin / Poell, Thomas / Nieborg, David B. (2019). Platform Practices in the Cultural Industries: Creativity, Labor, and Citizenship. In: Social Media + Society 5/4, pp. 1–8.
Gibbs, Martin / Meese, James / Arnold, Michael / Nansen, Bjorn / Carter, Marcus (2015). #Funeral and Instagram: Death, Social Media, and Platform Vernacular. In: Information, Communication & Society 18/3, pp. 255–268.
Morris, Jeremy Wade (2020). Music Platforms and the Optimization of Culture. In: Social Media + Society 6/3, pp. 1–10.
Poell, Thomas / Nieborg, David / Duffy, Brooke Erin (2022). Platforms and Cultural Production. Cambridge / Medford: Polity Press.
Raffa, Massimiliano / Pronzato, Riccardo (2021). The Algorithmic Imaginary of Cultural Producers. Towards Platform-optimized Music? In: H-ermes. Journal of Communication 19, pp. 293–321.
Reckwitz, Andreas (2002). Toward a Theory of Social Practices. A Development in Culturalist Theorizing. In: European Journal of Social Theory 5/2, pp. 245–265.
Van Dijck, José / Poell, Thomas / de Waal, Martijn (2018). The Platform Society: Public Values in a Connective World. New York: Oxford University Press.