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01 May 2017

New Project: 'Are You in a Band?' (Auto-)Ethnography of Forming a Popular Music Ensemble

I'm starting a new research project, and I'm pretty excited. Here is a portion of the proposal. If you or someone you know wants to give me funding or a book contract, I'm game.

Background and Purpose
Previous research has looked at the community created by music consumers (Lena 2012) as well as at the musical tastes of individuals (Bourdieu 1984, Peterson and Kern 1996). Previous research has also looked at discrimination of and among musical performers (Clawson 1999, Donze 2011, Goldin and Rouse 2000). Little work has been conducted, however, in understanding the process by which musicians in popular music negotiate the formation and maintenance of a musical collective; in other words, how do musicians start and sustain a band?

I propose to conduct an autoethnography and ethnography of the process of forming a band in a prominent musical center and college town in the southeastern United States. I will collect my own personal reflections, fieldnotes from participant-observations, and semi-structured interviews with fellow musicians and related insiders (e.g. promoters, venue owners, press, record industry, etc.) of the local popular music scene. This will follow the process from early formation to recruitment, auditions, rehearsals, socializing, socialization, performances, and recording and, possibly, to ejection, replacement, and even dissolution. The specific role of the primary investigator is of band (co-)leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist.

While the nature of semi-structured interviews does not include verbatim questionnaires, the following are likely indicative of the nature of questions to be asked:

  • How would you describe the interaction of band members and how is this similar to or different from other relationships in your life?
  • How has being in a band affected your outside relationships?
  • How has being in a band affected your regular gig [i.e. your primary employment]?
  • Can you tell me about the first time you joined a band?
  • Have you ever been kicked out of a band? Can you tell me about that experience?
  • Tell me about what it’s like to perform on stage?
  • How would you describe rehearsals? Do you enjoy it?
  • Tell me about your practice routine?
  • What was the worst argument you ever had in a band?
  • What was the most rewarding experience you ever had in a band?

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: a Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Clawson, Mary Ann. 1999. “When Women Play the Bass: Instrument Specialization and Gender Interpretation in Alternative Rock Music.” Gender and Society 13(2):193-210.
Donze, Patti. 2011. “Popular Music, Identity, and Sexualization: a Latent Class Analysis of Artist Types.” Poetics 39:44-63.
Goldin, Claudia and Cecilia Rouse. 2000. “Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of ‘Blind’ Auditions on Female Musicians.” American Economic Review 90(4):715-741.
Lena, Jennifer. 2012. Banding Together: How Communities Create Genres in Popular Music. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Peterson, Richard and Roger Kern. 1996. “Changing Highbrow Taste: from Snob to Omnivore.” American Sociological Review 61:900-907.

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