Dr Robert Prey
, assistant professor of Media Studies at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Groningen, has been awarded an ERC Starting Grant of €1.5 million. For the next five years, this grant will allow him to conduct research into the way in which streaming platforms and social media platforms influence the creativity, identity, and working conditions of musicians, and how the music industry specifically and our culture in general is influenced by the 'platformization’ of our society.
In the last two decades, social media channels and streaming services such as Spotify have drastically changed the music industry. This enables many starting artists to launch their music career without assistance from a record company. Established artists also use the platforms to reach their audience. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when it was not possible to perform live, online channels turned out the be the ultimate way for many artists to draw attention to their music.
Music is certainly not the only sector that is becoming more dependable on platforms. ‘During the COVID-19 pandemic, we received education via Zoom, shopped at Bol or Amazon, and ordered our food from Thuisbezorgd,’ says Prey. ‘The pandemic has sped up the process of ‘platformization’ in various areas of our lives. Music is an ideal lens through which to study this trend.’
Prey will study how the online platforms influence the working conditions and creativity of musicians. His research focuses on three different countries: the Netherlands, South Korea, and Nigeria, in which different online channels are popular, and the level of influence these channels have on the musicians varies.
Prey: ‘Music genres from each of these countries, such as Dutch dance, K-pop from South Korea, and Afrobeats from Nigeria, have each been extremely successful on Spotify, YouTube, and other global platforms for streaming and social media. At the same time, there are large differences between the countries in regard to the level of platformization and the relationship between platforms and the record industry in each country.’
This makes it interesting to zoom in on the daily experiences of musicians in these three different countries. To do this, Prey will, among other things, interview dozens of musicians from each country. ‘Those different experiences will give new insights into the influence of online platforms. This will help us to better understand how the music industry specifically, but also our culture in general is influenced worldwide by online platforms.’
Robert Prey received his PhD from the School of Communication at the Simon Fraser University in Canada for his thesis on the political economy of music streaming services. His research interests lie in creative and cultural industries, data and society, creative labour, and social and media theory. Prey's work has been published in numerous academic journals and collections. Before and during his academic studies, he worked at a radio station in Canada and at a multicultural television channel in South Korea.Also read How Spotify influences the music industry (and with that our listening behaviour)
The European Research Council (ERC) awards the personal Starting Grant of €1.5 million to excellent researchers, with the aim of stimulating ground-breaking research in Europe. An ERC Starting Grant enables talented young researchers to set up a research team, start an independent research project, and break new ground within their field of expertise.
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