Looking back over the last six weeks, I’ve gained a whole new perspective on my project and the music industry as a whole. Overall, I could characterize these in the form of three insights.
Insight #1: “Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear”.
This insight applies to both my project and how the music industry itself works.
Relating back to my project, I’ve learned that sources and resources are not as far off as I originally envisioned.
Although Pittsburgh often isn’t highly ranked nationally for its music as much as other cities, like New York or Austin, it still has a plethora of incredible resources for my thesis.
One form of resources is classic “research” data. These include databases, libraries and other typical sources for information. Just being at Carnegie Mellon University, I’ve had access to an immense amount of data that I still have to scour over!
However, the most fruitful resources I’ve stumbled upon are people! So far, people have been the greatest, and the most interesting, source of information from my project. Whether it be one of my advisers suggesting I check out a certain book, meeting a local musician who experiences the music scene I am studying firsthand, or talking to promoters who have seen the cultural changes affect their work, people have dominated my interest and study in the field.
This emphasis on people also connects my insight to my study of the music industry. Although technology changes and economic models shift, people are the constant in the equation. In many ways, the music industry acts as a giant social network. Very rarely are artists “found”- instead, it’s a process of connecting with others, building connections and being in the right place at the right time with the right people.
Reading through the history, it’s clear that certain individuals (such as Ahmet Ertegun) are the “right people.” In my insight, they are the “objects” that are always closer than they appear and guide the market with a seemingly invisible hand. These individuals are the key figures of the industry, who seem to continuously pop up and guide the trends and changes that ultimately affect those on the bottom (for better or for worse!)
Understanding this power dynamic and identifying these key individuals has the benefit of streamlining my research in the early stages. By learning about the careers and choices of these people, I am able to get a quick overview of how the music industry has changed and then focus in on finding more specific and “lost” voices to fill out the narrative further.
Insight Two: It’s OK To Be Lost
This insight connects to my method of conducting research, and how it’s changed from previous research experience.
The fellowship is the first time where I’ve truly immersed myself in the literature without a preconceived conclusion or answer.
Usually, and I think this is true of most college students, I’ll enter a research endeavor with a conclusion in mind. My research from that point onward becomes less about “learning,” but more about finding evidence to prove my conclusion correct.
As a result of the time allotted for research and the larger scope of the final thesis, the fellowship allows me to engage in research without these preconceived notions. Instead of finding evidence to support my conclusion, I’m more interested in finding how things work, common narrative threads and a deeper understanding of my field.
Many times this kind of research has led me down a whole bunch of rabbit holes, some helpful, some not. However, the idea of being “lost” has definitely lost its negative connotation and has opened a whole new realm of research methodology for me.
Insight Three: If Lost, Writing Is Your Map!
Although there are benefits to “being lost” in your research, inevitably you’ll have to define your borders and scope. I’ve learned that writing has been the best way to synthesize my ideas.
If “getting lost” is my research methodology and people are my main source of information, writing is the guide that helps me put all the pieces together. By synthesizing my data, I’m able to really see the forest for the trees.
Writing also reveals gaps in my research. For example, even when writing my blog post I’m realizing I have to find my firsthand sources of individuals who are currently involved in the music scene. I also understand that I have to find more hard data for my research.
With six weeks of this project under my belt, I’m about halfway done with the fellowship. Here are some of my goals moving forward:
- Write a blog post weekly (minimum).
- Write a final list of individuals to interview and complete it.
- Finish my annotated bibliography.
I look forward to sharing the rest of my findings with all of you!