Rafal Zaborowski

Supervisor: Sonia Livingstone

Research topic: Japanese music audiences 

In my research I aim to uncover the nature, quality and implications of audience engagement with popular music in everyday life. Specifically, I look at two post-war generations in modern Japan and analyse their listening practices and interpretations of music encounters.

To investigate this, a mixed-method approach is used based on focus group and individual interviews, questionnaires, participant observation and expert interviews with industry representatives – 100 study participants overall. Emerging patterns and themes are identified through qualitative thematic analysis.

In two case studies – of idol groups and vocaloid music - I focus on how audiences, especially fans, and producers interact, with a close bond emerging over a process of cultural co-evolution of production and reception. Then, I position this map of engagements within the experiences of two Japanese cohorts, “the lost” and “the relaxed”. I ague that their generational experiences and localities guide the frames through which they interpret music. 

I argue that listening to music is a complex social practice whose significance has been undervalued in audience research. Audiences make music choices and engage with musical texts according to specific modes and routines which should be analysed together. Following the legacy of literary and television audience studies, I propose an account of music listening in terms of a spectrum of audience engagements linked to texts, contexts, performances and authorship.

The concepts of proximity (cultural proximity and the proximity between performers and audiences) inform the analysis of the circuit of culture, offering new insight into modes of engagement and production processes. Japan, home of the Walkman and karaoke, emerges from the analysis as not only the land of technological innovations in music, but also as a culture with wider implications for media and audience research.

Contact: r.zaborowski@lse.ac.uk|

Twitter: @myredtowel|

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