Post-Research Reflections: Final Update

I totally forgot to make a third blog post. Whoops.

My main takeaway from this research, which I pretty much understood to be the case going into it, is that the music industry suffers from a severe lack of a queer presence – regardless of genre. That being said, my work is just a snapshot of the reality of music’s queer underrepresentation; more expansive research is entirely possible, and ought to be conducted in the future. In terms of expanding my own project, I think it would be beneficial to examine queer visibility across multiple music services, not just streaming ones. Looking at music providers such as radio stations and CD/record stores, in addition to streaming services, could offer a sort of comparison analysis of whether or not the type of music service influences queer representation. I also could increase the number of genre-based playlists I study. Furthermore, examining playlists exclusively featuring lesser-known, “indie” artists within each genre alongside playlists containing only current-day hits (like the ones I used in my research) might answer questions of how commercial standing contributes to queer representation. Even simply incorporating more genres could yield newer, more diverse findings. The point is that my project is merely a stepping stone into a much broader research scope.

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Applying the Framework: Update 2

My previous update covered the guiding principles of queer theory and some of the defining musical and sociocultural characteristics of the genres (rock, rap, EDM, and country), postulating how synthesizing information about music and queer studies could shed light on the representation of queer artists across the four genres. To get a concrete sense of queer visibility within the music industry, I have spent the last week or so on Spotify’s and iHeartRadio’s genre-based playlists. I had originally planned to also include Pandora and SoundCloud before concluding that both services would be inefficient in the completion of the project (due to Pandora’s station-based service and SoundCloud’s music library consisting primarily of up-and-coming artists with little to no information associated with them on the Internet). The criteria I used in deciding which playlists to examine was simple; each playlist contained music belonging to one of the four genres, and the descriptions of the playlists I selected characterized the songs as current-day hits. Playlist lengths ranged from 50-59 songs. The methodology used to determine which musicians are queer-identifying was relatively unsophisticated; I simply conducted Google searches for each individual artist and all band members, including each person’s name (and the associated group, if applicable) with words and phrases like “gender,” “gender identity,” “sexuality,” and “sexual orientation.” To count a musical act as queer, the musician had to be quoted as identifying as non-heterosexual and/or non-cisgender in some way. My findings were largely disappointing, especially considering how time-consuming the process was, but not particularly surprising.

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Establishing a Conceptual Framework: Update 1

I recently completed my first week of research, which involved laying a theoretical foundation for the second part of this project. More specifically, this process comprised reading about and documenting the main tenets of queer theory, as well as the defining musical and sociocultural components of the genres I chose – rock, rap, electronic dance music (EDM), and country. Deviating from my original plans slightly, I ultimately opted against including each genre’s aesthetic elements, as I believed incorporating them into the research’s second part would fail to yield any significant findings. I also decided to narrow my focus from hip hop to rap, a practice within the former. Nonetheless I gleaned a wealth of information regarding the aspects I did pursue in research this past week.

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Abstract: Representation of Queer Artists across Musical Genres

In my research, I will examine the current representation of queer artists across musical genres; the genres I will explore include rock, hip hop, country, and electronic dance music (EDM). My project involves investigating the four styles’ respective musical, sociocultural, and aesthetic traits in an attempt to draw connections between these components and queer visibility within each genre. To conduct this research, I will first participate in extensive and critical readings of texts on queer theory and the signifiers of the chosen genres so that I possess a solid foundation in both queer and musical studies. After documenting the genres’ defining characteristics and the core concepts of queer ideology, I will study four major music streaming services: Spotify, SoundCloud, Pandora, and iHeartRadio; on these sites, I will analyze the four genres’ numerous playlists/stations/charts, recording how many queer-identifying artists (bands featuring at least one queer-identifying member will be counted as queer) occupy each list while noting any statistical trends regarding queer representation displayed by the lists within any of the genres. Ultimately, I will synthesize the ideas discussed in the texts and the data extracted from the streaming services and report my findings on the relationship(s), or lack thereof, between musical genre and queer visibility. In doing so, I seek to better understand what elements, if any, influence the extent to which queer musicians comprise certain musical styles.