Alexandros Baltzis, Antonis Gardikiotis

Proceedings of the international conference:
Arts, Culture and Public Sphere. Expressive and Instrumental Values in Economic and Sociological Perspectives
FDA - Faculty of Design and Art - IUAV University, Venice
DADI - Department of Art and Industrial Design - IUAV University, Venice
The Sociology of Culture RN of the ESA - European Sociological Association
The Sociology of the Arts RN of the ESA - European Sociological Association
Venice, November 4-8, 2008
In CD format



Objective: An empirical research is presented that focuses on music acquisition patterns among students in a major urban centre (Thessaloniki, Greece). Main objective of this study is to test whether there is any relation between the use of various music distribution channels on the one hand, and music preferences, social values, and demographic factors, on the other.

Methods: 456 students from the three institutes for higher education in the city were asked to indicate the frequency of use of various music distribution channels. Respondents were also asked to indicate their preferences for 24 musical genres and the importance of 24 values in their personal lives. Standard demographic data were also collected (gender, education and occupations of parents, geographical origin, annual family income) and a scale of socioeconomic status was constructed. The ratio of the use of each channel to the total use of all music distribution channels by each respondent was then calculated to obtain the music acquisition patterns. In addition, channels were grouped in formal and informal as well as in free and pay channels.

To explore the relation between the patterns of distribution channel use on the one hand, and the education of parents, the geographical origin, the socioeconomic status and the annual family income, on the other, one-way analyses of variance were conducted. Independent-samples T-tests were also employed to detect differences between males and females on the patterns of music acquisition. Finally, hierarchical multiple regression analyses were carried out to explore whether music preferences and social values may predict the patterns of music acquisition.

Findings: Music preferences, gender, and cultural background, are better predictors for the patterns of music acquisition compared to social values, geographical origin, family income and socioeconomic status. Findings contradict the rhetoric of the (major) recording industry that employs a simplistic representation of the users of informal and free distribution channels, ascribing exclusively negative instrumental values to them.

The literature review revealed that the major paradigms used in the sociology of music and in sociology of the arts to interpret patterns of cultural consumption (homology theory, omnivorousness hypothesis, the scenes perspective) do not get into the details and particularities of the ways in which the various forms of cultural capital are objectified. A theoretically significant outcome of this research is the indication that in the case of music - unlike preferences - the acquisition patterns do not correlate with the lifestyles of any particular strata. This finding - if confirmed by further research - might contribute to the improvement and refinement of the theory and to a better understanding of the functions of the arts in contemporary societies.

One conclusion is that further research needs to be done to understand better the ways in which music acquisition patterns are constructed and examine whether they constitute forms of symbolic resistance or conformity, disdain of the artistic activities or awareness of their speculative uses in the market. A better understanding of these patterns may shed some light to cultural practices in everyday life and finally to contribute to a more efficient and productive policy than repression.

The findings rather support the argument that perhaps it would be more fruitful and beneficial for the recording industry (and its audiences) to invest in serious research for alternative policies rather than in litigation of questionable efficiency in defense of an outdated policy that ignores the complexities of cultural consumption. This might improve its public image as well, as it is the only industry fighting its own consumers.