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Soundtracking: music listening practices in the digital age

Journal article
Authors Christian Fuentes
Johan Hagberg
Hans Kjellberg
Published in European Journal of Marketing
Volume 53
Issue 3
Pages 483-503 (S1)
ISSN 0309-0566
Publication year 2019
Published at Centre for Retailing
Department of Business Administration, Marketing Group
Centre for Consumer Science
Pages 483-503 (S1)
Language en
Keywords digitalization, consumption, music, practice theory
Subject categories Business Administration


The purpose of this paper is to further develop the conceptualization of music consumption in the digital age by examining how contemporary music listening is interweaved with other practices, how it shapes those practices and how it is in turn shaped by them. The paper draws on extensive, qualitative interviews with 15 Swedish music consumers. During the course of these interviews, specific situations of everyday music listening were discussed in detail. Drawing on practice theory and more specifically the concepts of dispersed and integrative practices, the authors identify and explore a mode of music listening that they term soundtracking, which involves choosing and listening to music mainly to accompany other everyday practices. As soundtracking grows in importance, music is increasingly consumed as an affective-practical resource. Its significance is then not derived from its ability to demarcate difference and construct consumer identities but from its capacity to evoke emotions and moods than enable and enrich a set of everyday practices. When music is consumed as part of soundtracking, issues such as the audio quality of music or ownership of material music media become less important, while aspects such as mobility, accessibility and the adaptability of music increase in importance. This has important implications for how and what music should be produced and marketed. This paper offers an alternative view of contemporary music consumption compared to previous research, which has considered music listening primarily as an integrative practice on which the practitioner is fully focussed. The paper also contributes to practice theory by offering an empirically based understanding of a dispersed practice, showing that such practices are neither without shape nor necessarily very simple in their structure.

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