Digital Platforms and 21st century Sustainability in Transnational Independent Music Networks and Scenes

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This paper takes the case of independent music scenes in Hong Kong, Montreal, and Italy, to examine the multiple simultaneous constricting and enabling dimensions of corporate digital platforms – Meta (Facebook, Instagram), YouTube, Twitch, etc. – and of ‘algorithmic governmentality’ and their impact on the aesthetics, politics and social parameters of contemporary independent music scenes in specific local scenes. Recent scholarship has shown that music platform users (i.e. listeners, artists, marketers) have increasingly had to identify “which elements of a platform matter [. . .] and then us[e] sonic, metadata, and infrastructural techniques to optimize their content accordingly” (Morris, 2020: 7) in response to mechanisms of ‘datafication’, ‘commodification’ and ‘selection’ (van Dijk et al., 2018). However, analyses of how affordances, biases and shortcomings in platform-based algorithmic curation can impact the activities of variously marginalized actors within specific music scenes remain scarce. On the one hand, digital platforms may provide a pathway to greater sustainability in music scenes or networks that are particularly fragile due to a dearth of ‘brick-and-mortar’ venues or hostile local policies. Yet, independent music producers and distributors typically point to algorithmic recommendation bias towards corporate-sponsored artists (often not favored in independent music circles), aging user- bases on specific platforms such as Facebook as well as the tightening of copyright policing affecting live streaming performances as common issues in their experience with corporate streaming platforms (Mouillot, 2022). In turn, this paper argues that, while digital platforms help constitute or reinforce transnational networks of musical collaborations and visibility across specific local scenes, their logics, structures and practical technicalities paradoxically also construct new conditions of invisibility and marginality within the music industries

User-Defined Keywords

  • indie music scenes
  • marginalization
  • music networks
  • digital platforms
  • algorithmic governmentality


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