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whatpricemusic - Research Detail

Research Detail

Peter Self is a Senior Lecturer in Music Business and Management at Canterbury Christ Church University in Canterbury, Kent in the UK. In addition to his teaching at undergraduate and post-graduate levels, he is embarking on a five year Research PhD funded by the School of Music and Performing Arts and is looking into the issues surrounding the valuing and accessing of recorded music in all its forms. This longitudinal study is taking a different approach to past and other current studies in that it uses an ethnological/narrative approach as its base rather than snapshots of opinion or numerical data.

The academic title is:

"Would re-thinking the monetising of Intellectual Property within the music industry result in a 'devalued commoditisation' as creative elites argue, or is separating the values associated with rights ownership and product delivery a viable alternative?" 


…however, Peter has adopted the more ‘street friendly’ title of ‘whatpricemusic’ and it is this outward facing approach that he is adopting throughout the research.

The ethnographic and narrative elements will be based around the longitudinal interviewing of a range of demographic groups with additional groups centred around creative and music industry elites as follows:

Consumer Groups:

  • Children & young people in compulsory education
  • Young people in post-compulsory education or vocational training
  • People working, not-working or retired
  • Other specialist or minority groups

Music Industry Groups:

  • Artists, songwriters & composers
  • Major & Indie label executives
  • Recorded music distributors
  • Other specialist or minority groups

This data will be used in its own right as qualitative data but would also be subject to coding and quantifying so as can be used in conjunction with pure quantitative data harvested from various distribution and music access platforms including ‘big data’ datasets.

As a precursor to these data collection activities, Peter has planned two additional surveys to frame the selection of the narrative interviewee groups as follows:

Music Listening Methods Survey

  • Analyses the various ways people access & listen to music
  • Paper – targeted individually and in groups
  • Online – mass completion

Audio Quality Survey

  • Analyses peoples’ perceptions of audio quality & their ability to discern quality differences
  • Presentation based - electronic or paper voting
  • Non-skilled administered – online data feedback
  • Linked to Personal Questionnaire

It is initially the second two music Listening Methods and Audio Quality surveys where Peter is looking for participants. His aim is to have sufficient reliable data to frame the interviewee selection process by early summer 2015 with participants involved in compulsory or post-compulsory education by the end of the summer term. Bearing in mind the exams period, this would likely be during the last two or three weeks of term.

The Listening Methods survey consists of six open and/or multiple answer/choice questions and is anonymous. This is available as either a paper survey or online and could be adapted to be answered using an institution’s own VLE or electronic polling methods by arrangement.

The Audio Quality survey at present takes the form of a presentation and critical listening activity lasting between 1 – 1.5hrs and consists of Peter playing a number of differing quality versions of a track using CD as a ‘control’ track. Versions include vinyl, Spotify stream and extreme hi-res audio from a Pono player. The participants are required to compare the versions and rank them according to preference in relation to the control track not knowing their source. The evaluation is repeated with a number of tracks from a range of genres including jazz, classic popular, contemporary popular, classical. The results can be collected electronically online using Mentimeter with data displayed on-screen in real time or on paper with hand-in to the Peter at the end of the session. Participants are also requested to complete a Personal Questionnaire which is linked to their voting using a unique 5 digit number which is anonymous but optionally, determined by the participant, can include names and contact details. Any personal information given is subject to Canterbury Christ Church University’s Data Protection and Research Subject Anonymity Protection policies and will never be disclosed or made public.

Peter is currently developing two further Audio Quality evaluation activities, one ‘portable’ and one ‘ultra-portable’ – more information regarding these will be available shortly.

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