The shape of music to come: Organizational, ideational, and creative change in the North American music industry, 1990-2009*

Committee members: Shyon Baumann, Vanina Leschziner, Damon Phillips, and Judith Taylor

Between 1990 and 2009, the music industry underwent dramatic and wide-ranging change - a process of digitalization - that altered the organizational field, shaping both how actors see their own work and the creative work itself. 

My research, supported by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Ontario Graduate Scholarship, uses regression, discourse, and content analysis, as well as interviews with songwriters and music industry personnel.

It sheds light on: (1) how increased occupational uncertainty affects artistic autonomy and collaboration, and how these in turn influence musical creativity; (2) how music industry personnel make sense of digital transformation and its potential disruptions to their occupational roles; and (3) how postbureaucratic workers (in this case professional songwriters) manage conflict and rewards in contexts of ongoing uncertainty. Collectively, my dissertation chapters advance our understanding of endogenous cultural processes that occur within creative and institutional fields undergoing technological change.

This research has thus far resulted in two peer-reviewed publications. The most recent: "‘Write a word, get a third’:  Managing conflict and rewards in professional songwriting teams,” in Work and Occupations received the University of Toronto’s Daniel G. Hill Award for the best student paper in Sociology. Previously, I published “Innovation and diversity redux: Analyzing musical form and content in the American recording industry, 1990–2009,” in Sociological Forum.


*My dissertation title is an homage to Ornette Coleman's groundbreaking album, The Shape of Jazz to Come. The story goes that Coleman wanted to name his album Focus on Sanity, which incidentally, describes the dissertation writing experience quite well.