Timothy Taylor (3) Circulation, Value, and Exchange in the Movement of Music

Timothy Taylors third lecture, held at the Anthropology of Music Triple Lecture 2018, on June 29.

This presentation is an attempt to move beyond the common metaphor of “flows” to describe how music moves in an era commonly thought of as globalized. “Circulation” seems to be a term infrequent usage these days, referring to people as well as goods, an idea has along history going back to Marxist ideas about the movement of money and is still useful with respect to cultural goods such as music. Drawing on Marx and anthropologists who have studied value and exchange, this paper argues that things circulate because they have value, and circulation therefore manifests as constant exchanges – of time, money, goods, and more – that constantly (re)make social life and relations. Radio serves as a case study in this paper,especially as it plays an important role in the indie rock scene in southern California. Returning to classic theories of the audience as commodity from Dallas Smythe, which are still useful if released from a strict Marxian framework into broader conceptualizations of value, I argue that Smythe’s conception is predicated in the idea of exchange, and that Smythe’s insights can be extended and updated from radio and other broadcast media to the circulation of digital media today.