Assessment 3

Social music – a collaboration between the musicians and the audience

Course Unit:                             MECO6936 Social Media Communication

Lecturer:                                   Fiona Andreallo

Time of Lecture:                      Thursdays from 12 unti 3 p.m.

Name of Student:                    Alena Striebel

Student ID:                                460462815


The collaboration of social media and art is the next step for audiences to engage with cultural products. This can and is being done in many ways, such as social media platforms dedicated to the exchange and discourse about art or the personal art galleries and not to forget the social media being used as art form itself. These forms of engagement or ‘social art’ base on the democratisation of users and producers. The users help shaping the exhibitions or pieces of art and become part of the process of creativity.

In our project for the course unit ‘Social Media Communication’ we were given the task to create a social media campaign for the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. The goal was to attract a younger audience.

The aim of this paper is to find a good suggestion or concept to engage the younger audience in the conservatorium’s work.

Social Art

Art and cultural production

In their book ‘understanding social media’ Hjorth and Hinton (2013) dedicated a chapter to ‘art and cultural production’. First, the term cultural product must be defined. In the main concept the focus lies on art, the mass media and the user created content. Art is supposed to lead to critical thinking and validation. Mass media is thought of as being consumed. User created content (UCC) is a mixed form of ‘produsage’, where the user can be the producer at the same time (p. 80).

Conventional art institutions have been the gatekeepers of art and therefore a part of culture. The chapter defines those institutions as museums, galleries and libraries (p. 81).

A newer concept is the performance art where the viewers, the gallery, the artist and the object become one bigger art work. Even though it was thought to shake up the conventional customs of experiencing art, it did not change the roles of artist, curators and the passive viewers (p. 83).

Other websites like flickr, google art and deviantArt create a democratised phenomenon described as folksonomy. The idea behind this is that the users become curators by ‘voting’ for the most popular art works by their behaviour. The more a piece of art is viewed, shared, liked and tagged, the clearer it is for the gallery curators to see which pieces are the most popular and which can be associated with one another. In deviantArt the users can nominate art work to appear in the section ‘daily deviation’ (pp. 84-85).

Social media itself can become an art form with four ‘rules of thumb’.  First, the internet has to be an existential factor. Second, it must involve the users. Third, it must be publicly accessible. 4. There must be a reason or purpose for the art work (p. 88 as cited in Xiao 2010). This suggest that the artist and the audiences are still divided by their status.

On the platform devientArt the artists are defined and validated by their peers and by their own identification. This shows the shift from an elitist guild of curators and artist towards a user and producer oriented peer validation.

That is where a lot of content ends up being from a user who might not consider themselves an artist and whose work might not be art work, but is rooted in creativity. Creativity alone does not define art. Creativity can be found in many places such as photo albums of vacations, a knitting pattern for a scarf or little sketch video on snapchat. This kind of content is called ‘vernacular creativity’ and is the content created for non-artistic reasons, but for sentimental ones. It is for maintaining relationships and highly context dependant (pp. 95-97). The products of vernacular creativity end up being an artefact of culture, because they represent the artist or ‘produser’ in a very clear and authentic way.

The authors argue that cultural institutions would not exhibit such cultural products. This might be true for art institutions, but if cultural institutions are also historical museums, the argument does not work well, e.g. exhibitions about second world war, cyclone Tracy in Darwin, where they exhibit the personal belongings of victims etc.

Creating music with the audience

There are many possibilities to integrate the audience in a concert. They can sing a long, clap a rhythm or wish for a song by chanting loudly enough. There are also ways to engage the audience with technology in the concerts. There are four components to consider. The interaction can be synchronous or asynchronous with the performance (before or during a concert). The other aspects are the locality of the participants. The performers and the participants can be at the same location or different ones (Weitzner, Freeman, Chen, & Garrett, 2013, p. 32).

The first example of the synchronous and local participation of the audience is the app called ‘massMobile’. This app was tested in Avignon, France and at the Ferst Center for the Art at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, USA. The participants downloaded an app on their mobile phones or tablets, received a short introduction and where then able to vote for certain melodies and harmonies.

Figure 1 Interface of the app ‘massMobile’ (p. 35 and 37)

The performers on stage would play the melodies in a loop and eventually bring them to live with some interpretation and modification. The problem seemed to be that the participants did not really see or hear their impact. The initial goal of making the audience part of the performance was achieved except for the feeling for the participants (p. 36-39).

There was also an element of competition which led some participants to prioritise the attention of ‘being heard’ over creating something together (Freeman, 2010, p. 152).

Before the software ‘massMobile’ was developed there were already applications which allowed web-based collaborations. On websites like Noteflight, where one could upload and share your notes or Spotify, where people could create and share their music libraries.

The artist Luke Fischbeck created another project, called ‘Make a Baby’, where he used a soundcard sending multiple carrier signals through cables, which led into the audience. Participants could simply pick the cable up and the change of the carrier signal would be registered and applied to the music. When the participant with a cable touched other participants or two participants touched a third, it would create the musical ‘baby’ that was anticipated (Van Buskirk, 2012). The participants did not engage in a questionary after the performance and that is why there is no qualitative evaluation of the event.

Another way of engaging the audience into the performance was used by the San Francisco Symphony. They reached out to people in social media to participate in workshops, where they can be part of a choir or instrumental orchestra. They were treated like the musicians, entering through the musician’s entry, performing on stage, spending the break with the professional musicians and having their name published on the program. The workshops where sold out within 48 hours. There were no auditions in advance. The first 400 people registering for the choir were automatically accepted and the same was true for the 100 first amateur instrumentalists. The goal of the event was to gain more attention and to realise the role as well as the responsability the San Francisco Symphony has in the community (Keeton, 2013).


The question is, whether the focus is supposed to be on the professional musicians or on the participants. If the performance is about the professional musicians, the audience participation should mainly be in advance so asynchronous and remote. When this kind of preparation happens, it is mostly organised via social media and gains attention, which can lead to more public interest.

If the participation or the audience are the main part of a performance the musicians should consider participating in a mentoring role. As long as the software for participation is not improved, the synchronous and local participation will not be an experience as satisfactory as the collaboration on stage.


Freeman, J. (2010). Web-based collaboration, live musical performance and open-form scores. International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media, 6(2), 149-170. doi:10.1386/padm.6.2.149_1

Hinton, S., & Hjorth, L. (2013). Art and cultural production understanding social media (pp. 77-99). London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Keeton, N. (Producer). (2013, 21/04/2017). An Orchestra’s Mission to Inspire a Community of Music Makers. National Innovation Summit for Art + Culture. [Speech] Retrieved from

Van Buskirk, E. (2012, 09/10/2012). The worlds most wired musician.   Retrieved from

Weitzner, N., Freeman, J., Chen, Y.-L., & Garrett, S. (2013). MassMobile: Towards a flexible framework for large-scale participatory collaborations in live performances. Organised Sound, 18(1), 30-42. doi:10.1017/S1355771812000222


One thought on “Social music – a collaboration between the musicians and the audience

  1. Hi Alena,
    Due to our group campaign #TheMusicCon, I’m greatly interested in your article related to the music topic. The core concept of your article is about “Art and social media” can be critically discussed as research. It’s a novel and awesome perspective and also inspired me a lot because I usually take it for granted that people are living in web 2.0 years and it seems like everything can be successfully spread and promoted through the social network sites.
    As you’ve mentioned, social media platform can be the new powerful medium for the bond between audience and art but it should be satisfied the conditions of this connection included the extent of public acceptability. To further explain the importance of audience interaction, you also give some example of applications which is aimed at raising the awareness of “listening” for the audience and tightening the bond between participants and musicians. I agree with your opinion that media platforms and applications should put the “participation” at the top of agenda, however, I also suppose that can producers of forms separate the audience into two parts- profession and ordinary and then promote in different but practical ways may have directly ripple effect. Thanks for your post, it’s really a good aspect.


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