This article investigates the logics that underpin music curation, and particularly the work of music curators, working
at digital music streaming platforms. Based on ethnographic research that combines participant observation and a set of interviews with key informants, the article questions the relationship between algorithmic and human curation and the specific workings of music curation as a form of platform gatekeeping. We argue that music streaming platforms in combining proprietary algorithms and human curators constitute the “new gatekeepers” in an industry previously dominated by human intermediaries such as radio programmers, journalists, and other experts. The article suggests understanding this gatekeeping activity as a form of “algo-torial power” that has the ability to set the “listening agendas” of global music consumers. While the power of traditional gatekeepers was mainly of an editorial nature, albeit data had some relevance in orienting their choices, the power of platform gatekepeers is an editorial power “augmented” and enhanced by algorithms and big data.
Platform gatekeepers have more data, more tools to manage and to make sense of these data, and thus more power than their predecessors. Platformization of music curation then consists of a data-intense gatekeeping activity, based on different mixes of algo-torial logics, that produces new regimes of visibility. This makes the platform capitalistic model potentially more efficient than industrial capitalism in transforming audience attention into data and data into commodities.
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Bonini T., Gandini A. (2019)
Social Media & Society, 5(4): 1-11