MusicID Digital Research Fellowship Awarded

I’m delighted to announce that I have been awarded the 2021 MusicID Digital Research Fellowship. In MusicID’s news post, founder and CEO Roger Press is quoted as saying ‘The Committee thought Dr Gamble’s submission was targeted, interesting, showed a clear methodology, and would make the best use of the MusicID platform. We also appreciated that Dr Gamble is committed to creating a public-facing version of his work. The contribution to our public outreach will be enormously beneficial to our mission of helping scholars, students, and industry professionals better understand and utilise data’.

I’m grateful Roger and the committee had such kind things to say about my proposed research, and look forward to using the MusicID platform for analysis and data storytelling in relation to hip hop’s rise to dominance in the streaming era. Access to the charts, sales, and streaming figures will help Digital Flows gain deeper insights into industry trends and shifts in cultural consumption.

The full proposal reads as follows:

All the way up: a chronological study of hip hop’s global emergence as the leading popular music genre in the streaming era

Although it may seem simplistic to assert the predominance of hip hop over all other popular music genres, there is good evidence to support its status as a market leader. Hip hop currently boasts over a third of all songs played across on-demand music streaming platforms1MRC Data / Billboard. ‘Year-End Report U.S. 2020’, 2021, 2021/01/MRC_Billboard_YEAR_END_2020_US-Final.pdf; Nielsen Music. ‘2014 Nielsen Music Report’, 2015, … See full note, demonstrating a vast international listener base. Since 2014, Nielsen Music, MRC Data, and Billboard have reported it above rock (including metal) and pop, attesting to considerable popularity among contemporary audiences. Fans of hip hop’s dynamic beats and engaging lyrics may not be surprised by these statistics, but one thing is clear: fifty years on from its emergence in the Bronx, hip hop has gained a major presence in popular culture and media economies around the world.

How did hip hop rise to this position? This study will investigate the emerging presence of hip hop music on international charts and thereafter streaming services, attending to years, subgenres, and artist demographics. The primary research objective is to understand the growth and geographical spread of the genre on music consumption formats over the last fifty years (with particular emphasis on the last two decades). I will cross-reference songs’ chart placements, sales, and streams in a clearly identified set of countries to examine the international prominence of hip hop over time and analyze the intersections of national music economies. The findings will demonstrate patterns of global cultural exchange while helping to explain the distinct success of the genre as it adapted to platform logics. Secondary research questions surround the increasingly central role of playlists in music consumption practices and knock-on effects such as the increasing tendencies towards short song lengths and long album track listings.

This research project has two major outputs. Findings from the fellowship will be the focus of Chapter 2 (provisionally titled ‘Platform Rap’) of an open-access book on hip hop and the internet, currently in preparation (my second monograph published by a major academic press). Alongside the academic publication, the fellowship will enable me to create easily shareable, public-facing data visualizations that demonstrate the value of the MusicID platform. Inspired by Spotify’s artist emoji visualization and The Pudding’s visual essays on popular music, I will develop three visualizations using the D3.js Javascript library. These will be provided on the website of a dedicated research project currently funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme. This study fulfills first-rate research ethics and data security standards, and is committed to working responsibly with global hip hop communities to highlight the musical activities of marginalized people around the world.

Now is a critical moment for this study. Focusing on hip hop provides a fruitful study of what happens to live, situated, performance-based music cultures during public health restrictions precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The study will produce up-to-date insights on lockdown listening and dramatic changes to contemporary cultural life using the most recent data of the MusicID platform. It also generates a transferable model for studies of genre throughout the last half-century of popular music history. This data-driven investigation will demonstrate the importance of hip hop to people’s lives the world over, with a detailed view of how the digital music economy has propelled hip hop to the forefront of global popular culture.


1MRC Data / Billboard. ‘Year-End Report U.S. 2020’, 2021, 2021/01/MRC_Billboard_YEAR_END_2020_US-Final.pdf; Nielsen Music. ‘2014 Nielsen Music Report’, 2015, us-1.pdf; Nielsen Music / MRC Data. ‘Midyear Report U.S. 2020’, 2021, 2020/07/NielsenMID-YEAR-2020-us-1594300786.pdf.