IASPM Benelux are pleased to announce this year’s winners for the annual IASPM Benelux VNPF Popular Music Thesis Prize. This year’s competition was adjudicated by three jury members: Dr. Leonieke Bolderman of the University of Groningen, music industry professional Marjan Wynia, and Dr. Matthias Heyman of the University of Antwerp. The winners were chosen according to the criteria of relevance and innovation of thesis topic, quality of research, argumentation, and the overall writing style and elegance of the thesis.

We are happy to award this year’s MA prize to Elisa Luengo Sampayo earning her MA from Erasmus University Rotterdam in Cultural Economics & Entrepreneurship for her thesis

The Economic Sociology of Club Culture: Valuation Logics in Electronic Dance Music

Leungo Sampayo’s thesis examines the concepts of value and evaluation of electronic dance music as manifest within contemporary club culture. Her thesis investigates club culture in relation to the lives and social organizing structures of current electronic dance music artists. Through a combined ethnographic, economic and sociological methodology, this thesis revealed how social devices and criteria such as selection, certification, and pricing mechanisms intermediated the gatekeeping choices made by venue programmers, booking agents, and artists. She found that artists built long-lasting and value-based relationships beyond profit maximization that were key to minimize the impact of radical uncertainty and information asymmetry currently characterizing the music industry. Ultimately the thesis argued that because of particular social structures, the dissemination of circuit-based conventions, a certain stability was achieved within a turbulent market.

This year’s winner for the best BA thesis is Cato de Beer earning her BA in Communication and Media from the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication, for her thesis

She Said ‘Boom’: How Social Media Platforms Enable and Challenge Female Punks to Do It Themselves

Through in-depth interviews with six bands from The Netherlands, Belgium and the United Kingdom, this study examined the experiences of female punk artists active within social media platforms. The findings of this research revealed a link between the previous DIY ideology of punk and the rise of social media platforms. Through this analysis, significant differences in contrast to prior DIY scenes were discovered in terms of the complexity of promotion and discursive engagement via social media. Her thesis explores how women in contemporary punk music attempted to overthrow proscriptive gendered boundaries of the past, in part by embracing the Do It Yourself (“DIY”) ethos. This attitude made the genre available for them as a means of creative as well as political expression as they attempted to disrupt existing hierarchies by bypassing a male-dominated industry and by promoting themselves online. Currently, she found that for punk participants, the value of gaining entrance for lesser-trained musicians was the most important factor. Further, for female musicians, the ways in which the genre enabled them to express themselves in alternative modes (e.g. wild, sweaty, angry) to dominant gendered performance expectations was also seen as a valuable characteristic of the genre. Ultimately her thesis revealed that despite these developments, it remains challenging for women to act within the music industry, a field in which expectations of female artists remain underdeveloped, and in which excessive attention is placed upon their image and gender instead of their music.

Both winners will present their research at the upcoming Research in Music Conference on May 27th at Utrecht University. For more information see the program and location here.

The official award ceremony will take place on Oct. 2nd in Amsterdam during the VNPF annual conference.