Streams of music, identity, and diversity

Exploring identity-related practices on music streaming services (01/10/2019 - 01/10/2023)

Researcher(s) (CIMS)

Ben De Smet

Supervisors (CIMS)

Frederik Dhaenens

Sofie Van Bauwel

Funded by

Bijzonder Onderzoeksfonds (BOF)


Music has historically been of considerable importance in people’s identity. Not only can music be a site of profound emotion and memory, it can also serve as a tool to make sense of one’s own identity, and as a site to articulate a musical and social identity. Music streaming services (Spotify, Apple Music, …) offer users the possibility to discover and consume music, collect and curate favorite music, and develop and present a music taste and identity through playlists, a profile, etc.

Historically and socially, music has claimed a particularly important space in the personal lives, the social lives, and the political struggles of people with LGBTQ+ identities. How do the specific affordances of music streaming services –now for many the primary way of music consumption– inform and mediate this complex relation between music and LGBTQ+ identities?

This project aims to explore and interpret the identity-related practices that music streaming services and their users engage in to mediate LGBTQ+ identities, identity politics, and music cultures. We want to examine and map the role of music streaming services within the diverse identity projects of people with LGBTQ+ identities. To this end, multiple methods are used: we will conduct a textual analysis of playlists, an app walkthrough of Spotify, interviews with users, and focus groups with users.