“Music Has No Borders”: An Exploratory Study of Audience Engagement With YouTube Music Broadcasts During COVID-19 Lockdown, 2020

Frontiers in Psychology 12 (2021)
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This exploratory study engages with eight case studies of music performances broadcast online to investigate the role of music in facilitating social cohesion, intercultural understanding and community resilience during a time of social distancing and concomitant heightened racial tensions. Using an online ethnographic approach and thematic analysis of video comments, the nature of audience engagement with music performances broadcast via YouTube during COVID-19 lockdown of 2020 is explored through the lens of ritual engagement with media events and models of social capital. The eight case studies featured virtual choirs, orchestras and music collaborations of various genres, including classical, pop and fusion styles drawing from European, Asia Minor, South African, West African, North African, Arabic, South Asian, and East Asian cultural origins. Five overarching themes resulted from thematic analysis of video comments, including Interaction, Unity, Resilience, Identity, and Emotion. The paper contributes important theorisation that ritual engagement and social learning fosters intercultural understanding through engaging with music both cognitively and emotionally, which can in turn shape both individual and collective identity. Online platforms provide scope for both bonding and bridging opportunities. Community resilience is supported through the sharing of knowledge, sustaining music practice during social distancing, as well as emotional support shared among audience participants, with potential wellbeing outcomes.



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