Soundtracking: Music listening practices in the digital age

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to further develop the conceptualization of music consumption in the digital age by examining how contemporary music listening is interweaved with other practices, how it shapes those practices and how it is in turn shaped by them.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper draws on extensive, qualitative interviews with 15 Swedish music consumers. During the course of these interviews, specific situations of everyday music listening were discussed in detail.

Findings – Drawing on practice theory and more specifically the concepts of dispersed and integrative practices, the authors identify and explore a mode of music listening that they term soundtracking, which involves choosing and listening to music mainly to accompany other everyday practices.

Research limitations/implications – As soundtracking grows in importance, music is increasingly consumed as an affective-practical resource. Its significance is then not derived from its ability to demarcate difference and construct consumer identities but from its capacity to evoke emotions and moods than enable and enrich a set of everyday practices.

Practical implications – When music is consumed as part of soundtracking, issues such as the audio quality of music or ownership of material music media become less important, while aspects such as mobility, accessibility and the adaptability of music increase in importance. This has important implications for how and what music should be produced and marketed.

Originality/value – This paper offers an alternative view of contemporary music consumption compared to previous research, which has considered music listening primarily as an integrative practice on which the practitioner is fully focussed. The paper also contributes to practice theory by offering an empirically based understanding of a dispersed practice, showing that such practices are neither without shape nor necessarily very simple in their structure.


External organisations
  • Stockholm School of Economics
  • University of Gothenburg
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • Business Administration


  • digitalization
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-503
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number3
Early online date2019 Feb 21
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch