Spring, K.M. “The Regularization of Risk in Music Scenes.”

Spring, Kenneth Michael. “The Regularization of Risk in Music Scenes.” 2006. Dissertation, Vanderbilt University. Nashville, TN.

Chapter 1

  • RQ’s : ( 1) Why do people seek out risk ? How and why do people modify conditions of risky activities?  How do people become socialized into understanding the norms of risk seeking and risky environments?, case studies in Bonnaroo and local rave scene
  • Music scene producers “are groups of individuals who negotiate among themselves ways to reduce the sanctions involved in risk seeking activities” (1) – in order to socially and financially benefit.
  • Develops definition of risk beyond personal and physical harm to include social harms, sanctions – degrees of risk in a situation becomes product of sanction levels and control over these — the more control an individual has on sanctioning (type, severity?), the less risk is incurred — people want to take risks, but also minimize the consequences of these actions. Risk as a process – organized through producers and consumers of risk activity.
  • Thornton (1995) – media’s significant role in creating subcultures, as an origin, instead of a response to larger culture (wut?!)
  • Music scenes as local, place-based, festival, virtual – more accessible to participants (and researchers) than music subcultures (Bennett and Peterson 2004)
    • Subculture assumes subordinate position of group in society.
    • Scenes as “uniforms which individuals can put on and take off at their (the individuals’) leisure.
    • Scenes as less permanent, fluid, drawing from different groups, promote temporary memberships/aging out, demographically unstable, does not influence all aspects of participants lives (not a “way of life,” a la wook-dom).
    • Some in scenes are well-acquainted with rules/norms of “group”, but individuals are not bound to these norms in terms of membership — prescribed and upheld by gatekeepers in order to maintain scene “purity” (boundary maintenance)
    • Multiple scenes taking place in similar geographic area, frequently place-based (Bennett and Peterson 2004) – scenes may or may not interact with each other (lacks cohesion of larger subcultural definition/unit)

Chapter 2

  • Risk taking based on perceived (or attained) sense of euphoria; risk normalization as part of socializing deviance, deviant group membership (Becker 1953 – marijuana user study)
  • “Within risk seeking, and specifically in the music scenes being studied, people learn how to engage in risk in a way that maximizes the rush, while simultaneously minimizing the sanctions for that risk. In doing this, they become socialized into the scene and adopt the norms associated with that scene.  It extends beyond socialization because the risk seeking activities become the norm, and in some instances, it becomes risky to not engage in the risk seeking activities” (18).
  • Risk negotiation (vs. management) – organizations and individuals working to provide risk (minimizing sanction) for profit/personal gain.
  • Risk assessment is frequently non-mathematical (non-probability based), and subjective (non-rational).

Chapter 3

  • Kuhn, Swartzwelder and Wilson (1998) – rapid growth of ecstasy drug, and connection to UK raves, and its migration to US underground parties
  • Reynolds (1997) – ecstasy use as restricting sexual urges through its amphetaminic components — breaks down gendered behaviors/sexualized interactions — a love for all and none —- rave as oppositional to sexual commodification, sexualized interactions — effeminizing dance, enhancing sensuality, NOT sexuality.
  • Cohen (1972) – subculture’s relationship with surrounding community/physical territory as critical to understanding scene development

Chapter 4

  • Jam fans are not necessarily hostile toward consumption and capitalism — it is, in fact, what enables them to live as they do — selling t-shirts, food, and other goods on the “lot”
  • Gunderson (2003): the hippie spirit “is fueling the jam bands that adopted the Dead doctrine which emphasizes live, improvisational shows, a communal vibe and a self-contained commercial enterprise” (no page cite)
  • *** As this paper is written in 2006, it models a very old way of how the scene spread – tape trades, new bands touring with more reputable bands, word of mouth via fans, nascent internet mp3 exchange
  • *** The drug availability and advertising discussed here was FAR different that my own experience of this event 9 years later (2015) — wasn’t such a thing — far more populated by overflowing beer cans and handles of liquor.
  • Trey Anastasio (Phish, in a Rolling Stone Magazine interview): “It was presented to me as a festival that celebrates improvisation and risk” (see 85)
  • Risk negotiation by promoters, city officials – financial trade-off for cities, schools, local businesses
  • Despite clear legal disclaimers printed on event tickets disallowing drugs and paraphernalia, this did not hinder participants from consumption.
  • For some participants (drug dealers, especially), the music performances where not the major draw – instead, about interacting with people and loosely-sanctioned drug consumption.
  • Recent high school graduates, with tickets paid for by parents: “We’re here for the party. In three months, we start college.  This is our time to live it up.  No parents, no school, some good music, and lots of good drugs” (95).
  • Centeroo as commercial center, purveying various ethnic/vegetarian foods, “Planetroo” – space for organizations to advocate social and environmental issues
  • “Even articles that discuss the negative aspects of the festival such as the deaths of three people that have occurred at Bonnaroo, paint the overall picture in a positive light. There has been no press that asks the difficult questions, such as, why would a town like Manchester invite a possible cancer to come once a year?  How can the city officials and police take a hard stand on drugs, when they effectively turn their backs on it for one week a year?  What happens when things get out of control?  What happens when people get hurt? These questions are void in the press.  Instead, you get a line up of all the great bands, tips on how to ‘do’ Bonnaroo, and how great Manchester is for this one week” (98-99) —– ***However, this has also radically changed since the time of this release.  In fact, there has been some scholarly review on Bonnaroo media coverage (a la Gee and Bales), and the general tone of many festival releases seem to have some sensationalist edge.

Chapter 5

  • “In these scenes, uncertainty was converted to risk when sanctions were controlled, which then created a sanction controlled risky environment where the thrill seekers could learn and/or engage in the risky activities. It also allowed for entrepreneurs to profit from the creation of the sanction controlled risky environment” (100).
  • Risk-taking due to “seduction of crime” (see Katz 1988)? Euphoria > Sanctions, Especially Contextually-Reduced Ones
  • “These individuals said that they desire to engage in risky activities and to portray their ‘true selves,’ but their fears that these activities may hurt their careers limits their risk seeking activities. However, scenes that control for the sanctions associated with such activities become a viable outlet, where they can ‘safely break away for a day or two and fulfill their thrill seeking” (102).
  • In these environments, sanctions are controlled, NOT eliminated – sanctions for behaviors considered scene non-normative would still result in usual sanctioning.
  • “[…] a person who dressed too conservatively may be excluded from entry into the club of from being sold any drugs by the dealers, for fear that they may be a police officer working undercover” (103).
  • Scene membership requires cultural and linguistic adoptions – these knowledges and behaviors lend to more full experiences – often leading to acting as gatekeepers to scene-normative acts of deviance, instilling personal ownership/control … *** identification, belonging?


Anastasio (Phish,

Becker 1953 — You mean, 1963?  Becker, Howard. 1963/1997. “The Culture of the Deviant Group: The Jazz Musician.” Pp. 55-65 in The Subcultures Reader, edited by Ken Gelder and Sarah Thornton. London: Routledge.

Bennett, Andy and Richard A. Peterson. (Editors.) 2004. Music Scenes: Local, Translocal, and Virtual. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.

Cohen, Phil. 1972/1997. “Subcultural Conflict and Working Class Community.” Pp. (XX) in The Subcultures Reader, edited by Ken Gelder and Sarah Thornton. London: Routledge.

Gunderson (2003):  CITE MISSING

Katz, Jack. 1988. Seductions of Crime. New York: Basic Books.

Kuhn, Cynthia, Scott Swartzwelder, and Wilkie Wilson (1998) —- But, referenced as 2003? Buzzed. New York: W.W. Norton.

Reynolds, Simon.  1997 in text, cited as 1998. “Rave Culture: Living Dream or Living Death?” Pp. 84-93 in The Clubcultures Reader: Reading in Popular Cultural Studies. CITY?XX: Blackwell Press.

Thornton, Sarah. 1995. Club Cultures: Music Media and Subcultural Capital.  Cambridge (WHERE?): Polity Press.


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