Using Social Media: A Graduate Music Student’s Perspective

Annabelle Lee is an MPhil/PhD student at Royal Holloway, University of London researching classical music concert marketing, particularly, social media marketing and marketing by concert organisations. In this blog post, Annabelle shares with us some of her expertise on social media and discusses her own experiences of using them. Annabelle also maintains a blog and can be found on Twitter as @anniealee


Gone are the days when social media were simply spaces to watch cat videos. With the incredible rise in usage and the constant forecasts of digital consultants, a social media subculture is truly thriving among doctoral candidates and academics. Having mainly used social media recreationally, it’s since commencing my PhD that I’ve witnessed the boost that they can really give to the research process, whether to obtain literature for one’s thesis or share work with fellow musicologists. In addition, my area of research (social media marketing of classical music concerts) means that I come into regular contact with the tools of social media. Six months into my studies, this post reflects on my experiences so far of using social media within a music research context.

Blogging is the medium I’m the newest to as, initially, I was suspicious of the ‘cult of the amateur’ and the genre of ‘blogs as catharsis.’ Moreover, ‘the ubiquity of power law distributions’ implies that I am unlikely to be a big-name blogger. However, I now think of blogging as another vital part of my research training. Blogging is great for testing out your research ideas in an informal environment and offers practice in articulating them, especially to non-specialists. The opportunity to present work in any guise enhances the academic portfolio. Also, in contrast to conventional scholarly channels, I’m able to instantly fashion work in progress or directly publish research, when I get into the thesis proper. But this immediacy has significant ramifications, as Professor Elizabeth Eva Leach (herself a regular blogger) outlines in her article ‘Early music and Web 2.0’,

[D]o not just read blogs, comment on them. Not only do authors like the feedback, but other readers like to see (and perhaps join) the conversation as well. In this way, as a community of scholars, we can actually finally meet, at least virtually.

While it’s now possible to publish work openly yet protectively under a Creative Commons licence, a gentler entry point has been simply blogging about the PhD experience. Research students’ blogs often combine ‘academic cultural critique’ with ‘communication and commentary about research’ (see here and here). This approach humanises the author, demystifies the straight-laced scholar and presents a strong, authentic narrative about the real behind-the-scenes life of a graduate musicologist. Readers’ feeds are really a wasteland of clutter, with posts greatly varying in use and interest. Hence, a blog entry conveying personality, flair, yet intent about my research is what will more likely grab attention.

The downside to blogging is that it’s time-consuming, requiring planning, writing and editing, plus online formatting. In addition, whilst I can Google bloggers to attract as potential audiences and contacts, there isn’t an actual directory for them.

This is where Twitter is indispensable. If the blog is the space to present, then Twitter is the place to promote. Namely, by incorporating hashtags, I received responses to one of my blog posts, all from tweeters whom I previously didn’t know (see also Point 5 of this).

Another asset of this microblogging site is its role as a ‘dynamic and fully customizable newspaper which only contains the things that you personally find interesting.’ There are literally hundreds of accounts freely available to inform my research interests, for example, classical music portals, music critics, concert organisations, classical music conferences and internet research databases. With regards to musicology, I follow Golden Pages, a must for the latest conferences, as well as Ashgate Music for books, Routledge Music for journals and articles, Ethnomusic Review for my broader research context and Oxford Music for all-round insights into academic music and the music world. And it’s always worth keeping in touch with other university music departments, in addition to my own. The short, digestible nuggets of information mean that one can easily scroll through tweets which don’t seem relevant. It’s so easy to see our own research interests as self-contained. Yet, whatever stage of the thesis, engaging with the wider sphere of musicology enables the now relatively specialised music student to accumulate a rounded understanding of the field, join the dots between research projects and even gain inspiration of methods or sources for work.

The third advantage is networking. Twitter is reciprocal and so, by clearly stating my thesis area in the account (see here, here, here and here), tweeting about my work, following accounts and seeing the ‘Following’ lists of other users, my followers list has steadily grown to include a number of indispensable contacts.

The final academic resource I use is the online portal. Although sites such as and ResearchGate offer effective templates, I use a college-wide system, Pure, because I’m required to set up a profile page. The Pure profile is akin to a personal website and so will be all-purpose. I’m able to present my CV and upload future publications. Moreover, for cross-media experiences, which create a multi-faceted yet consistent identity of the researcher, I can instantly direct viewers to my blog and Twitter.

In light of the ‘transparency imperative’, recreational usage of social media and Generation C, characterised by ‘[t]he manufacturers of content-creating tools, who relentlessly push us to unleash that creativity’, my academic experiments with social media at first felt uncomfortable, as if I was just merely trying to keep up with the times. However, perhaps we can draw on Steve Woolgar’s ‘technology as text’ metaphor; it’s essentially up to you as to how you want to use and read into technologies. In no way am I employing them to become an overnight musicology sensation oras a substitute for my degree requirements, doctoral dissertation, or standard academic activities. An in-person conference presentation will be an unforgettable learning curve for any graduate musicologist. But I can definitely confirm that social media have enabled me to fully put myself out there, and, as a result, widened my exposure, horizons and opportunities to aid my career ambition of becoming an academic musicologist.


The RMA student website is now promoting blogs maintained and contributed to by student members of the Association. If you are an RMA Student Member and maintain a blog relating to your research or academic life in general, and would like it to be advertised on our website, then please contact one of your RMA student representatives.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *