Live Underground Heavy Metal: The Perseverance and Decline of an Art World

  • Rachel Emms

Student thesis: Phd


Through the lens of underground heavy metal, this thesis explores the importance of live music and the ways in which music worlds transform, decline and remain resilient. In a departure from traditional academic studies of heavy metal, which focus on notions of youth, rebellion, gender and subversive themes, (Weinstein, 1999; Krenske and McKay, 2000; Bennett, 2001), this thesis takes a novel approach in exploring the active nature of this music world. As artists face problems with digital distribution and the related decline of record sales, live music was expected to flourish, as artists seek to compensate for lost recording revenue through live shows. However, this world is not as straightforward as it might appear; arguably it is an industry which is becoming increasingly volatile. As grass-roots venues close and touring costs increase for artists, underground live music faces a particularly tough struggle. Therefore, in contributing to the growing body of literature on “Art Worlds”, (Becker, 1982), this thesis develops an understanding of the ways in which venues, promoters and audiences attempt to sustain this music world. Through surveying attendance at live events and interviewing active participants, it is argued that whilst this music world suggests elements of decline it also shows perseverance. Through the development of translocal networks and maintenance of community, these participants pool resources in order to facilitate live events; even in the face of tremendous struggle. In doing so, this thesis makes a unique contribution to academic understandings of underground metal, capturing this music world at a particularly tumultuous time.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorNick Crossley (Supervisor) & Gemma Edwards (Supervisor)

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