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Social capital in the alternative music scene in Accra

We are two students from Copenhagen Business School in Denmark, fortunate to participate in the ACIG project, which led us on an exciting journey to explore creative entrepreneurship in Ghana. The objective of our master’s thesis was to research social capital in the alternative music scene in Accra. To achieve this, we conducted interviews with 16 talented music artists and 9 industry experts operating within the Ghanaian music industry. Now, we are excited to share our findings.

The Alternative Music Scene in Accra

Our research focused on the alternative music scene in Accra, a relatively small yet promising segment of the music industry with great potential for growth. In Ghana, the alternative music scene has emerged in the past decades as a unique music style that uses various sounds and sub-genres to break conventional and mainstream music, prioritizing individual expression and creativity. We found that most of these music artists were independent, self-sustaining, and less commercialized than mainstream music artists.

During our time in Accra, we had the opportunity to visit Vibrate Space, an independent venue that provides a platform for young artists to showcase their talents and learn from one another. Situated in the heart of Accra, this place aims to foster community building and mentorship through its masterclass programs. We attended one of these masterclasses, where music professionals discussed a range of topics, including music distribution, live performances, visual identity development, songwriting, and production. This place was especially important for emerging artists in the alternative music scene as it provided them with valuable resources to help them grow their careers.

The Networks of Alternative Music Artists

The music industry in Ghana faces numerous policy development issues that hinder most artists from reaching their full potential. These issues include a lack of political will, fragmented policies, and poor policy implementation. As a result, many music artists in the Ghanaian music industry often rely on the network of people around them, leading to a substantial reliance on social capital to get the necessary support and resources in order to build sustainable careers.

Through interviews and analysis, we identified three distinct types of social networks used by alternative music artists. Our findings showed that each of these networks provides resources that are vital for the artist's career, depending on the phase of their entrepreneurial process. We categorized the three different phases based on academic literature as the pre-start, growth, and establishment phase.

The first is their personal network, consisting of family, friends, schoolmates, neighbourhood friends, and church fellows. These individuals are trusted and frequently encountered, providing resources such as emotional support, initial skills, and financial backing during the early stages of an artist's journey in the pre-start phase. As artists take their musical pursuits more seriously, they often expand their circle to include a personal/professional network. This network typically comprises other creatives and a manager, offering resources such as mentorship, access to other networks, pooling resources, industry knowledge, and mentorship. The personal/professional network provides the first set of opportunities for individual growth for the artists in the establishment phase. Lastly, a smaller subset of artists we interviewed transitioned to a more professional network, which included record labels and external management. This phase, categorized as the growth phase, offers greater expertise, exposure, and career advancement.

Overall, our research revealed that music artists in the alternative music scene in Accra rely heavily on social networks to access resources, highlighting the importance of social capital.

By Caroline Kaisin and Philip Kold


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