Journal Article

Live or recorded? Reassessing the “Decline of the Highbrow Arts” debate using European newspaper data, 1960-2010


Recent scholarship has argued that the concept of highbrow culture is undergoing radical changes, both in content and modes of appropriation. We introduce a new layer to this debate by bringing to the fore the format of the cultural product, distinguishing between “live” cultural products (concerts, exhibitions, live shows) and “recordings” (distributable items such as books or music albums). Using culture sections of newspapers (The Guardian, Le Monde, ABC, El País, Helsingin Sanomat, Dagens Nyheter) from 1960 to 2010 (n=11,775) we ask what role the format of the cultural product plays for the highbrow/non-highbrow trajectories over time. We show that highbrow coverage faces a relative decline, mostly explained by the expanding non-highbrow arts coverage. Moreover, coverage on live events decreases, while coverage of recordings grows. This trend reflects the highbrow/non-highbrow divide, revealing that the “decline of the highbrow” phenomenon is under closer scrutiny a “decline of the highbrow live event”.

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Heikkilä, Riie
Karademir Hazir, Irmak
Purhonen, Semi

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of Social Sciences


Year of publication: 2020
Date of RADAR deposit: 2020-02-17

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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