Music in the Rural Creative Economy Project

In 2020-21 I am undertaking an AHRC Leadership Fellowship entitled Music in the Rural Creative Economy this page gives the basic information on it and updates will be posted via the regular blog feature on this site.

Simon McKerrell

MuRCE Project

This research focuses upon how best to support sustainable musical micro-enterprises in the rural creative economy. Cultural policy research in recent decades has focused upon urban settings, both because of the growth of cities, and the desire to conjoin the creative economy with urban regeneration. Micro-enterprises, despite being the most common business in the creative economy rarely feature in research literature and the vast majority of the literature serves the urban, metropolitan creative economy based largely on Floridian notions of proximity. This research offers a unique case study examining musical micro-enterprises in the rural creative economy of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Fieldwork with a representative sample of promoters, performers, festival organizers, tour operators, music tutors, recording studios and instrument makers in the Highlands and Islands will focus upon how best to support their services and products and their contribution to social capital in rural Scotland. This study will take a mixed methods approach with ethnomusicological fieldwork and quantitative analysis to explore how connecting enterprises, artists, residents and local government might be able to support more sustainable and integrated approaches to small and partial artistic livelihoods in the rural creative economy. 


I’d really love to hear from you if you are working in the highlands or islands of Scotland and working (even part of the year/time) as a:

musician, promoter, festival or tour organizers, music teacher, instrument maker, policy maker, music publisher or other digital creative industries stakeholder with an interest in the rural creative economy of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland (whether or not you do this full-time or just for a part of your year). Please do get in touch!

This project covers ALL GENRES of music–so happy to hear from anyone living/working in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland engaged in creative work in any musical genre.

You can reach me via the contact page or at my university address simon [dot] mckerrell [at] newcastle.ac.uk

It would be great to hear from you. PLEASE TELL ME ABOUT YOU AND/OR YOUR BUSINESS IN ANYTHING RELATING TO MUSIC BY FILLING OUT THIS FORM. I will be able to get in touch with you to hear about your experiences:

Research Questions

  1. What are the most effective ways to support musical micro-enterprises in the rural creative economy of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland?
  2. What value do partial and small incomes have for musical micro-enterprises and their communities in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland?
  3. How do musical micro-enterprises mediate and convert different forms of capital in rural communities in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland?
  4. What contribution do musical micro-enterprises make to social capital in their rural communities?
  5. How do musical micro-enterprises construct their commercial branding online, and what role can digital retail and services play in their future sustainability?

The key objective of this proposal is to analyse how best to support musical micro-enterprises in the rural creative economy (objective 1). The research will do this by highly engaged fieldwork and quantitative triangulation of survey data in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. The research will focus in on musical micro-enterprises that offer partial or small incomes from musical performance, promotion, services, recording, festivals, tours, instrument manufacture and tuition, rather than the larger, often full-time creative businesses such as design, software, gaming, architecture and publishing businesses that are so often the central focus of creative economy research (objective 2). Micro-enterprises are now one of the key ways in which artistic sole traders make a living in the UK today, yet they remain largely ignored in the literature of the creative economy, which is similarly almost exclusively based upon larger businesses in an urban research context. The research also seeks to move beyond the older binarisms of authentic, community-based practice versus staged commercial enterprise, to understand the social impact of musical enterprise and how it mediates the social life of rural communities (objective 3). This will involve ethnographic and survey evidence to understand the ways in which all types of musical micro-enterprise convert and mediate social capital for local residents in the Highlands and Islands, and the gaps or disjunctures that may emerge between different groups and places. The research also aims to map the digital retail, tuition and services offered by artistic micro-enterprises in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland (objective 4), and to examine the international literature to recommend how developing this aspect might contribute to more sustainable economic livelihoods. The key written outputs of this research will be: 1) a plain language report aimed at policymakers and stakeholders in the Highlands and Islands, local authorities and for micro-enterprises operating in the region, and; 2) an academic monograph dealing with the issues raised during the fieldwork and developing a mixed methods approach to understanding the contribution of musical micro-enterprises in the rural creative economy.