The Strength of Weak Ties Among Music Fans

February 17th, 2008 | Category: Marginalia

One of the main ways I’ve gotten into music since I first started buying and listening some thirty years ago is through friends. I’ve made many friends because if a mutual interest in music, and I’ve gotten into many bands and artists because of my friends.

This is an area that proves Mark Gravonetter’s theory of weak ties in spades. Ganovetter’s theory states that your closest associates are likely to have about the same information you have. In contrast, your more distant acquaintances are more likely to have something new for you. Granovetter’s paper, which was published in 1973, used job searching as its example: Your close friends are more likely to know about the same job openings you do, and so on.

Weak Ties

Among music fans, for example, one of the friends who’s gotten me into a ton of music over the past twenty years is my friend Wayne Wambles. Now, back in the day (during our high school and early-college years), Wayne and I hung out all the time, skateboarded together, and listened to a lot of the same stuff. Nowadays, we live on opposite sides of the country, and only talk sporadically. Well, after seeing a partial list of my recent listening, Wayne sent me a list of similar artists — none of which I had heard or heard of.

I’m finding the same phenomenon as my friends and I spread around the country — or as I bounce around it. Friends that I used to see almost everyday are now in different states (or vise versa). Then, we listened to or knew about the same music. Now, we tend to find out about things separately and tell each other about them.

The web has amplified the strength of the ties. That is, it’s easier to find out what your weak ties are into, doing, and what they know. Social networking sites allow you to post a ridiculous amount of information about yourself online, there by making it easier for your weak ties to know what you’re reading, thinking, doing for work, and of course, listening to.

I guess I’m just continually fascinated by Granovetter’s insight as I see this concept come up time and again.

Further Posting:

4 Comments »

  • Matt B said:

    I can dig it. That applies to you & me to some extent, and to me & Nate a lot.

    Wayne’s always been into good music. I credit him for introducing my Very Metal teenage self to some damn good punk bands.

  • William said:

    Indeed. The list of bands that I still listen to today is a direct result of my friends. Would I have even heard of Minor Threat/Fugazi were it not for you? Public Enemy? It’s doubtful.

    Would I still be buying Stephen Malkmus albums today were it not for Nag convincing me that Pavement’s “Slanted and Enchanted” was as great as it is? Again, probably not.

    Part of the fun in discovering that “one great band” is sharing it with your friends.

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