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date: 27 June 2022

Community Music in Cultural Policy

Abstract and Keywords

Community music presents a contested field. Cultural policy has had a hard time dealing with community music because aesthetic intentions, social objectives, and economic motivations may all play a role for actors and these elements sometimes clash. This chapter provides a scheme of the basic tensions inherent to community music in the cultural policy fields which can form the basis for ‘negotiations’ between actors. The scheme is based upon the pragmatic sociology of Boltanski and Thévenot who provide a grid of sometimes conflicting and sometimes aligning values that can be present in any social situation. Their grid will be applied to the practice of community music in an effort to provide insight into the intricacies of cultural policies regarding this particular form of music, as well as into the practicalities of the practice of community musicians working in a field in which cultural policy-making plays an often vital role.

Keywords: community music, cultural policy, pragmatic sociology, cultural value, professional perspectives

In October 2005, Dutch composer Merlijn Twaalfhoven presented the project Long Distance Call. In the only divided city in the world, Nicosia on the isle of Cyprus, he crossed borders by making Greek and Turkish Cypriots join in a musical performance, executed on rooftops on both sides of the dividing line in the city. The project was sponsored by the Dutch ministry of Foreign Affairs, and attracted a lot of attention. The Dutch diplomat assigned to help Twaalfhoven during this project, expressed that she felt that finally someone was able to make headway in a strenuous international relationship where diplomats, officials, and ministers had failed miserably. In fact, in a lecture one of the authors attended, she expressed that this project was the reason to devote a considerable proportion of her diplomatic career to cultural diplomacy as she felt that culture is a powerful tool in international relationships.

Let us now consider a second, more modest example. On Bernouilli square in Groningen (190,000 residents), in the Netherlands, a music festival was organized in an effort to revitalize the city district. The district is characterized by a split between indigenous middle-class residents, usually homeowners, and a larger population of lowly educated and frequently unemployed indigenous residents, as well as immigrants and students, living in cheap rental apartments. Few of these two groups meet and the local shops are dwindling. The Bernouilli festival was set up to celebrate the diversity of the city district and provide a programme of popular local musicians, world music performances (both professional and amateur), as well as workshops in theatre and music for children. Programming the festival was a joint effort by local residents and professional musicians. While the first editions of the festival were successful in drawing in a crowd from the neighbourhood, the programme and its organizations were costly. Although satisfied with its outcomes, the city’s welfare department (p. 344) withdrew its funding after two editions. They reasoned that their money was not to be spent on music structurally. Their aim was to support new initiatives by district residents. Subsequently, the festival engaged a professional programmer to bring in musical acts with a wider audience appeal and applied for funding to the city’s Arts Council. The Arts Council rejected the application because advisers from the professional arts field thought the overall quality of the programming was not distinctive and the workshops were of poor artistic quality, merely aiming to enhance the social activity of residents but not the aesthetic capabilities of participants. As a result, the festival changed into an evening of live music on the square featuring local celebrities and drawing a crowd of youngsters from all over the city. District residents started complaining of nuisance and noise, but stayed away.

These are but two examples of the intricate relationship between the worlds of cultural policy and music. The different parties involved in these practices frequently use different ways to legitimize them. To return to the example of Merlijn Twaalfhoven; he himself might consider Long Distance Call as a successful music event because, first of all, he wrote a beautiful (or otherwise interesting) piece of music, and his (amateur) performers performed it well. His location choice also indicates that he would have evaluated Long Distance Call as a social event where people who are otherwise mistrusting each other after years of political separation were able to co-operate in a single event. And more mundanely, Twaalfhoven might also be very pleased with the public attention his project yielded, including his becoming the topic of a documentary.1 The Dutch attaché assigned to his project apparently evaluated it on a different scale; she was most impressed by the fact that art was able to transcend boundaries that politics could not. In other words, she did not apply a professional musical scale but a political one. To be more precise, to her, the quality of the composition and/or the performance might have been irrelevant, though she also might realize that Twaalfhoven’s artistic reputation may have been the reason why so many other parties cooperated with the project and made it possible. So, while the musician and the attaché may agree on the success of the project, they may do so for very different reasons. The Bernouilli Square festival demonstrates a different situation. Parties from different departments of the city bureaucracy were not willing to come to an agreement about the festival’s merits, each sticking to their own way of evaluating the efforts.

Understanding such differences will not only help community musicians in setting up and organizing music projects. In situations where those involved do not see eye-to-eye and pass different judgements on that which is achieved, it is very useful to understand the sources of discontent. This is the purpose of this chapter—to provide a schematic way of understanding the often heteronomous conditions under which community music projects function. Or to put it in different terms, we aim to clarify some of the incongruencies which occur when the ‘fields’ of community music and cultural policy start to overlap. This might help community musicians, but also other parties involved in these practices, amongst others those who formulate and execute cultural policies.

(p. 345) Community music and cultural policy as heterogeneous, overlapping practices

It may be true that community music ‘vigorously and … robustly resist[s] categorization’, as Kari Veblen put it (Veblen, 2013, p. 1). For clarity’s sake, however, in this chapter we endorse a broad definition of community music as ‘an active intervention between a music leader or facilitator and participants’ (Higgins, 2012, p. 5). The goals of community music ‘interventions’ may range from the inherently musical idea that community music activities may contribute to creating equal musical opportunities for everyone (the often-quoted Peter Dykema already in 1916 made the point [see Veblen, 2013, p. 2]), to the explicit use of community music activities as social-musical interventions aimed at solving particular societal problems—for example in social integration (see Cleveringa, 2012), health (e.g., Cuypers et al., 2012; Grossi et al., 2012; Leadbetter & O’Connor, 2013; Mental Health Foundation & Barring Foundation, 2011), or educational matters (e.g., Winner, Goldstein, & Vincent-Lacrin, 2013). This range of goals may be represented as a continuum from more inherently musical (e.g., opening up the possibility of playing an instrument to groups of people who normally would not do that) to explicitly extra-musical (e.g., fostering social ties in a problematic neighbourhood through choral singing) goals.2 The initiators of such projects, often the community musicians themselves, may vehemently defend such extra-musical goals; others, however, may sometimes not even be aware of such goals or they may under-stress them as they see themselves and the people they work with first and foremost as musicians, or even as artists—in which case extra-musical goals may seem to compromise their abilities to produce music with a viable artistic signature and status in an ‘art world’ setting (Becker, 1982).

Turning from the community music practitioner to the cultural policy officer, their world too is a heterogeneous world. Geir Vestheim (2012) introduces an interesting notion in that respect; with the concept of the ‘overlapping zone’ he points to the fact that cultural policy-making is the field where (parts of) art fields necessarily overlap with public administration. In this overlapping zone, agents of both fields broker compromises that sustain certain artistic practices in society; they provide legitimacy to these activities from more than one perspective. While the mainstay of public cultural policy may be legitimized based on the notion of the freedom of speech and artistic autonomy, agents in the overlapping zone do broker compromises that entangle musicians in the promotion of social cohesion, cultural capital, and development of specific groups in society.3

Community music practitioners often find themselves working in a field that extends to general policy on local, regional, national, and sometimes even international levels. Therefore they will often find themselves at some point or other in the companionship of (p. 346) policy officials. These policy officials in their turn may come from various policy fields—social welfare, education, healthcare, and city planning—and may have various values, goals, and expectations. When community music and cultural policy meet, the relationship between the two can be described as the overlapping of two, in and of themselves, heterogenous and ‘overlapping’ fields. In this article, we aim to provide some insights as to how practitioners in this overlapping zone might acknowledge the possible disparities and discontents such overlapping may entail. Our aim is not to provide community musicians with a set of guidelines, but rather with a map to navigate this area of different stakeholders, each with a specific combination of values in mind.

Theoretical background

We want to stay close to the everyday life situations that community musicians work in and, therefore, our theoretical position in this article is that of practice theory. Practice theory, in the formulation of the German cultural sociologist Andreas Reckwitz (2002, 2006), fundamentally claims that social order is a cultural order (rather than an economic or normative order), and that culture is not to be found in ‘webs of meaning’, in ‘cognitive structures’, or in ‘texts’, but rather in the practices of daily life; in our shared and contested ‘ways of doing’ and ‘ways of talking’. Those ways of doing and talking may be analysed by referring to specific ‘fields’ in which practices takes place: the economic field, for example; the domestic field; or the artistic field. The field concept evidently stems from Bourdieu’s (1993, 1996) theory of fields, and it also has a connection to, for example, Becker’s (1982) description of the field of arts as an ‘arts world’.

Fields, in Reckwitz’ eyes, are not realities but theoretical concepts against which everyday life is played out. Our practices always take place against the background of many fields at the same time; and as every field has its own logic (or, as Reckwitz would say, an amalgam of various logics which is unified only in a loose sense and counts many contradictions), everyday life consists of a constant attempt to function against the background of several, sometimes contradictory logics at the same time.

Everyday life in general, therefore, is inherently ‘messy’ and contradictory, and people’s actions may—in the vein of ethnomethodology—best be characterized as tentatively structuring our social world as we function against the ‘socially standardized and standardizing, “seen but unnoticed”, expected, background features of everyday scenes’ (Garfinkel, 1967, p. 36). Community music practitioners in particular, may often feel that they have to combine a sometimes impossibly varied set of logics, as the field of community music operates at the junction of various fields at the same time; the artistic field, for example, combines in many community music activities with the educational field, the fields of social welfare or healthcare, as well as the economic field. Because many community musicians come from the field where music is considered an art, specific tensions may arise between the logics of the ‘autonomous’ artistic world (so powerfully described by Bourdieu as well as Becker) and the logics of other worlds.

(p. 347) Boltanski and Thévenot’s (2006) notion of value regimes provides an opportunity to understand the different value orientations of actors in everyday life, and how these orientations can conflict but can also be combined. They developed a ‘grid’ of six4 coherent and more or less durable sets of values—a value regime—which are present in modern societies5. Each actor in a social situation has access to all of these values, but makes use of some of them more than others, especially when he is professionally (rather than personally) involved. As a consequence different actors view social situations differently and evaluate people, objects, and certain (possible) courses of action according to these sets of values. Choosing a different set of values can cause discord between social agents present in the same situation. We will shortly introduce the grid of six value orientations using Boltanski and Thévenot’s (2006) ideas about value orientations of actors as a possible way to illuminate interactions between various agents playing a part in the community music world. We cannot do this in a nuanced way, as this would involve elaborate empirical investigations. In this contribution we will describe community music practitioners and cultural policy agents in an ‘archetypical’ way—for example, we will use ideal types of these agents. Rather than looking at actual persons, in this contribution we focus on the roles of the various agents involved in community music practices, merely stating how they might be expected to act. Thus, by reducing the complexity of personal value orientations and evaluations, focusing on the roles people have in social situations could help us to better understand their intricate and ‘messy’ nature. While all actors may use all kinds of legitimizations (consciously or unconsciously), their roles in community music practices will make them gravitate towards some specific ways of evaluating projects and their outcomes. Our argument is that the positions of different actors involved can be placed on what we could call a map of the overlapping zone of community music practices. By clarifying the various positions on the map, we hope to provide a helpful tool for planning and executing both cultural policies and community music projects. But before we can present our map, we must first explain the various value orientations involved in community music based on Boltanski and Thévenot’s value regimes, and how these different regimes might co-operate or conflict.

The six value regimes of community music

The inspired regime is the regime where Boltanski and Thévenot firmly place the arts. It is the regime where inspiration is key and those agents who give into (divine or artistic) inspiration, and sacrifice economic stability for the pursuit of artistic development, are valued highly. Artists are seen as interpreting something ‘outer-worldly’; artistic inspiration. Sometimes they behave extremely anti-social: they may be reckless, they may not be loyal to other people (as these can stand in the way of artistic pursuits) and they may shun the public eye, favoring the intimacy of their studios, workshop, or rehearsal spaces. Performing publicly for them entails submitting their inspiration to (p. 348) the judgement of those who might compare them to others—which they experience as inauthentic—or might not be able to understand their inspiration. Value in this regime is closely bound to the person of the artist (hence the importance of knowing who wrote a piece of music or who is interpreting it) but also to the artwork itself. In a sense, the artists and the art work become inseparable.

The domestic regime is the regime of the family and the household. It is a deeply social regime, its structure being based on birth, ancestry, and traditions. Skills therefore take a central place in this regime when handed down from one generation to the other. Considerateness, politeness, keeping secrets, and deference to those placed over you are crucial character traits for social agents in this regime. The father is the central figure in this regime. In a benign version it represents the rule of a kind and generous despot, in a malicious version it is the mafia. In art worlds, the domestic policy often refers to values of cultural heritage; in music it refers to musical traditions, craftsmanship, and authentic or traditional performing practices.

The value regime of fame, again, is deeply social. In it the public recognition and attention is the highest virtue. All agents strive for as much attention as possible, sacrificing privacy and the domestic sphere of their home, art studios, and rehearsal spaces. Spilling secrets, gossip, and rumors are valued strategies to remain in the public eye. In that sense, the fame regime is very much opposed to both the inspired regime (which favors the privacy of rehearsal spaces) and the domestic regime where spreading rumor and secrets is frowned upon as it threatens the dignity of the family.

The civic regime is characterized by the pursuit of the general interest. Its most important social agents are linked to political parties and labor unions. This regime revolves around representation, sacrificing one’s personal interests for the common good. The parliamentary democracy provides the prime example of this regime, which immediately makes clear that its most important moments are meetings and ballots in which the general interest is discussed and decided upon. As a result, procedures to arrive at collective decision-making are very important and valued highly in this regime; it is supported by laws, legality, and legitimization of actions. In community music practices, objectives such as inclusion, social cohesion, and cultural democracy are clearly representations of civic values.

Boltanski and Thévenot’s market regime has competition as its core value. The pursuit to always be better than competitors, to be able to close a better deal, earning more profit, is the key driver of social action.6 Money, luxury goods, and conspicuous consumption are markers of successful social agents in this regime. They know how to persuade others to close a favorable deal, which goods and services are coveted in the market, and how to instigate such desires in consumers. Value is measured in monetary terms; profit itself or the ratio of price to quantity. Just as in the inspirational regime, social agents are individuals acting on personal whims, and they seize opportunities. But, contrary to the inspirational regime, in the market regime attachments to objects are frowned upon. Being attached to an object, say a work of art, makes you vulnerable in negotiations, and when people are no longer prepared to part from their possessions (or from their money), the market cannot function and breaks down.

(p. 349) In the industrial regime, things always work and people invest energy, time, and knowledge in making them work better. This is the regime of scientific discovery and application of tested routines. From an industrial point of view, artistic inspiration cannot be waited upon; it is too whimsical and quality is too ephemeral. Within the original scheme of the six regimes, the biggest tension for art worlds is the distinction between new and authentic production of one of a kind products, versus the standardized churning out of products of a tested quality. But this tension can be overcome; from the inspirationist point of view the products of the major record labels may seem debasingly inauthentic, churning out one formulaic hit song after the next, or one standard musical after another. From the industrial point of view, the record industry and Broadway merely present efficient models of providing quality entertainment.

Critiques and compromises in community arts practices

Boltanski and Thévenot (2006) indicate that from each value regime, critique can be formulated on the others. For example, the very personal nature of the values central to the inspirational regime are critiqued from the market regime, as these make objects bound to the person and hence difficult to sell. In Table 18.1 we give a systematic overview of the critiques possible in community music practices.

Table 18.1 represents all theoretically possible critiques. We will not discuss the complete table here but will only briefly discuss the critiques from the inspirationist and the civic value regimes. These represent the two most important regimes in community music practices, as the key legitimization for community practices is that they represent a compromise between civic and artistic, or inspirationist, values. Van den Hoogen and Van Maanen (2011) locate the efficacy of community arts in its ability to engender artistic experiences for their participants and/or audiences that alter their world view, either based on the artistic nature of the aesthetics deployed or on the fact that the projects represent hitherto unrepresented identities on a stage as valid forms of expression. Both forms of aesthetic functioning can have been the case in Long Distance Call; the music in and of itself might have engendered artistic experiences in those listening as well as the fact that this project was staged on both sides of a dividing line. In other words, that cooperation across this line was a valid practice that has challenged existing conceptions of this situation. As a result, the self-image of participants (or audience members) can change, which represents a compromise with fame values as well. The same can be said for the Bernouilli festival, although the example immediately demonstrates that a compromise between values may not have been reached and actors may have remained stuck in their particular value regime, sticking to their criticisms and not looking for a way to overcome them. This is represented as the most important compromise in community music settings in Table 18.2. (p. 351) (p. 350) (p. 352)

Table 18.1 Critiques of Values in Community Music

Critique of on …








New ideas do not fit long-standing music traditions

Ideas may be too new / erratic to communicate to large audiences

Ideas may be too new / erratic to communicate to make them saleable

Participation might require too much musical expertise so that projects become exclusionary

New ideas may not always be feasible


Traditions may inhibit renewal in musical languages

Music traditions may be too difficult to follow for audiences, thus limiting reach

The intimacy needed limits profitable strategies as no audience can be allowed

Music traditions may be too difficult to follow for audiences, thus limiting efficacy of projects

Traditions and the intimacy needed may hamper improvement of effective working methods


Projects are not genuinely meant to achieve aesthetic or social outcomes; they are mere fronts used in 'performative' policies

Too early/much exposure damages intimacy in which community music practitioners and participants need to work

Too much focus on image of projects can ‘freeze’ the versatility of the market

X-Factor fallacy: Project results are demonstrated to an audience prematurely (e.g., when talents should be nurtured rather than exposed)

Performative policies are not socially effective


Monetary requirements limit artistic possibilities

Market exposure damages intimacy in which community music practitioners and participants need to work

Entrance prices and fees for participants may lower the appeal of projects to the social groups targeted

Monetary requirements limit reach and/or length of a project, or prevent building upon positive outcomes

Focus on financial / economic outcomes may hamper efficacy of community arts projects


Too much focus on social outcomes curtails creativity

Too much focus on societal outcomes may damage intimacy in which community music practitioners and participants need to work

Too much focus on social outcomes for targeted audiences will limit wider exposure of projects

Social outcomes may not easily translate into economic outcomes

Too much focus on social outcomes may hamper development of working methods


Procedures and emphasis on measurable outcomes stifle creativity

Too much focus on procedures and measurable outcomes may replace long-standing musical and social traditions

Too much focus on procedures may hamper effective and fast communication

Too much focus on procedures may hamper sales of tickets and efficiency

Overreliance on procedures turns projects into 'paper tigers'

Table 18.2 Compromises of Values in Community Music







Working methods for community musicians help to generate successful projects

Skill development in vernacular and/or ethnic music traditions

Community music practitioners are recognized as skilful musicians and/or social interventionists

Legitimization of spending on projects based on quantitative outcomes

Procedures help decision-making in the civic world: i.e., they help balance the interests of different stakeholders


Disrupting current world views (which can occur as a result of aesthetic experience or the representation of underrepresented identities)

Projects represent the shared musical traditions of participants and audiences

  • Enhancement of the self-esteem of participants leads to a better image

  • The image of a neighbourhood is influenced positively by a project

Successful project enhances liveability and hence economic value of real estate and/or enhances employability of participants by raising their skill-levels8


  • Break-even of a project.

  • Participating musicians are paid for their work8

Participants and/or community music practitioners are paid according to their skills in executing projects

The image of a neighbourhood is influenced positively by a project leading to higher real estate values


Recognition by peers7

Recognition for vernacular or ethnic musical traditions


Craftsmanship and intimacy of rehearsal space allow for quality of music

(p. 353)

However, positive outcomes of community music projects may not be easy to achieve. For instance, the musical language may be too difficult for audience members to understand or the musical skills needed to participate in the project may limit accessibility. As a result, community music projects can be exclusionary rather than inclusionary in nature, which represents a civic critique to the inspirationist perspective. On the other hand, community music practitioners may feel that the cultural competence of their participants or target audiences limits their creative use of musical languages. Furthermore, it should be noted that usually in the civic world outcomes of community music projects are presented in positive terms. However, projects can easily produce negative effects—for instance, when participants alienate themselves from their initial social surroundings by engaging with the project. When their family and friends start treating them differently because they think it is ‘funny’ or ‘unsuited’ that they participate in a musical project, this might lead a person to experience a loss of social capital rather than gaining it. Furthermore, if positive outcomes cannot be built upon, things might turn sour—for example, when young participants in a music project develop the desire to train themselves further musically but advanced training is not available to them, either because it is too expensive or there are no courses available for their specific needs. Here domestic and market values limit the possibilities for positive outcomes (cf. Belfiore & Bennett, 2008; Matarasso, 1997). Long Distance Call certainly is an example here again; although the project might have helped to decrease the tensions in Nicosia, this has not been built upon in political terms.

Regimes, community musicians, and cultural policy officers

Next we will discuss the critiques and compromises in more detail by describing how the two parties most associated with the inspirationist and civic value regimes experience community music practices: the community music practitioner and civil servants.

The regimes and the community music practitioner

Boltanski and Thévenot’s regimes all represent meaningful value orientations for community musicians. The inspirational regime for many community music practitioners functions as their ‘home base’ in the sense that music is defined as art—probably as Art. Many of them have undergone long-lasting musical socialization processes through lifelong and life-wide learning (cf. Smilde, 2009) which are imbued with values connected to the definition of music as first and foremost an Artistic phenomenon. This, (p. 354) in Reckwitzian terms, ‘hegemonic discourse’ of music as art serves as a strong ideology, but also as an inspiration; it is for good reasons that in many descriptions of the work of community practitioners the importance of the artistic urge is stressed (see Renshaw, 2010).

But community music practitioners are not mono-dimensional beings. They combine, by necessity, aspects of value systems of other regimes in their personal practices. One might say that the stress on craftsmanship and on the privacy of the rehearsal space, important values for many musicians, are tied to the domestic regime. Equally important is the regime of fame for community music practitioners. Fame might promote the artistic recognition of musicians, but it might also help the social aims of a project. For example, when a project aims to enhance the regeneration of a derelict city district, this might be helped by the attention the district attracts as a result of the project, which might attract new inhabitants to consider living there. However, early exposure might harm both social and musical outcomes.

The fact that community music practice combines the three regimes of inspirational, domestic, and fame values, draws our attention to a feature which is strong in many community music practitioners: professionalization. The community music practitioner is a specific type of music professional; a professional musician specialized in community music, combining the notions of inspiration and craftsmanship in what might be considered as the ‘quality’ of the music projects which needs to be evaluated by professionals from the world of music itself (cf. Renshaw 2010). This explains why Gielen (2011) speaks of community arts practitioners as a mixed category; artists involved in community arts might be interested in social aims of their projects but nevertheless frequently also seek the approval of the artistic world itself, and the same might count for community musicians. Community music practitioners will differ in the extent to which they seek the approval of representatives of the inspired of Art music in general or they merely seek the approval of other community music practitioners. The latter will see community music as a separate type of musical practice which entails their own standards of quality that might be differentiated from the quality criteria of ‘regular’ music.

However, we do not stop at indicating the relevance of the inspired, domestic, and fame regimes for the community music practitioner. Because many community music practitioners combine inherently musical and extra-musical goals—they combine artistic aims with social interests (De Bruyne, 2011; Gielen, 2011)—and because many of the stakeholders they meet in their practices hold values from the civic regime, this regime is very important to understand community music as a social practice. The social aims of projects (e.g., giving voice to hitherto unrepresented groups, developing skills of participants, and promoting social cohesion) represent values from this world and change the existing ways of thinking (or world views) of participants themselves, but also the image of a derelict neighbourhood. A lot of the stakeholders involved in community music practices are agents who will have civic values in mind—(city) officials, politicians, housing corporations, and social welfare workers; all are professionals involved in solving collective problems. Alignment with values from the civic regime is not always (p. 355) straightforward for community music practitioners; the often lengthy decision-making procedures and the notion of accountability for the spending of public funds can clash with the interests of community musicians who want to quickly initiate a project without elaborate explanations, claiming its value lies in its quality as a community music piece. The tension in community art practices between its (independently perceived) artistic quality and social aims is considered as unrelievable by some actors, but others may feel that a good community musician is able to always combine them. Civic and inspirational values should not be regarded as opposing or mutually exclusive, but as a continuum. Musicians choose to locate themselves between either of the two ends of this scale (cf. De Bruyne, 2011; Gielen, 2011).

For community music practitioners, the market regime is particularly relevant as it is the regime where money talks. Projects may be legitimized based on their economic impact (e.g., raising real estate values of targeted city districts or enhancing the employability of participants by teaching them certain skills). The fact that a community musician receives payment for her or his efforts in itself is a form of proof, which is legitimate in this the market regime, and so is the financial breaking even of a project. Moreover, the market regime sometimes functions as a constraint on creativity and artistry as some ideas may be too expensive to execute. Lack of money can also limit the number of participants to projects or the length of a project. As a result social outcomes may be limited, as only a few people are reached or participants cannot build on their experiences (see the example of the Bernouilli festival where in the end the wrong audience was reached). Hence, the market regime imposes a logic which may feel foreign to the practices of community music practitioners, sometimes making it difficult to find compromises.

For community music practitioners, the industrial regime may not seem to be a particularly relevant world. We argue, however, that the procedural nature of the regime is relevant for community music practitioners; some agents will urge them to develop methods for working in community settings, improving their abilities for devising projects but also measuring their outcomes and providing proof for their social relevance. The industrial regime in that sense might be renamed the ‘procedural regime’, which focuses specifically on working methods and instruments for evaluation. When combining the industrial-procedural regime with the market regime as defined earlier, community music practitioners may be asked to legitimize their projects based on quantifiable outputs rather than inspirational-artistic or civic value outcomes. Procedures can also help the decision-making processes in the civic world, balancing the interests of different stakeholders.

In summary, for community music practitioners, the six regimes we identified are all relevant, but not to the same extent. Community music practitioners ‘occupy’ a natural position between the inspirational and civic regimes. Furthermore, they relate to musical traditions (their training in music) and aspire recognition (either in the musical world itself or as community music practitioners), hence the domestic and fame regimes are relevant to them as well. We would argue that these comprise the primary value regimes that community music practitioners avail themselves of. The procedural nature (p. 356) of the industrial regime can be supportive, as well-devised methods for working in community musical settings help them initiate and organize their projects. Furthermore, they need money to execute the projects, though making money or monetary outcomes of their projects will not be primary aims. As a result, for community music practitioners the market regime has a subsidiary position.

The regimes and the cultural policy official

In the previous section we have shown the importance of different, sometimes competing, or even clashing value orientations for community music practitioners. Community music practitioners work in social situations with many other people: participants in their projects, audiences, politicians, policy officials, representatives of institutions such as hospitals, social welfare organizations, schools, community housing corporations, and so on. For each of them, an analysis could be made of the importance of the various value orientations in their professional as well as personal life. As many community music projects—at least in the Netherlands, the home country of both authors—receive some form of funding from public arts budgets, we will describe the role the various value orientations may play for a cultural policy official concisely.9

Cultural policy officials equally combine the civic and inspirationist regimes. However, their natural position between these two regimes is slanted towards the first, as their job obliges them to put the interest of communities (e.g., the citizens of the municipality they work for) first. In that sense they differ from community music practitioners who can strive for musical goals more freely. In essence cultural policy officials strive for a ‘common good’ and—referring to the views of Vuyk and Vestheim mentioned earlier—this cannot be expressed in artistic terms alone. The artistic (or musical aims) always need to be ‘translated’ to a benefit for the community. As a result, though community music practitioners and cultural policy officials alike may foreground the civic and inspirationist policies, the relative stress they can place on one and the other differs. Furthermore, cultural policy officials depend on the industrial regime as they are supposed to device efficient policy measures and spend public money using effective methods. Also, they need to be experts in decision-making procedures; often public decision-making takes a long time, depending on legally binding arrangements and techniques. It is the job of cultural policy officials to facilitate these decision-making procedures, supplying the data necessary for those in power to decide, and planning which data are necessary. Subsidy criteria and requirements (e.g., on how community music practitioners should report on the outcomes of their projects) are their ‘natural domain’. And lastly, they deal with market values a lot as they hand out public funds, and may be interested in economic outcomes of the projects, such as raising real estate prices and participant employability as a result of skill development. Often, in (p. 357) public decision-making processes, ‘money talks’, and as economic outcomes are easily expressed in numbers, they can be communicated effectively (e.g., Belfiore, 2004).

Cultural policy officials, though they may not be interested in renown themselves, should keep a keen eye on fame values. In order for public decision-making to be effective, projects should raise at least some press attention. Furthermore, it is the politicians who are very interested in such attention, so a professional official will keep the possibilities for photo shoots and public presentations in mind and urge politicians to attend such occasions. Though city officials may personally feel very much attached to certain traditions and styles in music, in general they do not have room to let their own tastes interfere with their work. Hence, the domestic regime is not particularly relevant to them in their professional capacity.

As a result, the value orientations of community music practitioners and cultural policy officials may align to the extent that they both try to integrate inspirational and civic values, and possibilities to align their interests abound. However, as officials will avail of industrial and market values far more than community music practitioners do, their value orientation may feel ‘alien’ to community music practitioners, as it is too formally and economically oriented for their tastes. Likewise, officials may feel community music practitioners are too much focused on their status as artists, their style, and their musical recognition to be effective agents for social change.

A value-oriented perspective on actors involved in community music projects

In describing two of the major stakeholders in community music practices from a cultural policy perspective, we have used the metaphor of ‘alien’ or foreignness to a large extent. This might indicate that their respective positions could be represented on a map. This is exactly our view. Figure 18.1 represents a two-dimensional map of the value orientations of stakeholders in community art practices. In constructing this map, we have taken two inherent dimensions of such practices as the guiding principles. First and foremost, we plot the distinction between musical interests, or art/inspirational values, and the social objectives of these (i.e., civic values), as the north-to-south axis of the map. This is a central axis along which all stakeholders will navigate as a combination of both is always present. Plotting them against each other thus does not represent an opposition, but should be read as a gradient scale. Some stakeholders will orient themselves more to the north, others more to the south of the map.

The second dimensions according to which we plot the values on the map is represented by the publicness or privateness of the activities: to the west of the I-C axis we place those value regimes which are ‘internally’ oriented, the domestic and industrial (procedural) value regimes. The western hemisphere of our map represents the privacy (p. 358) of the rehearsal rooms, the intimacy of discussions between participants, musicians, and officials, and the drawing up of project plans, methods and descriptions of outcomes (community music practitioners), and documents, policy briefs, and evaluations of projects based on outcome reports (officials). On the other end of this axis, the eastern hemisphere represents the public presentation of the results of community music projects: the concerts performed for audiences, press releases, and presentations. But also the presentations to possible funders, or sale of products and/or marketing to audiences have such a public nature. The east-west axis of our map thus represents the tension between process-oriented and presentation-oriented values: on the western side we find the domestic and industrial values, on the eastern side the fame and market values.

Community Music in Cultural Policy

Figure 18.1 Map of community music practices with ‘natural positions of community musicians and cultural policy officials indicated.

The value regimes are indicated with a letter: I—inspiration, F—fame, M—market, C—civic, U—industrial, D—domestic.

In the map the ‘natural’ habitat of the community music practitioners and cultural policy officials are indicated by two ‘diamond’ shapes. While the diamond shape of the community music practitioners is slanted to the north of the map, the shape of the officials represents a rectangle, slanted towards the south. Note that the shapes do not indicate absolute limits, borders that both parties will never cross. They do avail each party of the other value regimes, and only their most dominant positions are represented in the map.

(p. 359)

Now it is also possible to position the other stakeholders in community music practices relative to the positions of the practitioners and the officials.

First, the position of the participants and audiences in community music practices. They both represent a position in the middle between social and musical orientation; they may have social objectives in mind but they are somehow interested in music, otherwise they would not participate or attend. As a result, on the map they have a position near the equator (but more southern than the community music practitioners). Obviously, participants can be found towards the process-oriented side and audiences on the product-oriented side. Both types of stakeholders seem to fit ‘in’ the natural habitat of community music practitioners and are very relevant to the habitat of officials as well.

Second, we should discuss the (art) music critics. They represent a position between the inspired and fame regimes as they compromise both types of values; they aid community musicians in earning recognition as professionals. Note that the critics and the community music practitioners are the only professionals that inhabit the northern part of our map. All other professionals have positions south of the equator. As a result, we can conclude that these are the only professional stakeholders involved who might give art-oriented values full presidency.

Third, we discuss the position of the other professionals that community music practitioners will encounter. They all are slanted towards the social values (i.e., the southern part of the map). Their position can most easily be explained relative to the habitat of the cultural policy officials. Politicians, particularly, will be interested in fame and market values and less interested in procedures, slanting their position to the northeast of the ‘blue habitat’. Representatives of housing corporations will be oriented towards the east of the ‘blue habitat’ as they will be particularly interested in the economic value of their property, slanting them towards market values, but less towards publicity than politicians. On the opposite side we find the welfare officials; they may see community music practices as a viable alternative method to work with their clients. So, their habitat will be slanted towards the process side of the map (i.e., southwest).

Conclusion: Community music as a social practice navigating different values

We hope to have shown in this chapter how community music practitioners, as well as cultural policy officers, function in essentially heterogeneous sites. These sites may be fruitfully described from the standpoint of Boltanski and Thévenot’s six value ‘regimes’; value regimes which, when combined, may lead to tensions (‘critiques’) as well as to possible fruitful combinations (‘compromises’). On the basis of such a description, a visual (p. 360) depiction of the field of community music practices was given in which community music practitioners, culture policy officials, and various other stakeholders were placed. The resulting ‘map’ makes clear that community music practices always involve a combination of various value regimes, but the specific roles of those involved in these practices will provide each of them with a ‘natural’ habitat from which they may operate. Understanding these different positions may be helpful to plan, execute, and evaluate such projects, or understand why those involved evaluate projects (and project proposals) differently.

For community music practitioners as well as for cultural policy officers, we hope our exercise has shown that working as a community music practitioner within a culture policy setting is not an impossibility (as practice of course continuously shows), nor is it a question of combining two intrinsically differing or even inherently opposite exclusive fields. Rather, it is a matter of moving around in a heterogeneous and ‘messy’ field (an ‘overlapping zone of overlapping zones’) in which ‘shared and contested ways of doing and saying’ may be negotiated from the perspective of the underlying value regimes.

Therefore, it may be worthwhile for community music practitioners to be continuously on the lookout for opportunities to share ideas with policymakers (e.g., cultural policymakers). On the other hand, in order to make a fruitful connection with the world of community music, it is necessary to take some distance from the ‘autonomous’ criteria of the arts world, and to look for an overlapping zone not exclusively with the formal ‘art world’, but also with other worlds in which the arts—including music—function with a looser tie to the original art world ideas. At the same time, it remains important to realize that community musicians are never completely discarded from their arts backgrounds; much of their inspiration comes from a deep personal feeling of fulfillment which music gives them, and tapping in to those inspirational forces is a powerful way to bind excellent practitioners to cultural policy.

Reflective questions


  1. 1. Could you mention an example of a successful community music project and an example of a less successful community music project, and then analyse its success in terms of the ‘compromises of values’ as indicated in Table 18.2?

  2. 2. Could you rank the importance of the six ‘regimes’ as explained in this chapter for your own professional practice, and explain your ranking?

  3. 3. Could you place three recent community music projects that you are familiar with in Figure 18.1, and then elaborate on the role various actors played in those projects in terms of their orientation (on art or the social, and on process or product)?

Suggested reading

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Vestheim, G. (2007). Theoretical reflections. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 13(2), 217–236.Find this resource:

Vestheim, G. (2012), Cultural policy-making: Negotiations in an overlapping zone between culture, politics, and money. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 18(5), 530–544.Find this resource:

Vuyk, K. (2010). The arts an instrument? Notes on the controversy surrounding the value of art. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 16(2), 173–183.Find this resource:


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Boltanski, L., & Thévenot, L. (2006 [1991]). On Justification: Economies of Worth. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Find this resource:

Boltanski, L., & Chiapello, E. (2005 [1999]). The New Spirit of Capitalism. London/New York: Verso.Find this resource:

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Twaalfhoven, M. (2009) Kunst in de wereld [Art in the World]. Arnhem: Artez Press.Find this resource:

Van den Hoogen, Q. L., & Van Maanen, H. (2011). Through Zina’s eyes. In P. De Bruyne & P. J. D. Gielen (Eds.), Community Arts, The Politics of Trespassing (pp. 75–90). Amsterdam: Valiz.Find this resource:

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(1.) In fact, in a Dutch booklet on his working methods, Twaalfhoven actually advises other artists who work ‘in the community’—as he puts it—to actively seek out publicity. Get famous, he says, as it will help your project, the participants in it, and those who fund your work (Twaalfhoven, 2009).

(2.) In the introduction to this volume Bartleet and Higgins raise the issue whether the ‘interventionist’ nature of community music still is a viable aspect to describe or define this kind of activities. Our perspective would be that different types of agents in community music practices will position themselves somewhere in this continuum, those stressing extra-musical goals will be more inclined to see community music as an intervention, those focussing on musical objectives, might not see this as a relevant aspect.

(3.) Here the space lacks to give an extensive overview of the types of legitimizations of cultural policies and the conflicts which a combination of different policy objectives entails. In cultural policy research this is usually referred to as the difference between intrinsic and instrumental (or extrinsic) goals, see for example, Belfiore & Bennet 2008; Gray 2007; Van Maanen, 2009. In cultural policy research the inclusion of extrinsic policy aims is contested although some, in our view correctly, claim that cultural policies necessarily imply a compromise between artistic (i.e., intrinsic) and social (i.e., instrumental) goals (Vestheim, 2012) or even claim that all cultural policies are instrumental, even astutely intrinsic policies (Vuyk, 2010).

(4.) The description of the worlds will be based on On Justification by Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot (2006). It presents the original grid of six regimes. For the sake of readability this work will not be referenced in the coming section. Some publications have introduced other value regimes (e.g., Boltanski & Chiapello, 2005; Thévenot, Moody & Lafaye, 2000), but these frequently combine characteristics of the six original regimes (Van Winkel, Gielen & Zwaan, 2012). Therefore including more than six regimes would not enhance clarity of our argument.

(5.) The authors would like to thank Francine Nijp for her contribution to the development of the ‘grid of values’ for community music.

(6.) Please note that in Boltanski and Thévenot’s (2005) value regimes ‘the market’ or ‘the economy’ cannot be equated with the market world alone. The current economy has traits of at least three of their value regimes: market (competition), industry (efficiency), and project city (the post-Fordist project-based nature of work).

(8.) It would seem that these are weak compromises as livability and the skills of participants are not valued in and of themselves but for the economic benefits they might yield. In other words, the compromise here is eschewed towards the market world.

(7.) It is important to realize that the word ‘peer’ can be understood in two ways. One can earn recognition by fellow community musicians but also by musicians in general (i.e., being recognized in the world of music or art).

(9.) This does not discredit the use of the map produced in this chapter for less publicly funded settings, such as the United Kingdom or the United States. Usually, in these countries private donorship takes on the civic intentions of public authorities. Civically minded (art) funds in the United States may exhibit comparable value orientations to the cultural policy official as represented in this chapter.