Ethnography in Western Popular Music Research Revisited

A Case Study and/as a Critique


  • David Verbuč Charles University



methodology, ethnography of Western popular music, American DIY scenes, DIY house concerts, decolonization


In this article, I focus on ethnomusicological and popular music studies’ examinations of Western popular music cultures, and provide a critique of some of their methods. Further, my main aim is not to propose a new method, but to suggest a re-emphasis of some of the fundamental ethnographic approaches in studying Western popular music cultures. These include participatory observation, grounded ethnography, materialism, thick description, and cultural relativism. To substantiate these arguments, I examine my own ethnographic research of American DIY (“do-it-yourself”) venues and scenes as an example of a participatory research of living and touring with DIY participants and studying their everyday lives. I recount my fieldwork methods and experiences and demonstrate how the focus on non-musical and private aspects of American DIY music cultures can produce a better understanding of their musical and public sides. Finally, I also argue how the proposed methodological re-evaluation can help to decolonize music studies.

Author Biography

David Verbuč, Charles University

David Verbuč earned his PhD in ethnomusicology at the University of California, Davis, in 2014. Since 2014 he has worked as an assistant professor at the Faculty of Humanities, Charles University in Prague, where he teaches sociocultural anthropology, ethnomusicology, and popular music courses. He is author of the book DIY House Shows and Music Venues in the US: Ethnographic Explorations of Place and Community (Routledge, 2021).


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How to Cite

Verbuč, D. . (2021). Ethnography in Western Popular Music Research Revisited: A Case Study and/as a Critique. Journal of World Popular Music, 8(2), 207–235.