Symbolic capital describes the value derived from being known and recognised—a concept synonymous with standing, good name, honour, fame, prestige and reputation. Symbolic capital need not necessarily be confined to the elite domain—there is a limited form of symbolic capital observable in all hierarchies. In the live music context, symbolic capital can attach to regions, cities, venues and performers.
Melbourne, for example, has an actively self-promoted reputation for being the live music ‘Capital’ of Australia due to its multitude of venues, its calibre and concentration of local acts, and its history and legacy of producing world-class artists and musicians (Homan, 2011; Lobato, 2006; Shaw, 2005, 2009, 2013; Walker, 2012). It is argued that such place-based symbolic capital encourages migration of consumers and producers, as the appeal of Melbourne’s vibrant live music scene draws creative individuals and music lovers from other regional and urban centres.
Artists, too, enjoy and exploit their own form of symbolic capital. Australian musicians like Nick Cave and Paul Kelly have inspired not just musicians, but many other creative individuals such as writers, filmmakers and documentarians (Walker, 2012). Bruce Springsteen and Bono have been the focal point of both inspiration and aspiration for musicians and politicians alike. In addition, one cannot ignore the well documented (at least anecdotally) phenomenon of ‘groupies’ (Darwin, 2010; Howe & Friedman, 2014; Passanisi, 2010) —unique evidence of the existence and potential of symbolic capital in live music cultures.