Lewis Kennedy (Independent Scholar, UK)
YouTube offers unmatched variety for those seeking to experience music artefacts in the early twenty-first century. Alongside the range and scale of music accessible (much of it uploaded without the copyright holder’s permission), the platform affords various methods of presentation: music videos, pro- and amateur-shot live footage, audio over a fixed-image, and fan-made compilations (to name only a few). In a phenomenon seemingly native to YouTube, users upload videos of themselves watching other videos while reacting in real-time, often proffering commentary or critique and inviting viewers to do the same in the comment section. These ‘reaction videos’ position music within a discourse between reactor and musical artefact, reactor and viewer(s), as well as between viewer and musical artefact. As such, reaction videos provide a site for the accrual, demonstration, and exchange of distinct forms of mundane subcultural capital (Thornton 1995; Kahn-Harris 2007).
Dave’s single ‘Streatham’ (Psychodrama, 2019) discusses the British rapper’s upbringing in the titular district, complete with multiple references and allusions to South London. Despite or perhaps because of its London-centric content, the song’s music video has become a frequent subject for a sub-set of reaction videos in which Americans react to British hip-hop. With reactors commonly confessing a lack of prior knowledge about the artist, such videos allow reactors to demonstrate their level of general subcultural capital (knowledge of rap) while simultaneously allowing commenters to demonstrate their level of specific subcultural capital (knowledge of the artist and city). Building upon research on British rap (Bramwell 2015; Adams 2019) and media intertextuality (Vernallis 2013), this paper uses ‘Streatham’ as a case study of the various forms of subcultural capital exchange afforded by reaction videos. The paper seeks to investigate further the nature of capital in online fandom and the experience of music artefacts in the twenty-first century.