Harkive 2022…the same, but different

Some additional info on Harkive 2022, and why it’ll be slightly different from now on.

Harkive was initially devised as the final project for my MA Music Industries degree, and it ran for the first time in 2013. Almost immediately, the project took off. #harkive became a trending topic; thousands of people told their stories; the project was featured in media outlets across the world (even appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme!); and my MA turned into a PhD, and then into a research career.

Over the years since 2013, Harkive continued to run on single days in July and – such was the volume and complexity of the response to it – I had to teach myself how to code and use machine learning algorithms to make sense of it all.

Each year, many of the same people would return to the project, enthusiastically promoting it and getting others involved. Each July, the stories continued to come in from all over the world. Some were funny, some were sad, but all of them detailed how intrinsic and special music is to our everyday lives. What a lovely thing!

Then something changed. Like many people, the period of COVID lockdowns from March 2020 onwards led to a period of reflection. Although I enjoyed being an academic hugely, there were elements of that life that were not making me happy, and ultimately I decided that it was time for a change. In December 2021, I left my position at Birmingham City University and took a role outside of academia.

This had a couple of important consequences for Harkive. In the main, the project lost its associated research process – and with that the assurances I could previously give contributors how the data I gathered would be used. An additional consequence was time, given that I now have a full-time role not focussed on media research. Taken together, these changes in my personal circumstances meant that I could no longer continue to run the annual Harkive days (and all that goes with them) in the same way as I had done previously.

However, I was also aware that Harkive had over the years become something of an annual event for a small group of people who enjoy talking about music with others on public, online platforms. It seemed to me that it would be a shame if it simply stopped because I was no longer an academic.

So, I started to think of ways it could continue.

Because of the longitudinal element I baked into a project at inception – it runs on a single day each year – it was important to me that we didn’t ‘skip’ a year. That would create a hole in the data that would never be filled, and one of the coolest things about Harkive (in my opinion) is that it has grown into a fairly unique snapshot of music listening over the last decade. Again, it would be a shame if that stopped simply because I decided to change careers!

Another important thing was that I wanted to leave open the possibility of Harkive continuing as ‘academic research’ at some point in the future. To that end, I have had some discussions with a number of academic colleagues about the possibility of them taking it on as a project in future. Unfortunately, time has run away with me and I’ve not been able to get something in place for 2022. But, again, there can’t really be a hole where 2022 should be, because that would spoil things somewhat, particularly since this year marks the 10th annual instance of the project.

For all of those reasons, then, Harkive will run again this year. It’ll just be a bit….different.

It will be low-key, certainly, and my new role means that the ‘shop’ isn’t going to be manned during the day itself. There isn’t really a planned output beyond continuity. It’ll just happen, and we’ll see what happens!

It may return as ‘proper’ academic research at some point in the future, or it may just continue as its own, online ‘thing’ – a nice, annual curio. A social media distraction where we get together and talk about music together. All of that will come out in the wash in time.

As far as you, the regular contributors, I concerned, I guess you just do what you normally do – tell your stories, including the #harkive hashtag, and enjoy the day. Hopefully you’ll find a new artist, album or song that you love. Hopefully you’ll have fun. And hopefully, the sun will shine like it always seems to do.

Happy Harkiving on Tuesday 19th July.


Dr Craig Hamilton
Dr Craig Hamilton

My research interests include popular music, digital humanities and online cultures.