cover_PlayingToTheCrowd Baym, N. K. (2018) Playing to the Crowd: Musicians, Audiences, and the Intimate Work of Connection. New York University Press.

Read the introduction posted here or the chapter about how fans created online culture reprinted in full in WIRED.

Listen to the soundtrack of musicians I interviewed and discuss on Spotify and read about how I chose the selections here.

Read an interview with me about the book and some of its implications in Forbes.

Prefer to learn about the book in German? Great not! You can read and listen (auf Deutsch) to an interview with me from Deutschlandfunk Kultur too.

Early praise:

"Nancy K. Baym’s Playing to the Crowd is a major advance in our understanding of new media, music and audiences. Through careful ethnographic and historical work, Baym offers a definitive reception history of popular music as it went online. She also offers a transformative theory of music in the age of social media. Methodologically rich, beautifully written, and full of great storytelling, Playing to the Crowd explains the novel aspects of our emergent online environment, all while linking it to music as a cultural practice that transcends any one context, and insisting that we understand online relationships as fundamentally human relationships. It will change the way you think about music, technology and people." — Jonathan Sterne, author of MP3: The Meaning of a Format

"Nancy K. Baym was researching the impact of emerging technologies and music when most of us did not have the foresight to anticipate the changing music landscape. This is not her first pioneering work, and it certainly won't be her last, but it is, as always, fun and intriguing. An innovative wordsmith and an engaging storyteller, Baym explains how musicians transition from technologies designed to render them remote deities to those that invite them to be irrevocably intimate. Her observations carry weight and her interpretations are timely and timeless. She is a sharp researcher with a curious mind—the type that unfailingly seduces, educates and inspires you with their writing." —Zizi Papacharissi, University of Illinois at Chicago

“Baym presents an historical and timely narrative of how this "relational labor" has changed with advancements in digital media and communication, featuring multiple firsthand interviews and case studies with artists as far-ranging as R.E.M., Amanda Palmer, Richie Hawtin, Zoë Keating and Billy Bragg. Importantly, all of these artists have vastly different business models, levels of tech-savviness and philosophies around fan communication, driving home one of Baym's core arguments that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to nailing fan engagement in the digital age. […] The diversity of tech strategies that artists have adopted in service of stronger emotional and commercial relations can serve as a valuable lesson for anyone in any industry trying to navigate the fast-paced world of social media and the complexities of the gig economy.” - Forbes

"Baym's enthusiasm and experience makes this academic study accessible to professional musicians as well as musicology and communication scholars." —Library Journal


Second Edition!

personalconnections2cover Baym, N. K. (2015) Personal Connections in the Digital Age, Second Edition. Polity Press. Counter the oversimplified versions you hear in the media with this one-stop-shop for everything you wanted to know about digital technologies in interpersonal relationships. Nice things people have said about this edition:

“New communications technologies are always hyped by some people and denounced by others. Nancy Baym’s brilliant book explodes myths and challenges stereotypes. Her clear-sighted and penetrating analysis provides the mental toolkit needed to reach a more nuanced view of the social impact of digital media.” — Tom Standage, Digital Editor, The Economist

“In this lucid yet learned book, Nancy Baym covers a breadth of analysis on whether and how the internet and mobile communication are reconfiguring our identities and personal relationships. While recognising the many continuities in our social life from offline to online, she also notes some signs of optimism, showing how we may yet build new, perhaps better, personal connections in the digital age.” — Sonia Livingstone, London School of Economics and Political Science

"@nancybaym really knows her stuff regarding mediated sociality." - Howard Rheingold

First edition can be mostly previewed here.


Markham, A. & Baym, N. (2010) Internet Inquiry: Conversations about Method. Sage Publications. In which qualitative internet researchers explain how they’ve handled key methodological questions in their work. You can read three reviews here, here, and here. They like it! Sample the first three chapters and buy.


Consalvo, M., Baym, N. K., Hunsinger, J., Jensen, K. B,. Logie, J., Murero, M., & Shade, L.R (Eds.). (2004) Internet Research Annual, Volume I. Peter Lang. A collection of best papers from the first three conferences of the Association of Internet Researchers.


Baym, N. K. (2000). Tune In, Log On: Soaps, Fandom, and Online Community. Sage Publications, Inc. Click here for two reviews (with a response by me — scroll on down to April 2001). This book pulls together my ethnographic work on online community and online fandom in the 1990s. It still serves as a useful rejoinder to the idea that everything online is always new. The basic dynamics were well in place long before there was a World Wide Web.