Gatekeeper search and selection strategies: Relational and network governance in a cultural market

Pacey Foster, Stephen P. Borgatti, Candace Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


Gatekeepers play a critical role in determining what creative products eventually reach audiences. Although they have been discussed in the literature on cultural production, they have rarely been studied systematically. In particular, we know little about how gatekeepers use their social networks to manage search and selection processes in markets characterized by excess supply, demand uncertainty, and shifting and socially defined evaluation criteria. In this article, we present the results of a study of nightclub talent buyers in Boston, MA who act as gatekeepers by selecting bands to perform at their clubs. Using social network and cultural domain analysis, we show that search strategies and social networks vary across culturally defined market niches for local rock bands. In a market niche featuring bands playing original music, gatekeepers maintain arm's length relations with many bands but are embedded in dense information sharing networks with each other. In contrast, in a market niche containing bands playing familiar popular tunes (" covers"), gatekeepers maintain close ties with a small number of bands but have arm's length relations with each other. We explain these findings using theories of relational and network governance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-265
Number of pages19
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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