Traditional music and cultural sustainability in Scotland

Simon McKerrell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter examines how we might model sustainability in Scottish traditional music. Since the 1980s the growth in the marketisation of traditional music has brought increased revenues and new models of financial exchange and support for artists. Examining a series of three short case studies of (1) the sole trader, (2) the online teacher and (3) the institution, using real world ethnography, this chapter interrogates how these operate in the Scottish context. In relating these developments to the wider, international ethnomusicology of the commercialisation and heritagisation of traditional music as Intangible Cultural Heritage, it concludes that in the Scottish context and elsewhere in developed nations such as the UK that have not signed up to the 2003 UNESCO Convention on ICH, that arts and heritage policy for traditional music should avoid the rights-based discourse that are increasingly under attack in late modern capitalism. And moreover, that models of sustainability should embrace the commercial economic exchange value of traditional music alongside its social, cultural and heritage exchange values, to produce a more useful and realistic means of supporting and developing traditional music that acknowledges the co-existence of commercial and community-based musical practice.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnderstanding Scotland Musically: Folk, Tradition and Policy
EditorsSimon McKerrell, Gary West
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781315467573
ISBN (Print)9781138205222
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018


  • Scottish traditional music
  • cultural sustainability
  • cultural Heritage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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