Singing wives and oligarch patrons: Sounding out the wealth of Russian elites through popular music
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionJournal of Extreme Anthropology. 2023, 6 (2), 63-83. https://doi.org/10.5617/jea.9853
Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork on Swedo-Russian musical collaborations, this article explores the link between popular music and the conspicuous consumption of Russia’s wealthy elite. Presenting two specific cases, one following a Russian millionaire’s wife’s efforts to become a pop star and the other exploring a wealthy Russian’s pursuit of patronage for emerging pop artists, the article describes how popular music became a means for Russia’s rich elite not only to show off their wealth and luxurious lifestyles but also to exchange monetary means for other forms of (cultural) capital, such as fame, coolness, and associations with a Western lifestyle. Furthermore, the article situates this elite dynamic in relation to specific Russian historical trajectories, and the ways in which the influence of the economic elite within the Russian music industry creates an unlevelled playing field for professionals trying to make a living from making popular music.