This project analyzes the relationship between gift exchange and music consumption. Relationships in gift exchange are characterized through increasing rates of cyclical reciprocation over time. By actively participating in the gift exchange of music, preferences of music are believed to increase over time. The literature explores a wide variety of gift interpretations, incentives for active reciprocation, and how the inherently subjective value of music impacts willingness to pay. When juxtaposing social and economic theory, it is found that through the inclusion of social welfare, contrary to economic rationality, heightens levels of optimization. When the gift is understood as an economic incentive of pro-social behavior, the social context of the gift is what determines behavior and not the gift itself. Data were collected by distributing surveys to College of Wooster students asking them of their musical preferences respond to different contexts of music consumption. Although the effect of the gift could not be proved as a statistically significant indicator in changing behavior and welfare, qualitative analysis of written responses in the survey proved the effect of the theories for a limited population. This research could have been improved by considering the musical gift exchange in consumer-to-consumer relationships as opposed to this study’s focus on the artist-to-consumer relationship.


Mellizo, Philip

Second Advisor

Tierney, Tom


Economics; Sociology and Anthropology

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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