HOWLETT, MIKE (Queensland University of Technology)
GRAHAM, PHIL (Queensland University of Technology)
Creating new music ecologies: QUT’s 100 Songs Project
[abstract] The 100 Songs Project is a massive action research experiment conducted by QUT Music & Sound researchers structured around an annual event during which 100 Songs are recorded in 100 hours at the University’s studios. As a research project, the event is designed to achieve a number of scholarly and applied outcomes. Its overarching aim is to help identify and promote new ways in which musicians can build sustainable careers. More particularly, it aims to: create a living annual document of new and emerging music in South-East Queensland; identify and understand new trends and strategies in the production, distribution, and sale of recorded music; generate understandings about how digital networks are affecting the way audiences connect with new music; and gather and analyse data about the lives and circumstances of local musicians.
100 Songs is also an exceptional teaching context for production students. It involves hundreds of musicians from an unpredictable range of styles and genres; dozens of students studying in music, film, and entertainment degrees; and some of Australia’s most experienced producers working to intense deadlines in 72 four-hour sessions over 6 days. The pedagogical value for production students working as assistants for the event is immeasurable. The event is also at the centre of a new Master of Fine Arts degree beginning in February 2013. This paper reports findings from the first two years of the project and suggests new directions for blending research and teaching that have become evident in the conduct of this unique project.
Today, Mike is presenting his data as a work in progress, and looking for links with other academics and projects. He outlines the project (see abstract above) and describes its scale numerically. Each room is fitted with a backline and runs from 10am to 2am daily. So 3 studios x 4 sessions per studio = 72 sessions. 28 sessions must produce 2 songs. See website.
Mike shows us the online data (and metadata) for typical songs, and describes how audio is auditioned and voted upon, whereafter 100+ mixes are sent to the industry partners.
We now see the CD ‘best of 100 songs project’ and he acknowledges that few of the mixes came out of the actual 4-hour sessions [I infer that he means additional post-production takes place]. The CD is distributed through MGM, Australia’s largest independent distributor. Band participants are surveyed for research purposes (usually during the waiting period for a session). Demographic data is collected across three years’ worth of project iterations 2011-13 (so, for example, gender balance can be observed over time). Mike dwells on these data and describes its value (for example, for grant applications).
Mike notes that the outputs of the projects are social and cultural – the albums are living documents, giving research access to a demographically diverse and elusive social group. He also notes the extremely high spec of the studios. The project’s many other benefits are listed, and Mike next focuses on the pedagogical outputs – for example, putting real-world high-pressure engagement for students. This has resulted in a move away from ‘instructional’ learning towards an intensive recording-based tutorial model. There is an element of social learning to the experience that goes beyond technical or musical outcomes. The project has given birth to the miniaturised “10 songs” project which runs with 2nd years (the larger one is with 3rd years) on the Performance and Production module. He suggests that the strict time limitations are one of the major benefits of the project. Students learn production practice – approaches, decision making, the tracking/mixing time balance. Mike notes that each 4 hour session is a microcosm of a real world professional recording project.
He concludes with a call for international collaboration, noting that the project’s methods would be easily transferable to similar events elsewhere, given the flexibility of the format.
Audio available at http://100songsproject.bandcamp.com/