Koos Zwaan, Sabine de Lat and Mark van Everdinck: Inholland University of Applied Sciences (presenter: Koos Zwaan)
Digital natives in the music industry? How the Internet ecosystem is creating value for artists
ABSTRACT: We will report findings from a large scale online research project looking at the value of online income streams for Dutch pop musicians. We have performed an analysis of the online activities of a diverse group of about 1100 Dutch artists, stretching the entire scope of popular music genres. By using cluster analysis we have identified a number of different archetypical artist strategies for using online possibilities for marketing, promotion and interaction with the audience. These quantitative findings have been enriched by doing interviews with a number of artist managers of artists who can be identified in one of these artist clusters. From our analysis we can conclude that different types of artists have strategic reasons for choosing a specific type of online strategy. Both theoretical and practical implications of this study will be discussed.
“I’m always up for trying something. And I tried [Spotify] and I didn’t like the way it felt. I think there should be an inherent value placed on art. I didn’t see that happening, perception-wise, when I put my music on Spotify.” Taylor Swift, 2014
How to find out more about the 19th-century music business in the UK
ABSTRACT: Technological advances in music distribution have radically changed business and audience practices and the way music itself is made by musicians. However, these technological developments affect not only music being made and sold today. Modern technological advances have made sources like historical newspapers and genealogical records more accessible, allowing researchers the opportunity to begin to reconstruct musical lives and musical worlds beyond the 20th century, including ones that predate recorded sound. This paper uses sources like the British Library’s 19th century newspaper archive, the British Newspaper Archive, Ancestry and Digimaps historic maps, to reconstruct one British music hall performer’s, Vesta Tilley’s, touring schedule across five decades – 1870s to the 1910s – in order to show what a music industry structured around live performance, rather than record production, looked like. The data allows an extensive view into Vesta’s working and touring life: how often she was on tour, how far she went, and how her work patterns changed from childhood to adulthood to retirement, and how her repertoire interacted with these developments. In brief, without an album release schedule it was relentless. Furthermore, the data illustrates how a large number of independent venues gradually gave way to a series of syndicates (Moss, Stoll, De Frece, and others), changing the shape of the tour, providing us a view of the birth of the equivalent of the 21st century Academy circuit in the UK: the evolution of the business of entertainment up to the earliest days of sound recording.
Nancy starts by outlining that her research, though historical, is nonetheless digitally powered, and that the 19th century music industry might have much to tell us about how later music industry models evolved.
Beatriz A. Medeiros and Natalia Dias: Universidade Federal Fluminense
Crowdfunding is not for everybody: Performance in the Art of Asking
ABSTRACT: This paper had as main goal to understand the importance of performance inside a process of crowdfunding, from the video produced by the independent musician Amanda Palmer, for the platform Kickstarter, to promote the project for launching her album, Theater is Evil. One of Kickstarter’s main requirements are audiovisual productions that assist in the dissemination of artists and their projects. Such videos seem to be the leading engagement products to attract “backers”. However, the hypothesis is that this is not the ultimate persuasion of this model. Resorting to Reception Studies as methodological basis and using internet ethnographic as inspiration, comments relating the video of Palmer’s project, present at the Youtube and Kickstarter platforms, were analyzed. Thus, it was possible to observe that not only the audiovisual performance is important to move “backers”, but also there’s a need of previous knowledge of the artist by these financers.
[Beatriz presents this jointly-authored paper on behalf of both authors].
The research subject is Amanda Palmer, a US-based independent artist who started her career in a piano/drums punk duo (signed to Roadrunner until 2011) and is now a solo independent artist. Her first album ‘Theatre is Evil” was crowdfunded via Kickstarter and later Patreon; Beatriz shows us a screenshot of the funding page, which shows pledges of $1,192,793 against a target of $100,000.
Andrzej Mądro: Academy of Music in Kraków (Poland)
From Psychedelia to Djent – Progressive Genres as a Paradox of Pop Culture
ABSTRACT: Progressive rock has, as a popular music genre from the very beginning, separated itself from pop culture extensively. It wanted to be the elite, the modern, and the innovative in new forms of art. Ideas of “art rock” do not expire and with time gave rise to the new, transgressive trends: neo-progressive in the 80s, progressive metal and mathcore in the 90s, and, recently, djent. At the expense of greater commercial success, many bands still cut off from the rock-metal mainstream and operate independently, incessantly exceeding stylistic and aesthetical boundaries. Moreover, poetics of their music often reveals a tension between elitism and egalitarianism, intellect and corporeality, individuality and conventions. During the last few decades also classical music crossed the limits of the traditional, even modernistic aesthetics. So if nowadays we consider music that is minimal, electronic, neoromantic or other postmodern trends as “classical”, how should we regard progressive genres? Can they be seen as synthesis of two worlds: classical and rock, or are they being created a thick frontier between art and pop culture? Who is to say whether rock opera should be interpreted as a cluster of songs or as a musical drama?
Narrating Popular Music: The state of the live music ecology
ABSTRACT: This paper introduces the political and industrial context of the Great British Live Music Census. It builds on the theorization of live music in cities as an ‘ecology’, which has informed the development of the census project, and looks specifically at the role of the state (local and national) in shaping the musical lives of cities and their inhabitants. Whilst music is often deployed as part of city branding exercises, and used to drive trade, tourism and regeneration, venues and musicians are often at the sharp end of such changes. With policy formed with the benefit of the wider economy and populace in mind, musicians and music businesses attempt to carve out a space in the regulatory process to protect and sustain their activities. This paper examines the dynamic between grassroots music activity, the larger commercial operators and policy bodies that has both informed the census and been a feature of the ecology that the project team has had to negotiate. It discusses the political decisions, the responses of musicians and music industry personnel, and the space for academics within this equation.
Chris Anderton – Southampton Solent University (UK)
Just for the fun of it? Contemporary Strategies for Making, Distributing and Gifting Music
ABSTRACT: Technological developments in home recording and internet distribution mean that it is now easier than ever before for musicians both to create music and to distribute it to the public for a relatively minimal financial outlay. The traditional economic relations and structures of the recording and copyright industries may largely be bypassed through processes of disintermediation, and musicians have much greater control over their own recorded works than is typically afforded by the commercial recording companies. Many musicians have adopted alternative strategies for making their music available to the public, and it is one broad subset of these musicians that this paper will focus on. These musicians make their music available for free download/streaming through sites such as Bandcamp, Free Music Archive and the Internet Archive, or directly through their own websites. In some cases, the music is released through collective Netlabels and Creative Commons licences, while at other times, copyright is retained and the music is made available on a ‘name your price’ basis with no minimum amount specified. This article will use Jacques Attali’s notion of the ‘Age of Composition’ as a starting point for considering the strategies of these musicians and their relationships with traditional models of music making and distribution.
Chris opens with a description of the opportunities afforded in recent years to independent artists by internet-based distribution technologies. Our first example is Mery Ann (Spain), the artist name for Maria Aguilar, the co-owner of Zodiac Musick, a now-defunct netlabel that was in existence between 2003 and around 2015. Mery Ann’s work is retro 80s synth electronica [my reference points are vaguely Tangerine Dream and Georgio Moroder]. Chris reads an excerpt from the label’s radical mission statement:
The problem of Latin-American popular music: an analysis of “Paraguay Purahei” album (2014)
ABSTRACT: This paper aims to discuss the problem of modernization of popular Latin American music genres from the analysis of “Paraguay Purahei” (2014), the first CD released by the eponymous trio. The theoretical framework that defines the approach belongs to the field of sociology of music, specifically the branch that takes the sound-musical materiality as an essential dimension of social analysis. As part of a broader research on the problem of modernization in popular musics of Latin-America, this proposal focuses on the analysis of the phonograms that constitute the CD mentioned above whereby the effort to understand the meaning of the “modernizing action” is established. This action configures itself in the intertwining of the choice of repertoire, composed exclusively by referential pieces of the traditional repertoire of Paraguay’s popular music, with the compositional-performative procedures used in the treatment of the traditional material. Understanding the meaning of this action implies the identification of idiomatic elements that link the chosen pieces to the traditional repertoire, the types of procedures used in redesigning this traditional material, and the interpretation of how these are interlaced.
Presenter: Dirk Stederoth – Universität Kassel, Institut für Philosophie
ABSTRACT: The presentation focuses on the question of whether there are criteria for measuring the quality of a pop song that go beyond the scope of a mere musical structural analysis. As many examples demonstrate, such structural analysis, which, according the criteria thereof, is derived from the aesthetic study of classical art music, offers rather unsatisfactory results when applied to pop music. In addition, it is questionable whether harmonic or rhythmic complexity, for example, is even a suitable criterion for the analysis of pop music. Against the background of this problematic situation, the presentation proposes an approach based on musical aesthetics, which assumes a fundamental tension between ideational musical structures and their categories (tonality, rhythmicity/the study of meter and composition) as well as the realization of music. The thesis of this approach proposes that pop music can not so much be considered from the structural perspective of this debate but instead from the perspective of realization. However, studying pop music for the perspective of realization requires comparable categories. These categories in the presentation at hand are sound, groove and performance. After this approach has been presented, I will also apply these categories of realization by means of a comparative analysis of the two versions of the pop song “Blame It on the Boogie” by Mick Jackson and The Jackson Five in order to establish the heuristic value of these categories.
Dirk opens his presentation with these historically concurrent versions of ‘Blame It On The Boogie’. We hear The Jacksons’ more famous version, then the earlier German version by original songwriter ‘Mick Jackson’ (no relation). Dirk tells the apocryphal story of how the song was discovered at the MIDEM show in the 1970s, and then immediately debunks this legend, stating that it was actually a more straightforward publishing deal because The Jacksons needed a more successful hit than their previous one.
This week I’m at the biannual conference of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. Our hosts are the University of Kassel, Germany, and the conference features presenters from all over the world.
Our opening keynote speaker this morning is Robin James, whose academic work spans philosophy, pop music, sound studies, and feminism. One of the pleasing trends I’ve been seeing in academic conferences in recent years is the increased willingness of presenters (particularly younger scholars) to post their work online. Robin has generously shared not only her slides but the full text of the talk. The keynote goes into considerable depth, so I won’t attempt to summarise it here, other than to say how much I enjoyed Robin’s acrobatic thinking as she leapt gracefully from Pythagorean philosophy to big data, US neoliberalism, YOLO and Chill culture, and illustrated all of this with a brief musical analysis of Harry Styles’s Sign Of The Times (embedded below) and Beyoncé’s Lemonade.
I Hate These Blurred Lines: Wrongful Appropriation and Copyrightability in Music Copyright
Academic/copyright post: here’s an abstract (pdf) of a paper that I’ll be presenting with Prof Wendy Gordon next week at Boston University Law School.
This is based in part on an earlier paper that we presented at the Art of Record Production Conference in Aalborg, Denmark in December 2016, a draft of which is embedded below with voiceover and music examples. As this is an academic paper about music copyright, it contains musical excerpts from the original audio recording. My first attempt to embed the video resulted in an automatic takedown (academic fair use YouTube dispute is in progress), so I’m trying again with a Screencast embed. Because the video represents commentary and (not for profit) academic research, I’m continuing to claim fair use. Let’s see how long the audio survives!
Abstract: We have two concerns with music infringement trials: The first concern is the process by which juries decide questions of whether a defendant copied too much from a plaintiff’s work. (This is the inquiry sometimes known as “wrongful appropriation” or “substantial similarity”.) This paper discusses the challenges of methodology in forensic musicology, and the musical and psychological difficulties of applying the ‘substantial similarity’ test fairly and objectively. (Bonadio, 2016; Gordon, 2015). We present an analysis of three disputes, with comparative audio examples – The Isley Brothers/Michael Bolton (2001); Robin Thicke & Pharrell Williams/Marvin Gaye (2015); and Randy California/Led Zeppelin (2016).
Our second concern addresses copyright classifications, in particular, the contested relationship between the creative decisions that give rise to copyrights in “musical works” (compositions) and the creative decisions that give rise to “sound recordings” (sounds as rendered). We suggest that overlap between the two is common and should be better recognized. To illustrate the potential compositional contributions of performers and sound engineers, we utilize audio examples from Newton v. Diamond and other disputes.
Recording practices were once closely guarded secrets – rarely remarked upon, barely acknowledged. But as public curiosity developed about the ever evolving sounds embodied in recordings, explanations and representations emerged that simultaneously served to reveal and obscure the processes that shaped the music that caught the ear of the listener. This presentation examines the formation of three distinct mythologies – technology as magical wizardry; technology as musical sham; and technology as marker of nostalgic value. In the first thread, audio technology is harnessed by creative geniuses, working in a realm far removed from the normative listener and/ or musician. In the second thread, audio technology is seen as bestowing talent where none exists, manufacturing inherently inauthentic product, and implanting the uncomfortable notion that all musical performance is potentially a sham. The third thread exhibits a selective memory that praises some forms of technology, while rejecting others, often posited as past versus present.
Building upon the work of Barthes, Théberge, Taylor, Keightley, and others, I will analyze media representations of recording practice from literature, film, television, and Internet memes to illustrate how each mythology is constructed and disseminated, and in turn how these mythologies inform the listener’s experience of recorded audio, and musical creation in general.
Alan’s first slide covers mythology and marketing, and he outlines the technological literacies he intends to discuss by playing Jerry Lewis meets the Theremin from The Delinquent Detective (1956):
He speculates that the scary/sci-fi 1950s context of the theremin was possibly a cultural allusion to the scary nature of Elvis, whom Lewis impersonates in the Theremin scene.
Examining the Creation of ‘Paperback Writer’: The Flow of Ideas and Knowledge Between Contributing Creative Systems
Phillip McIntyre & Paul Thompson
I’ve been following both Phillip and Paul’s work for many years; it’s good to see them working together on another paper (here’s a previous one about the Mellotron). Add in the study of songwriters’ creative processes, and this was a must-see paper for me. (Though TBH they had me at PaperbackWriter).
From a creative systems view nothing exists in isolation (McIntyre, Fulton & Paton 2016). Consequently, a system such as a system of recording can sometimes appear to operate independently with well-defined boundaries, but it still depends upon other systems (Skyttner 2006, p. 38). There are then multilayered systems within systems in which: ‘a system in one perspective is a subsystem in another. But the system view always treats systems as integrated wholes of their subsidiary components’ (Laszlo 1972, p. 14). This interconnectedness of systems has been illustrated by Arthur Koestler (1975) using the terms ‘holon’ and ‘holarchy’ in which a holon is an aspect of systems that is both a part of something at one scale and, at the same time and at another scale, is itself a whole system. A holarchy is the multilayered heirarchy of these holons. Inside this nested world, system within system, one system is no more or less important than the others operating above or below it. Not only are systems part of these vertically arranged holarchies but they are also often connected horizontally through complex networks of many other similar systems. For example, the system of audio engineering has deep connections horizontally to the system of producing and the system of musicianship. These holons are linked vertically to the broader system of popular record production and at a different scale to the system of western music. This paper explores the scalabilty of creative systems by examining the recording and production of the Beatles’ ‘Paperback Writer’ (1966). It examines Paperback Writer’s production at the various scales of creative action, exposing some of the creative processes on an individual level and the sharing of ideas and knowledge between the creative group within Studio Three of EMI’s Abbey Road studio. The flow of ideas back and forth between the various contributing vertically and horizontally interconnected systems is also studied to gain a more comprehensive perspective on the creative systems that contribute to the song’s production.
I’m here in Aalborg, Denmark for the 11th Art of Record Production conference. ARP is one of my favourite conferences, for the following reasons:
It’s a good mix of academics and studio practitioners
It has an open-access peer-reviewed online journal
It consists entirely of techy people, so the PowerPoints and sound systems always work
The entire conference programme pack can be carried in your pocket – see photo
Our first keynote speaker St John’s University’s Susan Schmidt Horning (New York). Susan’s research deals with the way musical style is shaped by developments in recording technologies. Her book ‘Chasing Sound: Technology, Culture, and the Art of Studio Recording from Edison to the LP’ is known to many ARP delegates.
Susan’s starting point is the technological, social and cultural upheaval from the 1960s, drawing a line from postwar technologies. Ampex tapes became the industry standard, based on the work of a company that began in Radar research. The major labels – RCA, Decca and Columbia – all began around the mid-20th century. They had a dramatic effect on recorded sound because they were monetising recordings, due in part to the empowerment of a new generation of young people with disposable income who could purchase the new pop product – the single, and later, the album.
Peter begins with some caveats; he comments that the report deals particularly with the recording industry (and does not cover other music industries – e.g. live music and music education). Second, he notes the support from Kobalt Music, whom he notes are a very particular type of publisher, with a particular interest in digital and many very large-scale song catalogues in their portfolios.
You know that feeling when a song’s intro seems to trip up your ear, so that when the band comes in it sounds like the timing’s out? There are a few rock classics that play with our rhythmic ears in this way. When I first heard Led Zeppelin’s Rock And Roll I thought the drum intro featured several time signature changes, until I realised that it’s just four bars of 4/4 with three eighth-notes before the downbeat (to hear it ‘properly’, start counting 4/4 on the fourth drum hit – the downbeat is the first accent).
As mentioned in a previous post, the question of whether Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven (1971) copies a part of Spirit’s Taurus (1968) may soon be settled.
Representatives of the late Randy Wolfe (aka Randy California) are claiming that the four-bar introduction section of Stairway To Heaven copies a substantial part of his 1968 instrumental composition Taurus.
Judge Gary Klausner stated that a jury should be used, because the matter in question is necessarily subjective: “while it is true that a descending chromatic four-chord progression is a common convention that abounds in the music industry, the similarities here transcend this core structure […] What remains is a subjective assessment of the ‘concept and feel’ of two works”.
So let’s compare the works – how similar are they?
In the next couple of days I’ll post proper transcriptions of the two with audio and some discussion points. For now, here’s an interview I did yesterday with BBC Radio 5 live, discussing the songs with presenters Sarah Brett and Ore Oduba.
Most people reading this will know all about Tony’s background, but for those who are unfamiliar with his work here is the first paragraph from his Wikipedia page:
Tony Maserati, born Tony Masciarotte, is an American record producer and audio engineer who has worked with many mainstream artists including Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Jason Mraz, James Brown, Mariah Carey, Notorious BIG, Black Eyed Peas, Destiny’s Child, R. Kelly, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, Puff Daddy, and Tupac Shakur. His work encompasses worldwide sales in excess of 100 million units. He won a Grammy Award for his work on Beyoncé Knowles’ No. 1 single, “Crazy In Love”, a Latin Grammy Award for Sérgio Mendes’s Timeless (2006), and has seven additional Grammy nominations.
[JB blog note. These are unedited, real-time notes, presented here in their raw form, with apologies for the fragmented narrative caused by my inadequate typing. If anyone who was present has any additions or amendments, please let me know. Tony was an inspiring speaker – he talked for around 2 hours and the questioning session went on well beyond our allotted time.]
Abstract: During the last decade the digitally pitchcorrected voice has repeatedly been used to express human conditions of alienation, numbness, emotional distance, or flatness, in particular in hiphop and related musical styles. In this paper, I will give an analysis of some recent examples of expressive use of autotuning and discuss the ways in which this technology—which in many ways seems inhuman and mechanistic—seem to be able to capture certain human states or conditions better than the unmediated voice, the most human of all instruments. Autotuning, then, has complemented the human repertoire with new sounds. In the second part of the paper, I will discuss to what extent this and related tools might be considered part of a new and radical stage in the interaction of human and machine in popular music history—a stage that might be characterized by a decisive undermining of the traditional separation between man and machine in music production.