Forensic Musicology

Professor Joe Bennett (PhD NTF FHEA) has been analysing and transcribing popular music for international publication since 1994. He has written more than 30 books, including transcription, teaching and reference works (published worldwide by Music Sales Group), and more than 300 articles for Total Guitar magazine and others, relating to classic songs, guitar techniques and songwriting. As a songwriter and composer his work is published by Music Sales Group, Misty Music and Rockschool Ltd. He is a member of PRS for Music and the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters, and an academic member of (and peer reviewer for) IASPM (the International Association for the Study of Popular Music) and Bloomsbury publishing.

As an academic (Vice President of Academic Affairs at Berklee USA) Joe’s primary area of research expertise is the psychology of songwriting and similarity thresholds in popular songs. His PhD research (University of Surrey, UK) was entitled ‘Constraint, Creativity, Copyright and Collaboration in Popular Songwriting Teams’ and it provided the world’s first systematic investigation into collaborative songwriters’ creative processes. He has published and presented extensively about songwriters’ creative processes and music similarity. Joe was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship (NTF) in 2004 by the Higher Education Academy in recognition of his contribution to the teaching and learning of popular music. He is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. As a PhD examiner and supervisor, he specialises in studies of songwriting creativity (Queensland University of Technology & Macquarie University Australia, Luleå University of Technology Sweden, Bath Spa University UK).

As a forensic musicologist, clients include Loeb & Loeb LLP, Edwards Wildman Palmer (Locke Lord) LLP, Universal Music Publishing, Warner/Chappell Music Publishing, Simpson & Marwick LLP, Michael Simkins LLP, Swan Turton LLP, JWT and BBH (ad agencies), Adelphoi Music, Kassner Music Publishing, and Van Straten solicitors, as well as many individual songwriters. His work appears in UK case law in Naxos v. Salmon (2012). Media interviews include NPR, The New York Times, The LA Times, Newsweek, Forbes, BBC TV news, BBC TV, BBC Radio 4, MTV news, The Daily Telegraph, Discovery Channel and The Guardian. He is listed on the UK Music Publishers’ Association’s Register of Expert Witness Musicologists and the American Musicological Society’s database of forensic musicologists.

Selected peer-reviewed conference papers/publications:

  • “Who is the Author? AI and Beats/Timbre-Driven Sound Recording Compositions”. Invited panelist, The New Music Ecosystem conference. University of Washington School of Law, Seattle. 3-5 May 2018.
  • “Close to the Edge: investigating the myth of the ‘plagiarism threshold’ in musical creativity“. Joe Bennett. 19th Biennial International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM). University of Kassel, Germany. June 2017.
  • “Wrongful Appropriation and Copyrightability in Music Copyright”. Joe Bennett and Wendy Gordon. Works-in-Progress Intellectual Property (WIPIP) Colloquium, Boston University School of Law, February 2017.
  • “I Hate These Blurred Lines: The Intrinsic Test In Music Copyright Disputes”. Joe Bennett and Wendy Gordon. The 11th Art of Record Production Conference, Aalborg University, Denmark, December 2016.
  • “Where is creativity? Locating intellectual property in collaborative songwriting and production processes.” International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) conference, University College Cork, 12-14 Sept 2014.
  • “Who Writes the Songs?  Creative Practice and Intellectual Property in Popular Music’s Digital Production Chain.” In Creativity, Circulation and Copyright: Sonic and Visual Media in the Digital Age. Cambridge University 28-29 March 2014
  •  “Forensic Musicology:  approaches and challenges.” In The Timeline Never Lies: Audio Engineers Aiding Forensic Investigators in Cases of Suspected Music Piracy.  International Audio Engineering Society (AES) Convention. New York, Oct 2013.
  • “Two Worlds Collide: originality and plagiarism in songwriting”. International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) conference, Gijon, June 2013.
  • “You Won’t See Me: in search of an epistemology of collaborative songwriting”. Journal on the Art of Record Production #8, presented at Université Laval, Québec, July 2013.
  • Applying Melodic Analysis to Infer the Extent of Plagiarism in Popular Song Authorship Disputes.” Popular Music Analysis (PopMAC) conference, University of Liverpool, July 2013.
  • “Constraint, Collaboration and Creativity in Popular Songwriting Teams.” In The Act of Musical Composition: Studies in the Creative Process, David Collins (ed), 139–169. SEMPRE Studies in The Psychology of Music. Ashgate, 2012.
  • “Collaborative Songwriting – the Ontology of Negotiated Creativity in Popular Music Studio Practice.” Journal on the Art of Record Production #5, 2011.

Musicology enquiry


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