Questions I haven’t asked Dave Allen

I’m going to be speaking with Dave Allen on Tuesday this week. Dave is Director of Artist and Music Industry Advocacy for streaming music service Beats Music. He also happens to have been the bass player for one of my favourite post-punk / new wave bands of the 80s. No, not Gang of Four – I’m talking about Shriekback.*

Dave is going to give a presentation about Why Musicians Should Embrace Streaming – and then he and I are going to sit down and have a chat.

I’ve been preparing for the conversation, which will be live in front of an audience at Birmingham City University (it’s free, and there are still some seats left – but you’ll need to book now) – and I thought I’d share with you the questions I’m going to be asking Dave to continue the conversation.

Of course, that means he can read these questions ahead of time should he wish. That’s absolutely fine – I’m not trying to trip anyone up. I’m asking these questions to try and find out the answers, as well as to open up the dialogue a little further and take it in some interesting directions.

That said, I may play devil’s advocate from time to time. So here’s what I have in mind…


Discipline with buckets

I’ve been having conversations this week about how different research disciplines come together to share ideas on similar topics.

At Microsoft Research New England on Monday this week, Nancy Baym and Jonathan Sterne brought together a fantastic group of leading academics from around the world and from a wide range of disciplines at the intersection of music and technology for a one-day symposium which addressed the fertility of music as a subject that bridges computational, social scientific and humanistic approaches.

Read more about that here.

And at the European Commission meeting on the Future of Creativity and Creative Industries, we talked a lot about ways in which different disciplines could collaborate and research around the creative industries in the digital context.


Music in the Digital Age symposium

I am hosting a short series of FREE weekly lunchtime public lectures on the topic of Music in the Digital Age. Guests from the music industries will discuss a range of topics concerning digital music, enterprise and innovation. The first symposium is happening tomorrow at Parkside Lecture Theatre, BCU City Centre Campus.

Part 1: How Music Works in the Digital Age
Thurs, Nov 7th at Noon

Steve Lawson (New Music Strategies), Laura Kidd (She Makes War) and Rich Huxley (Hope and Social) discuss the ways in which the digital environment impacts upon and influences the composition, production, promotion, distribution and consumption of music. They will discuss the often hidden economic, cultural and social implications of those changes, and make sense of the prevailing rhetoric around the music industries. The speakers will not only look at the big picture view, but also speak from their own experience as music industry workers and musicians. The symposium will last an hour, but the guests will stay for discussions and informal Q&A with the audience.

The event is free, but places are limited and registration is required:

Look forward to seeing you there tomorrow.

Serious academics discussing serious matters

Petter, Nick & George

I’ve been in London the past few days, attending a conference to mark the end of the first round of HERA-funded research projects. HERA stands for Humanities in the European Research Area, and it’s a collaborative partnership between a large group of national funding agencies.

Rhythm Changes is a one of the HERA-funded projects. It’s about European jazz and national identity. I’ve been involved with it for the past three years, and it’s coming to a conclusion. It’s a shame, really, because it’s been really interesting, I’ve had the chance to work with some brilliant people that I’ve become good friends with and it’s involved travel, interesting experiments with the internet, and of course, jazz.

The conference started with a series of presentations at the British Library, followed by a drinks reception. There were meetings and seminars, I gave a talk at Kings College London about Knowledge Exchange and Digital Humanities and there were also performances, concerts, demonstrations and earnest (and often fascinating) conversations of all kinds.

Shopping with Petter

Of course, the time wasn’t all spent inside listening to people talk about ancient manuscripts, avant garde music, bronze age creativity, digital literature and research funding policy (though that did happen rather a lot).

Petter and I snuck off to go record shopping and we struck gold in a couple of places. I bought four LPs (‘Dusty in Memphis’, a Bar-Kays album, Nina Simone’s ‘Wild is the Wind’ and the ‘Gerry Mulligan meets Stan Getz’ record) – and Petter ended up with substantially more. He even took a few of my recommendations. We also had what we decided was the best falafel of our lives (Falafel King on Portobello Rd).

This being London, there was a fair bit of walking around to be done. I was reluctant to go everywhere on the tube this time around, and the weather mostly behaved itself. I have an app on my phone that tells me how far I’ve gone, how many steps I’ve taken and so on. I walked 40 miles over the past four days. Yesterday, I did 15.

As a result, I’m kind of worn out – but it was definitely worth it.

Jelena & Kati

I had a decent camera with me, and took some photos while I was there.

Mostly portraits for practice, actually (I’ve started doing a photography course recently, and I had some homework to do) – but also some snaps from a walk around parts of London I hadn’t been to before with Kati from Estonia, and Jelena from Croatia, both of whom work as part of the HERA funding body.

I also got to see some incredible concerts (Soweto Kinch and Mari Boine), had a really great time with a couple of my London friends, and also made one or two new friends from distant lands while I was there. That was a highlight, actually.

The sun even came out.

All in all, a really nice way to spend a few days. Way more ‘stuff I really like’ than ‘stuff that makes me want to poke my eyeballs out’. A very good ratio, actually, as conferences go.

Beats the hell out of working for a living…

Once more around the table


I went to a Professors and Readers lunch yesterday (and no I’m not putting any apostrophes in there). It was a small gathering in the (acting) Dean’s office in order to meet up, chat about things professorial and generally get a cross-faculty sense of who’s who and who does what.

You’d be surprised how rarely research academics in the same department – let alone the same faculty – cross paths. I think I see Tim Wall in Salford more often than I do in Birmingham, and our offices are separated by two flights of stairs. I hadn’t ever met two of the professors in the room – and I had only a passing acquaintance with the work of another.

As with so many of these sorts of things, we did a bit where we go around the table, everybody introduces themselves and talks about what they do. Unfortunately, as newest professor on the block, I was chosen to go first, so I didn’t get to take some of my cues from the other people there, which is always a helpful thing to do in terms of knowing what to say, what sort of language to use and so on.

As a result, I feel like I left some things out, spoke about some stuff that didn’t translate well outside of my discipline, or gave an incomplete picture of what it is I do. So I thought I’d have another go here.

Hi. I’m Andrew Dubber. I’m Professor of Music Industries Innovation.

I’m interested in three main things:

1) Independent music business and alternative music cultures online;

2) Innovation in independent music enterprise (which need not involve digital technologies); and

3) Music as a tool for social change.

I come at these things from a number of directions. I’m a Media Ecologist (with an interest in the concept of affordances borrowed from Cognitive Psychology, as well as the usual McLuhan stuff) in a Media Studies department with a strong Cultural Studies tradition, and I’m a member of the Centre for Media and Cultural Research. I’m also both a Radio Studies and Jazz Studies academic, though I should not be mistaken for a musicologist.

I have a non-traditional academic background, coming from fifteen years in the radio industry and having run an independent record label. I moved into teaching and then later research and a lot of my work is practice-based and experimental. I like to find things out by making and doing things, and I also focus on Knowledge Transfer / Knowledge Exchange activities, ensuring that the research I do has a useful and practical dimension to it that can be of benefit outside of academia – for instance, working with organisations and music businesses to help them do what they do better. And of course, my research informs the teaching I do as well.

I’ve written books on the music industries, I’ve just finished one about radio, and I am currently in the early planning stages of a book about independent jazz record labels.

I run an MA in Music Industries and an MA in Music Radio – both with attendance and by distance learning pathways – and I also supervise a handful of PhD students on a number of related subjects.

So – that’s my job.

The other people around the table did a whole range of interesting and diverse things, and most had been doing those things far longer than I’ve been doing any of the things I do.

Because we’re a Faculty of Performance, Media and English, there’s a lot of overlap between the sorts of things we’re interested in – from the performance of electronic music that uses obsolete computer technologies, to the history of modernism; from the study of jazz on radio in the first half of the 20th century to the linguistic analysis of the English language using the entirety of the internet rather than books as a source for text.

It was like being in half a dozen simultaneous episodes of In Our Time, only with sandwiches.

Shame I don’t eat bread.

Let me tell you all about jazz


I’m in Manchester for an academic conference about jazz. It’s the final major event of Rhythm Changes, the three-year European jazz research project I’ve been working on, and it is, by all accounts, the largest academic jazz conference EVER (in Europe).

There must be literally tens of people here.

One of the great things about researching in a field like this is that you get to know most of the people pretty well and you tend to see them at pretty much every work-related event you go to. For the most part, they’re pretty cool people too.

They like jazz, for a kick off – and given that they’re predominantly PhDs and Professors in related fields, they tend to be (though this is by no means a rule) generally smart and interesting people.

I’m giving a paper on Saturday morning on the social, cultural, infrastructural, political and economic conditions that led to a very particular and very vibrant jazz/dance/hip hop crossover music scene in Auckland in the mid to late 90s. I’m also chairing a couple of panels on jazz and the internet.

So… I’m here to work. That said, you might not think so – but this is a party crowd. They’re a good bunch and some of my favourite people are among their number. They carry on until very late, they squeeze every last drop of jazz juice out of the local nightlife and they listen to (as well as make) sounds that would terrify most ordinary music consumers.

Take our evening’s opening entertainment, for instance. This was our polite dinner music before we got onto the harder stuff as the evening progressed.

Me, on the other hand, I’m back in my hotel room eating room service fish and chips, doing a bit of writing work and tweaking the project website. I just don’t have the stamina or the commitment to the cause needed to get me drinking schnapps and singing classic trumpet solos in the street at four in the morning.

At least, not since Vienna…