Seminar at SOAS

Last night, I gave a presentation at SOAS – the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. I attempted to tie together the various BCU projects I’ve been involved with in India, Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil that are about music as a tool for social change – with the Manifesto for the Future of Music Technology Research (or MusicTechiFesto, as it’s become known), and the Music Tech Fest itself – all through the frame of Media Ecology.

I showed a few videos along the way – including from the Culture Shock project, Monkey on the Roof, Occupy Music, Un-Convention and others.

I also talked about how I thought that the idea of hacking – both culturally and in terms of creative technologies – give us new opportunities to think about the ways in which music makes meaning for people, and can change people’s lives – as well as acting as a seed for new commercial products and services, art installations and performances and research agendas.

I’m writing a book chapter about that over the next week or so – so it’s good to think that stuff out loud so I can hear how it sounds.

Great crowd – and a surprisingly diverse mix. Despite my exhaustion and consequent subpar performance in terms of coherence and structure, it seemed to go remarkably well. I’m looking forward to working with some of the people in the room soon… both on new research projects and on getting SOAS students and staff involved Music Tech Fest in different places around the world.

Speaking as a film maker…

Screen Shot 2014 03 31 at 00 17 58

I gave a talk at Flatpack Festival today about Occupy Music – the film I’m making about independent music and alternative economics in Brazil.

I showed some interview segments and still images from the film – but spent most of my time explaining the fact that despite having spent six weeks travelling around Brazil and accumulating around 24 hours of interview material – I’m not really sure yet what the story is.

The more I work on the film, the more complex it seems to become, and while I didn’t think I was just going to be a passive narrator that explained some things about how it all works – I didn’t expect my own struggle trying to make sense of what Fora do Eixo is, where its boundaries lie and what it all means would become the centrepiece of the story. But that’s how it seems to be going.

The film isn’t edited yet, and there’s going to be more of me talking in it than I had originally intended, so I filmed my presentation today on the off chance I might say something sensible and helpful that could illuminate the material I already have. And I think there may be one or two bits in there that could be useful for the finished movie.

All I need now is a budget to edit, an epiphany or two, and some free time.

The Ninjas at the bottom of the garden

Meeting in Ninja HQ

“Things have changed,” said Felipe Altenfelder as we pulled out of the airport carpark. “You’ll notice some differences.”

I’d arrived in São Paulo to start work on a documentary film about Fora do Eixo – the network of independent music collectives I’d become fascinated with over the past few years. This is a group of mostly young people spread around this continent-sized country, who have organised their own separate economy – putting on festivals, distributing records through live gigs, and using principles of solidarity economy, communal living and political activism in order to make independent music sustainable.

For someone like me, this is fascinating stuff.

“We’re still doing the music, of course…”

That’s a relief. I’d just flown for 11 hours and spent thousands of someone else’s pounds on getting this far.

“It’s just that now we’re quite busy with the revolution.”

He said this so matter-of-factly, I wasn’t sure I’d heard him correctly. Turns out I had. They are quite busy with the revolution.


Occupy Music: behind the scenes

Ipanema beach

As I write this, I’m on my way to Brazil to shoot a documentary film called ‘Occupy Music‘ (working title). It’s about Fora do Eixo – a cooperative and collaborative system for independent music that incorporates 200 cities, 30,000 artists, 6,000 shows a year and turns over a value of around US$44m just within Brazil.

This is a network of collectives that has its own political movement. It has its own university. It even has its own currency and bank, and it has built this infrastructure on the principles of collaboration, solidarity economy and open source platforms.

I’ll be visiting 12 cities in five weeks to conduct interviews and research further. I’m also producing a book and a compilation album featuring artists involved with the network.

I’ve actually been preparing for this moment for a few years, but now that it’s here, so far it just feels like sitting in a hot train to London, same as yesterday.

The documentary isn’t going to happen quickly. I’ll be travelling around Brazil for the next five weeks interviewing musicians, politicians, festival organisers, managers and others – as well getting some amazing shots of scenery, live music performances, and lots more I haven’t even thought of yet. And then I’m going back in November to get even more.

But I’m going to do some ‘behind the scenes’ video diary type stuff along the way and I’ll be posting it on the Occupy Music blog, which you’ll find at

Let’s do lunch

Sam Coley LOW RESI’ve had several interesting lunchtime meetings today (though only one lunch).

For my first meeting, I sat down with my teaching colleagues Sam Coley (left) and Andy Martindale to talk about the direction of our Music Programming undergraduate module.

It’s part of the radio degree, but it’s also something other Media students can choose as an option. It deals with two main things: specialist music shows and radio station formats.

The course explores how those two things work, how music makes meaning for people, and how putting music together in order constructs audiences and reflects scenes and cultures. It’s affectionately referred to as Mixtapes 101.

Students learn not only what makes music ‘work’ in different contexts and as a piece of media communication, but also the mechanics and techniques of format radio. Of course, these days, the applications of constructing musical texts over time applies right across media – particularly in digital media contexts.

We’re looking at putting together an online resource for this sort of thing.

Incidentally, Sam’s documentary celebrating the 30th anniversary of Bowie’s Let’s Dance is on Absolute Radio this Sunday.


The second meeting was with a bunch of people who run a Brazilian newspaper in London called The Brazilian Post. That’s them pictured above. They “enjoyed” our university canteen food while we chatted. I, er… “wasn’t hungry”.

They want to interview me about my research and the documentary film I’m going to be making about solidarity economy in the independent music sector in Brazil. They knew a lot about Fora do Eixo, the group I’m working with out there, and had some really interesting insights into the way in which FDE have set up their own political and economic framework outside of the way that traditional economics works.

Solidarity economy is sometimes referred to as “friendly capitalism” and one of the newspaper people called it “the most important movement in the world today”. So I might be onto something…

One of the University marketing people and someone from international recruitment were also there. Must have said something right, because I was offered another trip over to Brazil in September to do some recruitment stuff for BCU too. Not going to say no to that.


And my last meeting was with my friend Brian, who’s the sax player in UB40. We had a whole bunch of stuff to talk about, new and interesting projects on the horizon – and, finally, actual lunch too. It was great to catch up. We used to DJ together pretty much every week for a while there, but haven’t seen each other for a few months.

He’s asked me to be on a non-executive board he’s putting together for his latest project, and I’ve asked him to be involved in a new online venture I’m helping out with – and we worked out some interesting ways of getting students involved (and paid) along the way.

So… I may have started at noon and ended at 4pm, but I managed to get some really good work done over that extended lunch break. More meetings should happen that way.

That’s an orange juice Brian’s holding in that picture, by the way. We were all business.

Meet my new workmates

Professors Davi Nakano & Eduardo Vicente

Meet Professors Davi Nakano and Eduardo Vicente – colleagues at the University of São Paulo, specialising in music business, music radio, independent music culture, music online and music industries innovation.

All going well, these guys are about to become my research partners… and their students will have the chance to also be BCU students.

We’re putting in a joint research bid to the AHRC in the UK and FAPESP in the state of Sao Paulo to study independent music in Brazil.