Songwriting Studies Research Network

Lead Research Organisation: Birmingham City University
Department Name: ADM Birmingham Sch of Media

Abstract

The Songwriting Studies Research Network is a two-year project designed to catalyse a field of study focused on songwriting. The network connects scholars with this shared interest from a variety of disciplines and career stages alongside industry workers and practitioners. Despite the central place of songwriting in the economic, political and social status of people and organisations all over the world, the practice of songwriting and the variety of contexts in which it is of vital importance remain only tangentially connected within academia. This research adopts an interdisciplinary approach to the study of songs, songwriters and songwriting in order to facilitate collaboration across methodological, theoretical and geographical boundaries.

This will be accomplished during the period of funding through the delivery of four international one-day events in Birmingham, Liverpool, London and Glasgow. During these events, researchers, industry workers and songwriters will encounter each other in seminars, interactive music workshops, panels, Q&As and networking activities. Together they will exchange knowledge, forge new insights and establish partnerships. To foster continued development and to maximise impact, insights and opportunities emerging from the network will be made available through an online portal. An edited book will draw together work from participants for publication at the end of two years. Through this network, it is envisioned that a range of objectives can be achieved towards facilitating interdisciplinary networking, transforming practice, and galvanising the emergent field of songwriting studies.

Planned Impact

The research network will achieve impact in the following areas:

1. Industry bodies and educational institutions

This project will make use of existing relationships with industry bodies like BASCA and PRS for Music. These organisations work in tandem with key decision makers lobbying in support of fairness and safeguarding of rights for songwriters throughout the UK, Europe and the world. Through the exchange of knowledge and expertise, the network has an opportunity to inform attitudes to legislation and play a transformative role in future policy. A further opportunity for impact emerges from close connections with higher education institutions like BIMM, LIPA and ICMP, where the network can inform the scope of songwriting curriculum in non-commercial, socio-political and therapeutic contexts.

2. Commercial/private sector companies and workers

Taking advantage of existing relationships with companies like Kobalt and Sentric Music, we welcome key industry figures to engage with the events and the community online. Insights generated by the network will be of value to music publishers, record labels and professional songwriters in the commercial/private sector because songwriting is the core method through which their primary product is produced. Sharing knowledge about the ways in which songwriters understand, characterise and explain their relationships to the music industries will help record labels and music publishers to optimise and better manage their artist relations and communications strategies.

3. Third sector organisations and individuals

The events proposed in this series will allow for organisations engaged with songwriting and music making in non-profit or clinical environments to participate in discussions. This diverse approach extends to individuals who might consider themselves amateur or hobbyist songwriters wishing to improve their skills, or professionals looking to transform their current practice and employability status in non-commercial environments. Our keynote speaker Felicity Baker, who is a world-renowned expert in the therapeutic application of songwriting, has deliberately been selected to open up debate in this area and to provide the network with an avenue to engage with the utility of songwriting as a force for self-actualization.

4. The media

The network also has the potential to transform the approaches of media workers such as film and television producers, magazine editors, podcasters and authors who have close relationships to music, either in the products they produce or in the context of making media that depicts, discusses, comments upon, or otherwise engages with songwriting and creativity. We will engage beneficiaries in these fields primarily through industry panels, the website and publication.

5. Local communities and the wider public in general

Beyond those who work directly in the arts, there is also a broad and worthwhile audience of individuals who wish to learn more about the culture of creative work in the popular music industries and apply transferrable elements of the research to their own lives and careers. This is evidenced by the substantial number of amateur songwriting groups/courses (Songwriting Academy), open mic events and songwriter circles (Green Note), and songwriting competitions (Song Academy) across the UK and beyond. We will reach these audiences by forging relationships with key organisers, by opening our events to the public and by providing open access to the website.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Live event podcasts 
Description These outputs are the programmes containing conversations with special guests at the first two Songwriting Studies Research Network events. So far, this includes singer-songwriter KT Tunstall, songwriter-producer Nile Rodgers and manager/entrepreneur Merck Mercuriadis. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact These episodes of the podcast have been downloaded over 25,000 times each. 
URL http://sodajerker.com/podcast
 
Title Podcasting 
Description Podcasting in this context involves recording live conversations with songwriters as a way of interrogating the creative and business decisions made by professionals. Because of the increasingly lower barriers to access recording, production and distribution tools, programme-making has become increasingly available to media workers as a form of practice-based research. By developing a reputable media outlet in this area of study, I have capitalised on an opportunity to improve data gathering methodologies in this field by getting access to world-renowned professionals. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The Sodajerker podcast has reached over 2.5 million listeners and has made available interviews with the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, Sting, Alicia Keys, Rosanne Cash, Elvis Costello, Paul Simon and Diane Warren in a completely non-commercial context. Listeners engaging with the show have applied insights from renowned practitioners to their own songwriting practice with beneficial results. The podcast has remained a central component in the research network and has been at the heart of the first two events we have staged. 
URL https://www.sodajerker.com/podcast
 
Description Southbank Centre and Meltdown Festival 
Organisation Southbank Centre
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution During the second Songwriting Studies event, I delivered a live interview on stage as part of the Meltdown Festival at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre. Special guests Nile Rodgers and Merck Mercuriadis spoke about the songwriting process and issues affecting songwriters in the current economic climate.
Collaborator Contribution The Southbank Centre hosted the event and provided in kind support with ticket costs. They helped shape the tone of the discussion and all of the logistics of presenting and recording a major live event for an audience of over 500.
Impact The recording of the event is the primary output which is to be published via sodajerker.com.
Start Year 2019
 
Description The Ivors Academy 
Organisation The Ivors Academy
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We collaborated with The Ivors Academy on the second event in our series, during which I presented a special live interview with Nile Rodgers and Merck Mercuriadis at their London HQ exploring a range of issues relevant to their professional membership. We have since become engaged with a range of issues affecting songwriters and will collaborate again on the third event in the series, which takes place in Liverpool. I also recorded a special podcast which provided coverage of the 2019 Ivor Novello Awards.
Collaborator Contribution The Ivors Academy contributed to the event with services in kind and their CEO Graham Davies provided the opening welcome to the proceedings. They also procured guests for the industry panel, including members of the Ivors Academy Songwriting Committee.
Impact Event 2 - Songwriting, Streaming and Sustainability, August 8, 2019
Start Year 2019
 
Description Songwriting, Production and Practice 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was the first event in our series. It took place at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and Eastside Jazz Club on March 20, 2019 and featured special guest KT Tunstall speaking about her songwriting practice with academics, practitioners and industry workers. This conversation, which I conducted, was recorded as part of a live podcast distributed via Sodajerker.com. We welcomed keynote Phillip McIntyre from University of Newcastle, Australia, and held academic papers and panels featuring speakers like Prof Andy West, Dr Pete Astor, guitarist Mary Spender and producer Kieron McIntosh. The talks prompted much discussion and the conversation continued at the end of the event in a dedicated networking space. After the success of this gathering, membership of the network grew to over 250 members.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://songwritingstudies.com/songwriting-practice-and-production/
 
Description Songwriting, Streaming and Sustainability 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was the second event in our series. It took place at The Ivors Academy on August 8, 2019 and featured a keynote talk from special guests Nile Rodgers and Merck Mercuriadis discussing the sustainability of songwriting careers with academics, practitioners and industry workers. In the evening I conducted a further conversation with our special guests at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, as part of the Meltdown Festival. This was recorded as part of a live podcast distributed via Sodajerker.com. During sessions of academic papers and panels, we welcomed Prof David Hesmondhalgh, Prof Bethany Klein, and Grammy/Ivor-winning songwriters like Victoria Horn and Michelle Escoffery for further engagement activities. The talks prompted extensive Q&A with invited speakers. The Meltdown event was populated by an audience of over 500, including members of the general public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://songwritingstudies.com/events/