On Friday 25th June I attended a one day symposium on Popular Music Fandom. The symposium was at the University of Chester and organised by Mark Duffett from the School of Media at Chester. As I will be conducting some research around  fans as part of my PhD research I thought it would be useful to attend along with some of my colleagues from The Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Studies Prof Tim Wall, Rob Horrocks and  Nacho Gallego Pérez a visiting researcher from Madrid who has recently joined the centre for research.


The keynote presentation was from Matt Hills from Cardiff University who is one of the UK’s key thinkers in Fan Culture and Fan studies. I had worked with Matt in the past as part of a research team that conducted some research about audience/fan online interaction with the BBC Radio websites as part of a Knowledge Transfer Project.  Matt’s presentation was around considering new ways of looking at and researching fan culture based on three ideas of post-popular music, mnemic communities and intermediary fandoms. What I particularly liked was the area of mnemic communities drawing on the work of Bollas (1993) and how music has personal and/or community memory stored within it. He also touched on the idea of whether those memories are imagined and /or a community narrative. I thought this would be very useful to my research as my object of study centres around cultural/popular memory.


Mark  Duffett delivered an interesting paper on moving towards a new vocabulary of fan theory in researching and investigating fandom. He laid out a 9 step vocabulary model which due to my deep interest in what he was saying I failed to make any notes-doh!! I am hoping he will e-mail me his PowerPoint slideshow and if so I will comeback to discussing his ideas on a future blog. What was great about these two presentations was the fact that I am new to fan studies and it seems that I am at a point of entry where the ways of thinking about fandom are taking a new turn and I am getting current and future ideas from two of the leading UK researchers and commentators in the field.


Alexei Michailowsky from the University of Rio De Janeiro delivered an interesting paper about when the researcher is a fan and methodological points in carrying out research into your favourite artist. This was based on his experiences into researching Brazilian musician Marcos Valle. This brought up some useful strategies for me regarding my own research as a fan of British anarcho-punk.


I also met two very interesting people John Harries and Lisa Busby from a band called Sleeps in Oysters who have released music on Seed Records. John had attended to present a paper on David Bowie: A Case Study of the Established Artist as Fan and ‘Musical Conscience’ for the Mainstream which I unfortunately missed because it clashed with another presentation about Northern Soul from Dr Nicola Smith from UWI Cardiff which was really interesting and informative.  Lisa is not only a musician but also an academic who teaches music at Oxford Brookes University. We had some interesting conversations about their band and performing their music live and also the revival of the audio cassette (which was a topic in my previous blog posting) and interesting ways to package and market music in the digital age which is something that they and Seed Records really like to explore and develop.


We also talked about her course and she has said that there may be an opportunity to talk to her students about marketing, PR and promotion of music and musicians. She discussed a future conference she is organising and said that there would be an opportunity for me to present at it which will be a great opportunity.


A real coup of the day was meeting a fellow punk Michelle Liptrot from the University of Bolton. She is in the final stages of her PhD research into the longevity of anarcho-punk and hardcore. She hopes to submit in November but from our discussions we determined that some of her research and research findings would be really useful in informing my research. She has generously offered to send me a list of useful texts from her bibliography which I am really grateful for. I wish her the best of luck with the completing stages of her thesis and look forward to reading it once it’s published-if not before. We will definitely keep in touch.


All in all a really informative day that has given me some great ideas and very useful contacts. Thanks to Mark Duffett and his team for organising the symposium.

The Audio Cassette Makes A Comeback Thanks To Brave Or Invincible Records

On Monday 21st June I was invited along with some of my students to be interviewed for a pre-record by Paul Franks of BBC WM for his Tuesday drive time show. The basis of the interview was about a group of my current 2nd year students who aim to revive the audio cassette in the form of a release on their record label Brave or Invincible Records. The students Nick Moreton, Callum Joynes, Ryan Smith, and Chris Williams set up BOI Records last year based on some of the experiences and knowledge they gained in their 1st year Music Industries modules. They have successfully managed to combine their ongoing degree studies alongside running a business. I am really proud of their achievements and as they have gone ahead and put into practice one of the key principles I try to instil into my lectures-being actively involved in the music business and creating an exit strategy for when they complete their degree as well as demonstrating the possibilities of entrepreneurship. I as their lecturer do what ever I can to support their initiative in the way of mentoring, advice etc. With good time management skills and a commitment to work hard they have shown that it is possible to engage with the profession whilst studying. Hopefully more students will see this as a green light to do the same or similar.


Listen on Posterous

What is particularly interesting about them re-inventing the audio cassette is that they have combined retro with digital and found an innovative and creative way to release music and get some media attention hence the interview and press coverage. I won’t give too much away as the interview is available to listen too. Strangely enough today (Thursday 24th June) there is an article in the Guardian G2 by Alex Petridis about how the audio cassette made him “love music more” and harkens back to the time of creating mixtapes which made you have to “work harder as a music fan” because you had to listen to the music and make judicious us of the record and pause buttons unlike today where it is a matter of drag-drop-burn.

This was exactly what Nick Moreton from BOI Records was saying in the interview about the cultural significance of the mixtape. I think Nick and the rest of the lads could be on the crest of a wave of the revival in the interest of the audio cassette-they might actually be onto something here! I wish them the best of luck with their release.

Sights and Sounds: Interrogating the Music Documentary Conference

Tim, Paul, Oliver, Sam, Rob and I went to the Sights and Sounds Conference which was held at Salford University last Thursday and Friday. I presented a paper based around my research into Anarcho-punk. I talked about the Alexander Oey film about Crass‘There is No Authority But Yourself’. The paper was around how the film could be seen as an intervention into the canons of punk history through the retrieval of memory. The Powerpoint slides can be viewed below though the embedded video may not play. The conference was also filmed so hopefully I will be able to post that up at a later date.


I felt , for my first academic presentation, that it went really well though i did get a bit tongue tied at one point but managed to retrieve my place in the delivery and continued. The feedback I received afterwards from the audience was really positive and encouraging. I was 1 of 3 on a punk/post punk panel, the other 2 contributors on the panel, Ailsa Grant-Turton and Erich Hertz also delivered 2 really good papers that complimented some of the issues I was addressing in my paper. I am hoping that I will find the time to finish writing the paper over the next few months and that it can be included in a forthcoming text on music documentary published on the back of this conference. The other delegates covered a broad range of subject/musical genres of which there was something interesting in all of them. Tim and Paul did an excellent presentation about Tony Palmers 1976 series ‘All you need is Love’ examining the impact of the series as a seminal documentary that established the form that most subsequent popular music documentaries have since taken. Sam and Oli also did a co-presentation examining how Sam’s audio documentary about David Bowie’s visit to New Zealand has been appropriated by fan cultures and re-versioned. The other delegates were very friendly and i made some useful contacts. I met with Mark Duffett a scholar who teaches at Chester University who’s website and blog I have been following with interest. He has done some great work on fan cultures and I am going to meet up with him later in the year to discuss my research and see how he can give me some solid insight into fan culture and cultural memory. Due to the conference programme we didn’t have much time to have an indepth conversation but I am excited at the prospect of spending more time with him to pick his brain and tease out some useful knowledge to aid my research.


What was really great about this conference was the opportunity to spend time with my work colleagues and I felt really proud to be part of a team that represented the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research at the Birmingham School of Media in such a good light. We had the largest group from any institution present at the conference and arrived in a ‘Reservoir Dogs’ style.


Ben Halligan who helped organise the conference has asked my to present a paper at another conference he is organising in July titled ‘Noise, Affect, Politics’
-so I thought if I have time I would like to put a paper together about the political lyrics of bands such as Crass, Discharge, Extreme Noise Terror and Napalm Death and how they are mostly undecipherable in their lyrical delivery but central to their ethos and agenda.

Punk’s Underbelly.ppt
Download this file

Here are my conference presentation notes

Download this file

Ozzy Osbourne Award

As Degree Leader for Music Industries at the Birmingham School of Media, I have been thinking for a while about rewarding graduate students by giving awards to two graduating students on the specialist degree as recognition for their performance and achievement. I wanted the awards to not only have some resonance with the music industries but also have a local angle as Birmingham has a rich musical heritage. Ozzy Osbourne seemed like an obvious choice as he was born just up the road from the University where I teach, and is a global star, but I thought that it would be difficult to get him to agree-long story short I managed to contact his agent and manager (Sharon Osbourne) who put it to him and he said that he would be honoured to have his name linked to an award.
My second choice on the recommendation of a colleague, Jez Collins, was Brian Travers, founder member of UB40. Again a local and international music star who has been involved in collaborative projects with the School of Media and works with some of the students. He happily agreed aswell so now there is the Ozzy Osbourne Development award, for the student who has demonstrated the greatest degree of development over the 3 years of their degree; and the Brian Travers Achievement Award for the student with the highest degree rating at graduation.

Thsi is great news for the students concerned and great to have Ozzy and Brian linked to and supporting the Music Industries Degree at the BIrmingham School of Media.

The story was covered by the Birmingham Post and Birmingham Mail and is starting to get picked up by other international press.