Popular Music: Demo tapes

Date & Time:

29th March, 16:00


Online event; the link will be sent to those who register.


In this forthcoming session, five members of the Popular Music Research cluster will present short “work-in-progress” presentations. Find out more in the talk blurbs and speaker bio notes below. .

In this forthcoming session, five members of the Popular Music Research cluster will present short “work-in-progress” presentations. Find out more in the talk blurbs and speaker bio notes below. .

Sam Coley (BCU) Get Things Done: The Commodification of David Bowie in 1983

1983 was a pivotal point in the career of musician David Bowie, which transformed him from an “eternal outsider” into a global superstar. This talk uses the album’s 40th anniversary as an opportunity to reconsider its legacy in the Bowie canon. I focus on the business acumen behind the repositioning of Bowie’s brand and evaluate accusations of “selling-out” and “inauthenticity” in his quest for mainstream international success.

Asya Draganova (BCU) Queer political punk & indie: An exploration of an emergent underground scene in contemporary Bulgaria

This presentation explores the struggles and creative opportunities experienced by contemporary Bulgarian queer artists who identify as feminist and as LGBT+ rights activists. The research includes a series of open-ended interviews and ongoing communication with artists including experimental and “political indie” musician Angelica Summer and members of the punk band You, Perverts. The “work-in-progress” findings suggest that the use of music for feminist and LGBT+ activist purposes is growing within a niche, distinctly politicised underground scene as a response to a hostile wider environment. Members of this scene describe the Bulgarian environment as oppressive from legal and social perspectives, despite identifying some positive developments too. Their sense of alienation frequently results in a self-imposed cultural exile to places like the UK and Germany where they find greater creative freedom yet remain actively engaged with social change in Bulgaria.

Laura Hind (BCU) How do musicians, audiences and distributors involved in the diasporic West African Music Industry in the UK view the role of copyright?

My work looks at how copyright is viewed in the West African Music Industry in the UK. Through ethnographic research carried out at gigs and festivals across the UK I aim to find out how the industry is organised; how West African music is economically exchanged and how copyright functions in this sector of the so-called World Music Industry.

Rosemary Williams(BCU) Songs Through Motherhood: An Emerging Methodology

My PhD project offers the first creative enquiry on the subject of becoming a mother and negotiating this new identity through songwriting practice. It will bring together maternal and songwriting studies to establish novel scholarship. Drawing on maternal music engagement (Fancourt and Perkins, 2017) and Maternal Performance (Šimić, 2018), I will define and extend understanding of maternal music making (what mother-musicians make). I argue that songwriting can be used as a tool to facilitate the re-imagining of a mother and as a way to explore all aspects of motherhood, therefore, fostering a more positive transition through matrescence (Hogan, 2015; Snyder, 2016; Lockhart Chilton, 2021).

As a singer-songwriter with experience of new motherhood, my research will address women’s experiences of motherhood through songwriting and interviews with mother-songwriters exploring their practices and experiences. My presentation will focus on my songwriting process as my emerging methodology. It will feature excerpts from my songbook and practice journal; audio recordings of ideas in progress from my phone; and more formal drafts of songs on my handheld recording device.

Dr. Simon Barber (BCU) Songwriting Camps in the 21st Century

This talk provides an overview of the new AHRC/DFG-funded project Songwriting Camps in the 21st Century. Although the art of songwriting continues to maintain a romantic mystique, the reality is that many contemporary popular songs are (co-)written by professional songwriting teams, increasingly in songwriting camps convened and overseen by publishers and record companies. Focusing on the UK and Germany, this project investigates what forms of songwriting camps exist in the 21st century and attempts to understand the interests of convenors (publishers, record companies, individuals) and participating professionals. It investigates the collaborative creative processes and interplay between various roles (topliners, beatmakers, lyricists, producers, performers) and offers insights into the organisation of offline and online camps, legal factors, and the role of songwriting camps within the wider music industries.

About the speakers:

Dr Sam Coley is Course Leader for the MA Media Production at Birmingham City University. He has delivered several conference papers about the musicians David Bowie and Prince, and published articles about the participatory fan cultures surrounding them. He also works as a freelance radio producer, specialising in music documentaries.

Dr Asya Draganova is a Lecturer in Popular Music Culture at Birmingham City University. She is the author of Popular Music in Contemporary Bulgaria: At the Crossroads (2019) and the lead editor for the collection The Canterbury Sound in Popular Music: Scene, Identity and Myth (2021, with Shane Blackman and Andy Bennett). Asya is currently the co-leader of the Popular Music Research Cluster at the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research, with Dr Simon Barber.

Laura Anne Hind is a PhD candidate in Media and Cultural Studies at BCU. Laura’s current research stems from her enjoyment of West African music and academic interests in music industry, copyright law and world music. This research also builds on her previous work on the history of copyright and music industry in postcolonial Senegal, Benin and Ghana.

Rosemary Williams: I am a mother, singer-songwriter, PhD candidate and Visiting Lecturer at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. I am also one half of the songwriting duo behind the Birmingham-based country-rock band, The Mourning Suns. And, I am in the throes of producing a new solo project. Until recently, I was employed as a Research Assistant at Coventry University, where my focus was the development of Practice Research Portfolios for REF2021. I graduated with a Distinction in Musicology (MA) from RBC in 2017, and, with First Class honours for my undergraduate degree in Music, Falmouth University (2011).

Dr Simon Barber is a Senior Research Fellow in the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research (BCMCR) at Birmingham City University. His work focuses on songwriting and the creative process, which he explores as co-lead of the BCMCR Popular Music Cluster. He leads the Songwriting Studies Research Network and is currently co-investigator on the AHRC/DFG funded project Songwriting Camps in the 21st Century. Simon is also the producer and co-presenter of the popular Sodajerker podcast, which features interviews with some of the most successful songwriters in the world.