Popular Music: Virtual music and distributed creativity

Date & Time:

13th October, 16:00


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


Presentations by Dr. Shara Rambarran ad Dr. Marcus O’Dair on virtual music and distributed creativity

Dr. Shara Rambarran (University of Brighton) Virtual Music: Sound, Music, and Image in the Digital Era

In this talk, Dr Shara Rambarran offers insight on her new, and very timely book Virtual Music: Sound, Music, and Image in the Digital Era (Bloomsbury). While the book explores how music (along with sound and image) shapes virtuality through digital technology, for this talk, Dr Shara Rambarran will draw on ‘disruptive’ innovations surrounding virtual music with references to remixology and audio-visuals.

Dr Marcus O’Dair (Middlesex University) Distributed creativity: blockchains and the creative economy

Blockchain technology may first have emerged with bitcoin but its significance extends far beyond the financial sector: its impact on the creative economy, for instance, is potentially transformative. Since adoption has not been quite as fast as some predicted, blockchain currently languishes deep in the trough of disillusionment. Yet the hype, especially that related to token sales and cryptocurrency speculation, was always misguided: the value of blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies was never directly related to speculative investments in cryptocurrencies and tokens. The current disappointment is equally misguided: blockchain technology could still usher in a whole new techno-economic paradigm. It is simply that new paradigms do not appear overnight. The current under-performance of blockchains in technical terms, for instance in terms of scalability, is no reason to write it off: indeed, it is normal for disruptive technologies to under-perform when measured by metrics associated with established, ‘sustaining’ technologies. If and when they break through, however, these technologies disrupt not only more established technologies but also the associated metrics. A new chapter begins. This research, based on interviews with 10 start-ups using blockchain technology, suggests that blockchains could be transformative in four respects. Firstly, ownership models could be re-imagined, resulting in improved attribution and the creation of a single source of truth for payments and licensing. Secondly, payments and licensing could become both smart (in the sense of ‘smart contracts’, or programmable transactions) and transparent (at least, as transparent as is desired). Thirdly, creators could set parameters for pricing and licensing their works and promoters could set parameters for the re-sale of tickets. Fourthly, new business models could emerge, with consumption data being used to benefit creators rather than intermediaries; a new market for ‘cryptocollectibles’; automated droit de suite payments for the resale of artworks; and tokens with genuine utility (not simply a means of raising finance) used to incentivise new forms of collaboration. That potential, however, will not necessarily be realised. Barriers to adoption, from legal and regulatory uncertainty to ongoing confusion about the distinction between bitcoin and distributed ledgers more broadly, will take time to overcome. And even if the barriers are overcome, the adoption of blockchain technology will not be without risks. The question we should be asking is not whether, or even when, blockchain technology will be more widely adopted within the creative economy. The question we should be asking is this: if it is more widely adopted, what will be the impact?

About the speakers:

Dr Shara Rambarran is a lecturer in Music Business and Media at the University of Brighton, and a musicologist. She is the author of Virtual Music: Sound, Music, and Image in the Digital Era (Bloomsbury), and co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Music and Virtuality (Oxford University Press) and The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Music Education (Routledge). Shara Rambarran also co-runs the Art of Record Production conferences. For more information, please visit shararambarran.com

Dr Marcus O’Dair is a writer, musician and academic. His most recent book, Distributed Creativity (Palgrave 2019), about the impact of blockchain technology on the creative economy, was written as researcher in residence at Digital Catapult. His previous book, Different Every Time: the Authorised Biography of Robert Wyatt (Serpent’s Tail 2014), was shortlisted for the Penderyn book prize and named a Radio 4 book of the week. His work has been funded by Office for Students, Research England, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Enterprise Educators UK, the Blockchain Research Institute and the Institute of Coding. He has also led three projects for the British Council: Creative Leadership Programme, for Mexican cultural leaders; Multiplier Lab, for West African creative hub leaders; and Creative Entrepreneurship E-learning Platform, for users in Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa. Marcus is currently Associate Dean of Knowledge Exchange at University of the Arts London (UAL), the largest specialist art and design university in Europe and one of the top  art and design universities in the world. He was previously Associate Professor in Music and Innovation at Middlesex University.