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The Hidden History of Pop Music — TEDx and press

17 Juni 2015 3,192 views No Comment

My TEDx talk at Goodenough House is the latest in a long list of outreach “things” that I’ve had the chance to do over the last few weeks, all connected to the paper that Armand and I worked on, with help from Bob and Mark: The Evolution of Popular Music: USA 1960–2010.

It’s been quite a ride. Articles about us have appeared in over 400 print media worldwide, including the Economist, Guardian, Telegraph, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, and so forth. I gave lots of interviews, my main occupation for about two weeks around the publication. It gave me the opportunity to appear on national TV (Sky, Channel 5), and national, even world-wide radio (Click on BBC World).

I can’t deny that it’s been a blast. I particularly enjoyed being chauffeured around in cabs through London, from one interview to the next. And I’m very happy I’ve got this TEDx talk now, which I can show off to folks.

Yet it’s clearly out of proportion. Sure, we worked very hard to make that paper, and it took us a long, long time. Still, there’s other research that I’m quite proud of, which took nearly as long as this, and it didn’t receive any media attention whatsoever. This is, of course, equally the case for the fantastic research carried out by many of my fellow researchers in the field.

Perhaps it’s a consolation for those who would like to have that sort of attention too sometimes that it does have it’s downsides: for several weeks, I really didn’t manage to work on what I would consider my actual job, and it felt a bit wrong after a while. Luckily, press attention has faded now (though I’ll do an interview with a radio station in Utah even today), so I’ve resumed work almost as usual. And you also get some bad reactions from people. Firstly, the press aren’t always in favour of your work. But I’ve even appeared on a website whose only purpose is to shame people. Interesting.

And then there’s the question: what is this media attention actually good for? I assume Queen Mary are happy because it might attract new students. I assume that more researchers around the world will know of the work and will cite it — but realistically, there are not so many people who write papers for which our study might be relevant. Perhaps the media will have the power to reach researchers who work on music and culture who would not normally read music informatics papers. Perhaps that’s the greatest hope I have.

So, uhm, what shall we conclude. Ah, nothing, I’ll leave it to you dear reader.


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