Call for Papers | Born to Be Alive: Live Music as a Crucial Dimension of 21st Century Popular Music | Special Issue

Organizers: Paula Guerra and Samuel Lamontagne

Savage (2019) paints a devastating portrait of the music industry’s current state. In the United States, record sales have dropped about 80% in the last decade: from 450 to 89 million, and its plight continues. From 2017 to 2018, worldwide record sales percentage plummeted an additional 23%. At the latest Grammy Awards, two of the nominees for best album never had a physical release. The situation becomes more acute when analyzing 2018’s top selling records: the vast majority relates to film soundtracks. How can the music industry react? We must first consider that this is a very recent reality and that the actors’ adaptability cannot keep up with the constant technological progress in music digitalization and that, these days, anyone with a computer or smartphone is able to download hundreds of albums and stockpile thousands of songs. We sometimes forget that those processes only started back in 1998 with the evolution of the MP3 player. At the time, the MP3 format allowed a revolutionary audio compression. It was a clear example of an action’s non-intended consequences: a tool which was supposed to help the music industry ended up harming it in the long run. As we know, after MP3 came sharing websites like Napster, KaZaa with peer-to-peer downloads of free music. If, on the one hand, the number of downloads was ever-growing, the music industry’s reaction was to potentially sue any and all people who illegally downloaded a file (Morris, 2015). The most recent example of this phenomenon in everyone’s mind may be Metallica’s quixotic struggle.

The objective of this Special Issue is to question the directions this reality will move towards, as well as its impact on musicians, audiences, and the cultural industries. What will happen to musicians, especially those in small bands from peripheral scenes and countries who have to spend hours and hours on the road to get from concert to concert (Ballico & Carter, 2018; Smith & Thwaites, 2018)? What kind of impact will this have on the increasing precariousness of being a career musician, in the blurring between professional and private spheres and how the concept of “choosing poverty” (Threadgold, 2018) may or may not explain the situation many musicians experience? The DIY ethos, which had been at the core of punk, is now a key source of influence and inspiration for other music genres, through the creation of alternative networks of production, performance and consumption (Bennett & Guerra, 2019a, 2019b). Following this, to what extent can the DIY ethos be used as a vehicle for musicians to adapt to this new reality, whether through the reduction in cost of music production or through the monetization of sociability, meaning, through the blurring between personal and professional spheres, the investment in social media as a means of forming contact networks to perform and tour in different countries? And what nefarious effects can this reality have for new players whose contact networks are not well established (Rogers, 2010) and who are in the more alternative aesthetic and artistic spheres? We know music scenes have always had an over-representation of men, based, above all, in the classic dichotomy between private and public spheres. Secondary and backstage tasks are the purview of women, while the performing and producing, the stage, are monopolized by men. That being the case, to what extent does this emphasis on live music reinforce masculinization processes, or does it, on the contrary, serve as a vehicle to undermine them?

We therefore invite you to submit articles that address the following questions:

  1. From amateurs to professionals of music.
  2. Organization of the live music business.
  3. Working in the gig economy.
  4. A shifting concert sustainable ecology.
  5. The live music ecologies during and post-COVID-19.

Ethnomusicology Review is now accepting submissions for this Special Issue, scheduled for publication in Fall 2021. Started as Pacific Review of Ethnomusicology (PRE) in 1984, Ethnomusicology Review is an annual peer-reviewed journal managed by UCLA graduate students and a faculty advisory board. Our online format allows authors to rethink how they use media to present their argument and data, moving beyond the constraints of print journals. We encourage submissions that make use of video, audio, color photographs, and interactive media.

Articles are original essays of no more than 8000 words, and will be evaluated by the editors of this Special Issue. They are expected to extend current theoretical and/or methodological approaches to the study of music, broadly conceived, and may be written from a variety of disciplinary perspectives including ethnomusicology, musicology, anthropology, sociology and cultural studies. Articles explicitly engaging with contemporary ethnomusicological scholarship are particularly encouraged.

The submission deadline is October 20, 2020.