The Third Annual EGSO Conference: The Music Industry

By Eleanor Lipat

On Saturday, May 31, 2003 the Ethnomusicology Graduate Student Organization (EGSO) and the UCLA Ethnomusicology Department held the third annual EGSO conference, “The Music Industry.” This one-day event topped off the department’s “Year of the Music Industry” theme – a year devoted to the exploration of music industry themes as they relate to ethnomusicology. Leading up to the conference were a graduate seminar and undergraduate course on the music industry taught by Professor Anthony Seeger, and lectures given by guest speakers, including Anthony McCann, Gage Averill, and Krister Malm.

Conference presenters came from as far as Virginia and Hawaii. Attendance numbered over 60 persons, including graduate and undergraduate UCLA students, and students and instructors from UCLA Extension, Annenberg School of Communications, and other US universities and institutions. In addition, non-academic music industry professionals also contributed their ideas to the sessions.

There were three paper panels and two workshops held throughout the day. The first panel, entitled “Codification, Creativity, & Culture,” included panelists Mark Puryear (Independent Scholar), Birgitta Johnson (UCLA), and David Kammerer (Brigham Young University – Hawaii Campus). Puryear, Johnson, and Kammerer offered a wide range of examples of how African American and Hawaiian musics were appropriated and transformed into popular music genres, and the influence of those genres on the American music industry. In the panel, “Sexuality as Musical Commodity,” Eleanor Lipat (UCLA), Tanya Merchant (UCLA), and Amy Wooley (The College of William and Mary) discussed how female popular artists grapple for control over their sexualized representations and their music within oppressively masculinized sectors of the Vietnamese, Russian, and American pop and country music industries. The third panel, “Mass-Mediated/Masses Mediating Music,” with Jonathan Ritter (UCLA), Martin Scherzinger (Eastman School of Music), and Laith Ulaby (UCLA), illustrated the tensions that arise when dealing with hegemonic structures and popular music. Examining popular forms from grass-roots protest songs to corporate mass-mediated music, Ritter, Scherzinger, and Ulaby drew upon examples as diverse as Peruvian Cancion Social Ayacuchana, Creed, and Madonna.

Workshops allowed for freer dialogue amongst discussants and audience members. The first workshop, “Law and Order: Copyright Issues in Music Scholarship,” featured UCLA Ethnomusicology faculty members Cheryl Keyes and Helen Rees, and UCLA Systematic Musicology professor Roger Kendall. Prof. Keyes described the steps needed to get copyright permissions for song texts and photos in her work with African American popular music. Prof. Rees discussed the challenges that arise when applying laws of intellectual property and copyright across cultures, citing her early fieldwork challenges and recent changes in performance practices in Southwest China. Prof. Kendall examined the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and how it affects scholars’ use of multimedia sources in the classroom and in our own research.

The second workshop, “Indies in the Digital Age,” brought together three artists who each have considerable experience working within the music industry. Aram Sinnreich (University of Southern California), Sammy Chand (Rukus Avenue Records), and Timothy Edwards (Composer for film and television) led a lively discussion about the future of radio, recordings, film scores, and more general concepts of music ownership as digital formats evolve and Internet communication increases.

Keynote Speaker Atesh Sonneborn, Assistant Director of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, brought the conference to a close. During his very thoughtful and philosophical address, Dr. Sonneborn reflected on the path that had led him to Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, and the place that this unique record company holds in an ever-changing music industry. He also tied together various themes that had emerged during the course of the conference, offered pragmatic advice on various issues ranging from the commercial potential of fieldwork recordings to the ethical responsibility of figures in the music industry to the musicians/cultures being recorded.