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Composing and Marketing Popular Music

  • Module code: MU7007
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: 7
  • Credits: 30
  • Pre-requisites: None
  • Co-requisites: None

Summary

The module is designed to give students a deep and thorough understanding of the processes and techniques involved in popular music composition, and to equip students with the faculties to produce work of a professional standard. Students will learn compositional techniques applicable to a range of popular music genres and will employ these to enhance their own personal style and create a portfolio of compositions. The nature of the creative process, how collaborators (co-writers, band members) communicate with each other and with other artists, and how popular music terminology and notation is utilised will be discussed.  The position of the songwriter and popular music composer within contemporary society and the wider music and media business will also be examined.

This module will also explore strategies behind the manufacture, marketing, distribution and sale of popular music from a global perspective. Students will examine music industry models in an historical context, exploring how practices are evolving through the advent of digital technology. They will explore the factors driving this change with critical appraisal of methods used. Topics covered will include the structure of major and independent record labels, management strategies, identifying a target audience, publicity and marketing within different territories, financing, choice of formats, music video, new media, the live industry, going it alone and the value of popular music as a commodity. Students will be assessed on a portfolio of work including a project that demonstrates the marketing and promotion of one of their popular music compositions.

Aims

  • To develop students' creativity, imagination and professionalism in their approach to popular music composition
  • To develop students' analytical and critical faculties to an advanced level in the field of popular music composition
  • To develop students' awareness of the relationship between popular music compositions, genre, popular culture and the music business
  • to develop  students' contextual insight into how the digital revolution has created new opportunities to market, distribute, acquire and consume popular music

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

  • apply a range of compositional techniques and creative processes to popular music composition;
  • demonstrate a professional and imaginative approach to composition and position their work in the wider context of genre, popular culture and the music business;
  • communicate and interpret musical ideas through notation and terminology as used in popular music.
  • demonstrate familiarity with a range of techniques for the marketing and promotion of popular music;
  • demonstrate familiarity with a range of traditional and new methods for making popular music available to the public and discuss ways in which the consumption of popular music is changing.

Curriculum content

  • The analysis of compositional techniques in a range of popular music genres
  • Use a variety of compositional techniques to broaden and enhance personal compositional style
  • The relationship between music composition, recording and production techniques, and the music business
  • Composition and he creative process in a collective, workshop, oral environment
  • Popular music terminology and notation
  • The impact and conventions of promotion methods used by record companies
  • The use of a broad range of tools currently available for self-promotion for an artist
  • Methods for the manufacture, distribution and sale / acquisition of popular music
  • The convergence of media and businesses
  • The future of popular music and the music industry

Teaching and learning strategy

Lectures introduce students to the key concepts in popular music composition.  Seminar sessions provide students with the opportunity to disseminate and discuss their compositional ideas with the group and the lecturer. The content of the module is also conveyed through lectures and seminars in which students discuss and appraise models they have studied. Workshop sessions provide the opportunity for students to present work-in-progress and receive formative feedback.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive UNISTATS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching Lectures, seminars and workshops 36
Guided independent study 264
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

The assessment for this module is designed to give the student the opportunity to present compositions of a very high professional standard, and to demonstrate their creativity and imagination, both through the creative process and with regard to how they propose to market and distribute their music. In doing so they will also test skills in research, evaluation and critical thinking with respect to the popular music industry. 

Assessment for the module is twofold: 

(i) by way of a portfolio of compositions of approximately 8 minutes total length.  At least one of the compositions must be a song.  These must be submitted in the form of very good demo recordings, and accompanied by a suitable score for each. The nature of the score is dependent on the genre of the music and could take the form of, for example, an audio/midi software project folder or a top-line/lyrics/piano short score. The nature of the score should be discussed with the lecturer prior to submission.  A 500-word written commentary positioning the work in the wider context of genre, popular culture and the music business will also be submitted.

(ii)students will use research skills to identify a model of how marketing has been used to good effect to promote a piece of popular music. A short ten-minute presentation which summarises this will be made to the group using Powerpoint.  Students will also complete a project that demonstrates the practical application of knowledge acquired whilst studying the marketing of popular music. The project will be focused on promotion of one of the piece's of popular music of they have composed. It will be submitted in the form of documentation (equivalent to 1,000 words), which may include business plans and executive summaries and will also include a short evaluation, and practical examples which may be presented on CD, portable hard drive or on the web.

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
1) apply a range of compositional techniques and creative processes to popular music composition Assessed summatively by the portfolio of compositions
2) demonstrate a professional and imaginative approach to composition and position their work in the wider context of genre, popular culture and the music business; Assessed summatively by the portfolio of compositions and the written commentary
3) communicate and interpret musical ideas through notation and terminology as used in popular music. Assessed summatively by the score
4) demonstrate familiarity with a range of techniques for the marketing and promotion of popular music; Assessed summatively by the class presentation
5) demonstrate familiarity with a range of traditional and new methods for making popular music available to the public and discuss ways in which the consumption of popular music is changing. Assessed formatively through discussion following class presentations and summatively by the project and accompanying documentation

Elements of Assessment

Description of Assessment Definitive UNISTATS Categories Percentage
Coursework Portfolio 100
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

Achieving a pass

It IS a requirement that the major category of assessment is passed in order to achieve an overall pass for the module.

Bibliography core texts

Webb, J. (1998) Tunesmith: Inside the Art of Songwriting. New York: Hyperion.
Passman, Donald. S (2002)  All You Need to Know About the Music Business. London: Penguin.

Bibliography recommended reading

Davis, S. (1992) The Song-writers Idea Book. Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books.

DeRosa, R., and Pejrolo, A. (2007) Acoustic and MIDI Orchestration for the Contemporary Composer. Boston: Focal.

Kusek, D. & Davis, S. (2005) The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution.  London:Omnibus.

Lainq, D. & Davis, S.  (2006) The Guerilla Guide to the Music Business. New York: Continuum.  Lathrop, T. (2003) This Business of Music Marketing & Promotion.  New York: Billboard.

Moore, A. (ed.) (2003) Analyzing Popular Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Music Managers' Forum (2003) The Music Management Bible. 2nd Edition. London: Sanctuary.

Rudsenske, J. S. (2005) Start an Independent Record Label: Music business made simple. New York: Schirmer.

Zollo, P. (2003) Song-writers on Song-writing. 4thedn. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.

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