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Popular Music and Radio Organisations

Award Information

AHRC ref: AH/F008627/1
Discipline: Music
Funding opportunity: Knowledge Transfer Fellowship
Areas of Impact: Engagement with Business; Communities; Creative Industries: Digital Technologies; Investment in people; Knowledge exchange; Policy influence; Skills and capacity building
Lead RO: Birmingham City University
Region: West Midlands

In the fast moving and rapidly changing world of twenty-first century music culture, it has been difficult for some radio and music organisations to keep pace. The work of the eight-person team on a series of AHRC-funded projects has been central to fundamental changes in the activities of some such organisations, which have seen their audiences grow and their income boosted as a result.

‘Changing technologies in the online and digital fields has transformed the way people interact with music,’ explains Professor Tim Wall, project leader. ‘These days, that engagement is communal, and successful music and radio industry organisations must understand the new complex relationship between their audience and music in order to survive.’

It has always been difficult for small, independent music labels to make a living. However, the project’s approach to using new and innovative approaches to retailing music online has shown how fortunes can be transformed.

In just three months, with the project’s assistance and online know-how, jazz record company, Edition Records, saw 20,000 new streams of recordings, 2,200 new followers on Soundcloud, 2,500 new followers on Twitter, and 400 new likes on Facebook. This translated to over £1,500 in digital sales and over £1,200 in physical sales — at least doubling the company’s business.

Ananya Jahanara Kabir
Birmingham City University has helped businesses such as Capsule which promotes live events, in particular the internationally renowned Supersonic Festival and Birmingham Music Archive which is an online repository celebrating the musical heritage of Birmingham. Copyright: Supersonic Festival/Facebook

‘Funding from the AHRC has enabled us to consolidate an expert team at Birmingham City University,’ says Professor Wall. ‘It has transformed the team, increasing the scale and deepening the expertise of the members, who have been able to engage and help over 150 music and radios organisations in the UK and beyond.’

People often speak of the power of music, and by sharing their ideas around music as a tool for social change, the project inspired cultural archiving initiatives in Venezuela and Uganda. Meanwhile, in the ‘Monkey on a Roof’ project, partners made an album of songs by children in Delhi affected by extreme poverty. The album was then sold to raise money for the Music Basti charity, which facilitated the song workshops, thereby raising awareness and several hundred pounds in donations as well as inspiring new thinking among the charity’s members.

The principles behind the work of Wall’s team have become prominent in the BBC’s approach to specialist music. Particularly important has been their expertise around specialist music markets and communities, and the understanding gained though working with communities around the world to develop support through public radio.

Equally, the project’s work with organisations such as the Scarborough Jazz Festival has shown how user-generated content and multi-narrative texts can be used to extend the experience of the festival to an international audience through the internet.

Work initiated and inspired by the project, along with the new platform of know-how among industry organisations will continue and evolve to produce far-reaching benefits long beyond the project’s end. Already, the team’s expertise has informed new business models through an Audience Discovery Project at the Birmingham Symphony Hall. The work will engage 50,000 venue users with a bespoke app.        

Gateway to Research Project Links: Knowledge Transfer Fellowship in New Strategies for Radio and Music Organisations (Resubmission), Feb 08 - Jan 10