24.6.14

One Century of Record Labels – Mapping places, stories and communities of sound

International Centre for Music Studies, Newcastle University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne November 6th – 7th 2014

Keynote: Dr Pete Dale (Slampt Records, Manchester Metropolitan University)

This two-day interdisciplinary conference will expose, question and celebrate the enduring role of independent and commercial record labels in the construction of musical patrimony, from the early days of the record industry to the present. Record labels have traditionally functioned as organs of representation (replicating for instance racial stereotypes), codification (setting genres and trends), as well as emancipation (allowing for marginal trends, voices and groups of artists to emerge). They exist at the intersection of the public and the personal, capturing the collective imagination as well as the private fascination of the collector. They occupy different spaces and scales, from internationally influential, legendary record labels (Stax, Motown, or Columbia) to more obscure, bedroom-run, non-commercial labels (Sarah Records, Musical Traditions Records).

The aim of the conference is to gather a variety of perspectives on the past and present legacy of record labels, and to examine their changing status and relevance in an age of increasing dematerialisation. While this conference should be of interest to researchers in popular music studies, we particularly encourage contributions from within the fields of musicology, cultural studies, media studies, and sociology.

Papers could address (but are not limited to) the following aspects:

- Record labels, race and gender. Representations of minorities through records (for instance, early American 'race records' or 'ethnic records'). The role of record labels in colonialism and post-colonial development.
- Record labels, resistance and subculture. The politics of DIY, non-commercial, micro-record labels, which are especially relevant in subcultural scenes such as punk, hardcore, rap, hip hop and twee pop.
- Record labels, consumption and geography. Local, national, transnational and globalised identities. Audio tourism and the commodification of cultural difference.
- The sonic iconicity of record labels and associated studios/producers (Sun, Motown, Chess). The linked histories of audiences, record labels and record production.
- The material culture of record labels and ‘gramomania’ (Katz). Fans, collectors and personal archives. Lost record labels and their subsequent revivals, through practices of vinyl archaeology, collecting, curating and reissuing. The visual iconography of labels, cover-art and liners note as paratext (also digital metadata or downloadable supplementary visual/textual content).
- Historiographical perspectives. How have record labels impacted the creation of musical canons? The many ways in which labels have organised musical production; the construction and contestation of normative production practices and codes.
- How labels mediate ideologies of musical creativity/talent.
- Representations of record labels in the media.
- Record labels in the digital age. MP3 labels, netlabels and the use of technological platforms such as Bandcamp, Soundcloud or YouTube.

A selection of papers will be included in an edited book or journal. Proposals for individual papers (thirty minutes including discussion) and for panels (up to one hour) will be considered. Abstracts (300 words maximum) should be submitted to recordlabelconference2014@gmail.com with a short biographical note. Proposals for panels should also include an abstract for each individual paper. The deadline for submissions is 4th July 2014. Selected speakers will be notified by the first week of August.

Conference organisers: Dr Elodie A. Roy (Newcastle University), Matthew Ord (Newcastle University)

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