Long-running Experience Music Project pop music conference relocating from Seattle to Los Angeles

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The annual Experience Music Project Pop Conference, which gathers critics, journalists and academics for a weekend of presentations on the vast diaspora of music, is relocating from its longtime home at the Experience Music Project in Seattle to the UCLA campus, conference organizers announced this morning. The event, which issues a call each year for papers based around an organizing theme, will take place February 24-27, according to the press release, and will have as its theme, ‘Cash Rules Everything Around Me: Music and Money.’

Founded in 2002, the pop conference, which is organized by music journalist and University of Alabama assistant professor of American Studies Eric Weisbard (disclosure: he is married to Los Angeles Times pop music critic Ann Powers), features a wildly eclectic mix of ideas. And for fans of music writing, ethnomusicology and random deep-thinking on the effect of organized sound on the culture, it’s a music geek’s paradise. The dozens of papers presented in years past include ‘Time Out of Mind: TV on the Radio’s Diasporic Data Tapes & the ReMixed Code(s) of ‘Cookie Mountain’,’ ‘Sex and Syncopation in the City: Race and the Bodily Economy of Ragtime’ and ‘How George Michael’s ‘Father Figure’ Made Me a Man.’ (Disclosure: I’ve presented at the conference in years past).

After the jump, the full call for proposals for the 2011 pop conference.

‘Cash Rules Everything Around Me: Music and Money’


2011 EMP Pop Conference at UCLA

Feb. 24-27

Los Angeles

Jointly sponsored by Experience Music Project and the UCLA department of musicology

“The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and bees, I need money!” Motown founder Berry Gordy co-wrote it, Barrett Strong sang it and John Lennon’s vocal in the Beatles cover offered a fervent affirmation. By the time Wu-Tang Clan recorded “C.R.E.A.M.,” however, chasing bucks in pop found kinship more with high stakes shootings and teens behind bars. For this year’s Pop Conference, the tenth annual meeting and first outside of Seattle, we invite presentations on a matter Los Angeles knows well: the relationship between song and paycheck –- or, to invoke the O’Jays hit “For the Love of Money,” bass line and bottom line.

Topics can cover any era or style of music and may include, but are not limited to:

-- Selling out: Self-objectification and compromise, but also selling out as breaking out -- codebreaking and innovation

-- The music industry, past, present and (?) future, from records to radio and retail; impresarios in idolatry; the current slump and pop through boom and bust, affluence and scarcity

--Money, bling, “Life in the Fast Lane,” etc. as a topic in song and discourse: how different genres view commercialism differently; charity and social consciousness as rival impulses

--Class as operating force; profitable music and blurred hierarchy, the working class and “Don’t Get Above Your Raisin’” -- how class-bound assumptions affect musical valuation

--Los Angeles in the pop imaginary, a place that has never pretended music is a solely artistic enterprise

--“Capital (It Fails Us Now)”: payola blues, the pervasive sense of the business as (to quote Hunter S. Thompson) a “long shallow money trench” and distillation of capitalism’s inequities

--Globalization and monetization: pop as international product, differing national and regional approaches to music merchandising

--Patronage: sponsorships, institutions as support structures for pop, music in advertising

--Financing musical production: the aesthetics of hi-fi -- as David & David once sang, “all that money makes such a succulent sound”

The EMP Pop Conference, launched in 2002, joins academics, critics, performers and dedicated fans in a rare common discussion. The conference is jointly sponsored in 2011 by the department of musicology at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music and by the Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. This year’s program committee members are: Jasen Emmons (EMP/SFM), Robert Fink (UCLA), Gaye Theresa Johnson (UC Santa Barbara), writer Maura Johnston, Josh Kun (USC), Katherine Meizel (Oberlin), filmmaker Jim Mendiola, Ann Powers (Los Angeles Times), writer-musician Tim Quirk, Jeffrey Rabhan (NYU) and biographer David Ritz.

Please send proposals of 250 words, with 50-word bio, to organizer Eric Weisbard (University of Alabama) at Deadline for proposals is Oct. 15. Panel proposals, specifying either 90 minutes or 120, should include both overview language and individual proposals/bios, or overview and bios only for roundtable discussions. We welcome unorthodox proposals and proposals aimed explicitly at a general interest audience. For more information, go to

-- Randall Roberts