The Songwriting Studies Network: building a new interdisciplinary field of study

Lead academic(s)

Dr Simon Barber, Senior Research Fellow, Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research

Background to engagement activity

The Songwriting Studies Research Network is a two-year AHRC-funded project which unites scholars, industry workers and practitioners in a forum for the exchange of ideas about songwriting. It is closely connected to Dr Barber's 'Sodajerker' podcast, active since 2011, which contains the world's most expansive archive of audio interviews with songwriters about their creative process. There are over 180 episodes of the show featuring artists like Sir Paul McCartney, Alicia Keys, Paul Simon, Sting and Diane Warren.

Engagement activity undertaken

The research network aims to establish songwriting studies as an interdisciplinary field, to foster relationships between academics, industry workers and practitioners and to produce new insights related to songwriting by exploring key issues, questions and themes. With over 250 members of the Songwriting Studies Research Network, the network is successfully developing a strong community of interest in the field.

Knowledge is being shared through publications, projects and events. The network launch event ‘Songwriting, Practice And Production’ held in March 2019 attracted scholars, industry workers and practitioners to a mix of papers, panels, conversation and performance focusing on contemporary songwriting practice and production. They were joined by Ivor Novello-winning singer-songwriter KT Tunstall who recorded a live episode of the ‘Sodajerker’ songwriting podcast. A second event held at The Ivors Academy in August 2019 involved academic papers and panels, as well as special guests songwriter Nile Rodgers and manager Merck Mercuriadis sharing their insights into hit songs and the changing world of music publishing during a live conversation with the Sodajerker podcast team.

The podcast has had over three million downloads since its debut and continues to reach new listeners. The Sodajerker team were also commissioned to make a radio documentary for the BBC World Service in 2016 ('The Secrets of Songwriting'), which reached approx 200 million global listeners.

Knowledge transferred

The international events organised by the network have shown the diversity of work that intersects with songwriting. The launch of the Songwriting Studies journal is intended to draw together this work and help define the emerging interdisciplinary field of songwriting studies.

Evidence of impact

A ‘Sodajerker’ podcast audience survey conducted in 2019 showed strong areas of engagement with older, retired male songwriters, and young women. This information has been useful in ensuring that the podcast tailors its programming to diverse groups. 

Dates of activity

2018 - 2020

More information here.