Television Location Skills

The first assignment for this module, we worked individually to film and edit a 90 second video of someone walking around the University. This allowed us to familiarise ourselves with the equipment and software before beginning the group task.

For the second assignment I worked in a group to film an event put on for another group’s Music Industry Skills module.

This was filmed in a bar and consisted of footage of the performing artists and an interview with the owner. I acted as camera operator and also assisted with the editing.

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New Media Platforms

In this first year module I learnt basic HTML and CSS coding in tutorials and by using Code Academy. I then used these skills to design my own wordpress theme and build a music news website.

I conducted research into several other music news websites to compare their layout, content and colour schemes, and found stories to include on my own website.

This was my first experience in coding and provided a basic level of knowledge I was able to build on myself.

Music Industry Skills

This was a first year module, in which each group was required to form an independent record label, sign some artists and put on a live event.

My group’s record label was Ellipsis Records, an indie rock label. We created an official website using Wix, as well as social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube to interact with our audience and raise awareness of our label, artists and event.

Ellipsis Records Banner

As well as our online promotion, we also had posters and business cards printed, which we distributed across Birmingham. As Birmingham has a large population of students, we decided that our event would have free entry to appeal to this audience. For this reason, many of the posters were taken to Universities, Collages and Halls of Residence.

 

We signed three bands to our label: The Regulars, Malone Malone and Young Braves. We held our event at The Green Room Cafe Bar which we were able to hire free of charge. As the venue did not have sound equipment for a gig, we contacted other students from Live Sound Production courses, who were able to provide and set up this equipment for us.

Before our event took place, we also had to present our label and event plans to a panel of industry experts. Within this project, my responsibilities included:

  • A&R
  • Social Media
  • Design and Promotion
  • Venue Scouting

Fandoms, Subcultures and Cult Media #4

Cult Media and Cult Fandom

“There can be no final and absolute classification of the media cult, for just as different generations within the ‘family’ may recombine qualities and attributes, then so too may new ‘media cults’ produce further recombinations of family attributes.” – Matt Hills, 2002

In spite of this suggestion that a media cult is impossible to define due to the wide range of fan practices and engagements caused by the generational mixture in many ‘families,’ Hills has also identified three typical traits of cult media texts:

  • Endlessly Deferred Narrative
  • Hyperdiegisis
  • Audience Participation

I am going to relate these characteristics to a text that I am a dedicated fan of and would consider to have a cult following; Harry Potter. The extensive global media coverage of this series may make this seem like an unlikely example of a cult text. After all, anyone who is willing to pay for an overpriced cinema ticket to one of the films would most likely identify as a fan, and as with a box office total of $1.3billion for the final film alone would suggest, this encompasses millions more fans than is usual for a cult.

potter

However, does everyone who went to see the films participate in the online community Pottermore, buy wand collections the Platform 9 ¾ shop and partake in extensive debates on whether Harry and Hermione would make a better couple than her and Ron? Did they queue up outside Waterstones at midnight dressed in cloaks and hats each time a new book came out? Or have they even read the books?! In my opinion the, Harry Potter fandom, like many other cult fandoms, is split into two sets: those who enjoy the films and books and appreciate J.K Rowling’s modern work of genius, and those who truly immersed themselves the wizarding world, and continue to do so years after the final releases.

In regards to Hills’ three traits, I am going to start with Endlessly Deferred Narrative. This refers to a question which remains unanswered throughout the series, and the resolution of which often occurs as the finale. It relates to Barthes’ ‘Hermeneutic Code’ (1974) which to him can ‘constitute an enigma and lead to its solution.’ Throughout the Harry Potter series, each book adds more to the ongoing battle between Harry and Voldemort. From the start of The Philosopher’s Stone, the reader knows that the series will end with one of them killing the other.

Hills uses the term Hyperdiegesis to describe the creation of narrative space by a text which is ‘stimulating creative speculation’ for those in the fandom. The Wizarding World created through the Harry Potter books certainly conforms to this description. As well as the shops and theme parks based on the books, Pottermore allows J.K. Rowling to release more content to fans. The interactive nature of the site also gives the fans more opportunity to connect with one another as well as the series. Following the release of the final film, Rowling also released information about many of the main and secondary characters and their lives following the events of The Deathly Hallows. This, and much more information given by the books and author over the years have allowed fans to create Wikis of each character, displaying much more information one could gather from just the films.

Although the audience’s participation in the universe created by these books is an example of Hills’ final point, more conventional fan practices also take place, largely online. This includes fan fiction and artwork, and fan made trailers and short films.

Although this series is obviously incredibly mainstream, with a total worldwide box office of $7.7billion and 450 million books sold, I still believe that the intricately detailed magical world they create has resulted in a cult following who still appreciate reading the books for the seventh time, as well as the companion books. This suggests that amongst the masses of cinema goers who watch just because of the hype surrounding it, there is still a dedicated cult following.

Bibliography

Hills, M. (2002), Fan Cultures, New York & London, Routledge.

Fandoms, Subcultures and Cult Media #6

Gender in Subcultures and Fandom

Although being a female fan of rock music is in no way surprising or unusual, it still takes me longer than it should when searching the shelves of magazines in supermarkets for Kerrang or Rocksound. This is because I cannot get used to the fact that a magazine that I, and many of my female friends, have read for years is categorized as ‘male interest.’ According to the categories laid out by Sainsbury’s I should be exclusively interested in magazines featuring celebrities revealing their shocking weight loss secrets or if I am to read about music, I would only concern myself with news of Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift.

1d

Generally, these ‘female’ magazines are targeted at young girls and teenagers, with nothing suitable for adult females. This is demonstrated by the playful, pink text that results in the magazine lacking any credibility of music journalism and acting more as a means for 12-year-olds to certify which member of One Direction they’re most likely to marry. In contrast, the images, colour schemes and text on the cover of ‘male’ music magazines create a much more serious image, with more well established bands whose interviews often cover real-life topics such as drug use and mental health, rather than focusing on each member’s favourite colour, relationship status and equally the important facts that pop music magazines fixate on.

This reflects Andreas Huyssen’s view in 1986, and shows that very little has changed since then in the gender association within media industries. He states ‘mass culture is somehow associated with women while real, authentic culture remains the prerogative of men.’ This idea is now taken even further to create the illusion that women are incapable of participating in a fandom that is labelled as a male interest. As rock and metal music is generally regarded to have a predominantly male fan base, excuses are made on the behalf of women in the fandom.

An example of this is given in “Anyone who Calls Muse a Twilight Band will be Shot on Sight’: Music, Distinction, and the ‘Interloping Fan’ in the Twilight Franchise’ by Rebecca Williams which discusses bands, such as Muse who were heavily featured in The Twilight Saga films. This has led to the assumption that every female fan, whether loyal since the start or not, is only interested in the band because of their association with Twilight. Despite the fact they formed in 1994 and released their debut album, Showbiz in 1999, it is a far too accepted assumption that they would have had no female fans until the first Twilight film was released in 2008. Williams discusses ‘issues which force seemingly arbitrary fandoms into opposition to each other, causing them to operate on axes of distinction and to engage in forms of ‘accidental anti-fandom.”

Both Williams and Huyssen’s research shows how infuriating it can be as a female member of fandoms typically seen as ‘male’. ‘Female’ fandoms are often seen as worthless due to their mass-produced nature and women cannot be part of a ‘male’ fandom without being accused of having an ulterior motive for their interest. Identifying yourself as a member of any fandom should not require justifying your interests so as not to be seen as a ‘fake.’

Bibliography

Huyssen, A. (1988) After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmodernism, Basingstoke, Macmillan.

Williams, R. (2013) ”Anyone Who Calls Muse a Twilight Band Will Be Shot on Sight’: Music, Distinction, and the ‘Interloping Fan’ in the Twilight Franchise”, Popular Music and Society, vol. 36, no. 3, p. 327.

Fandoms, Subcultures and Cult Media #3

Exploring Subcultures

Although I would consider myself a member of various subcultures, they are all based around music. My favourite genres of music are rock, metal and indie music, as well as pop-punk, pop and alternative. Music is one of the most important things to me, and although I actively engage with other fans and musicians and feel as though it has been a major factor in my life up to now, I am aware that many people and would not see me as a member of these subcultures. There is an idea among many that members of subcultures dress and act in certain ways, and I don’t feel that I personally conform to these expectations. An example of this would be in 2008 when The Daily Mail described ‘emos’ as people who ‘wear dark clothes, practice self harm and listen to ‘suicide cult’ rock bands.’

fans

In Resistance Through Ritual (1975), Hall and Jefferson suggest that subcultures are formed by people who are trying to ‘resist’ the mainstream. This was the basis of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies’ idea that ‘Juvenile Delinquency’ came from an attempt to oppress Capitalism. I personally don’t think that the reason I listen to music not considered ‘mainstream’ is because I am trying to resist being seen as ‘following the crowd’ or wanting to be ‘indie’ or a Hipster, rather than because it is the music I enjoy more than the repetitive, manufactured, overly-produced music that seems to dominate the Top 40. Despite this, I regularly see fans of previously unknown artists who waste no time in accusing them of ‘selling out’ and ensuring the rest of the Youtube community know that they were fans when no-one else was.

This theory has also been criticised for placing too much emphasis on the working class who supposedly create subcultures through their lack of acceptance into other areas of society. As well as this, I remain hopeful that I am amongst the majority of music fans who are more interested in the actual music, rather than how many others are listening to it. For these reasons, I feel that this theory needs updating to accommodate the ways most people find new music and become part of subcultures: the internet.

I have found that the subcultures I am a part of have allowed me to meet and talk to other people with similar interests to me, often just because they are wearing a t-shirt of a band I don’t know anyone else who likes. Dick Hebdige discusses how subcultures are formed in ‘Subculture: The Meaning of Style’ and suggests that when first formed through a ‘common resistance,’ subcultures are seen as radical by dominant society, but as the style of clothing or music that defines the subculture become commodified by large media industries, it will eventually become more mainstream and accepted by homogenous masses. A recent subculture this theory can be applied to is ‘Hipsters’ whose way of dressing is now recognised, as well as mocked online.

Overall, I find that my participation in musical subcultures gives me a common interest with others. Although I often do not dress typically of the subculture, I often wear band merchandise to express my interests. Also, though I find certain genres preferable, I do listen to a wide variety of music that means that even if other people do not share my main taste, I will usually still be able to discuss music with them.  I think that like myself, many people who do not look or act as a stereotype of the subculture are still just as active, enthusiastic and interested in it than those who do.

Bibliography

Hebdige, D. (1988), Subculture: the Meaning of Style, London, Routledge.

Jefferson, T., Hall, S. & University of Birmingham. Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (1976), Resistance through rituals: youth subcultures in post-war Britain, London, Hutchinson in association with the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, University of Birmingham.

Fandoms, Subcultures and Cult Media #2

Fan Communities and Fan Consumption

It has been continually pointed out to me that I easily become obsessed with bands, TV shows. There have been past instances where I will hear of a band for the first time but will then own four posters, six t-shirts, every CD and be a heavily involved member of their fan forum a week later. Similarly, I have gone from feeling apathetic towards a TV show one day, to sitting up on my laptop all night the next watching every episode and following all the actors and crew members involved on Twitter. I am then likely to drive every person I speak to for the next few months crazy as I regurgitate ‘fun facts’ I have learnt from my hours of reading every Wikipedia page related to my new obsession. The fact that my sisters still remind me of how I used to spend entire days watching, rewinding, and re-watching The Jungle Book video when I was young proves how little I have changed since I was three.

Although I do eventually lose interest, I am still a fan of everything I have ever gone through one of these obsessive phases over and still proudly wear any merchandise I acquired during that period. I can relate to several of the stereotypical characteristics laid out by Jenkins (1992) in his essay on Star Trek fans, ‘Get A Life! Fans, Poachers, Nomads.” One characteristic is ‘brainless consumers who buy anything associated,’ which, although I have so far resisted spending over £100 on a Harry Potter time-turner necklace, is something my extensive collection of band t-shirts proves I am guilty of. The only other of these characteristics I feel applies to me is that I ‘place inappropriate importance on devalued cultural material,’ but in my opinion, learning The Big Bang Theory theme tune on piano was a more productive use of time than revising for A Levels.

merch

Joli Jensen (1992) identifies two types of fans: the obsessed loner and the frenzied, hysterical member of the crowd. Fortunately, I feel that the latter applies to me. I cannot attempt to argue that the amount of time I spend could not have been better spent reading a classic novel or learning another language, but I would also be wrong to suggest that it has led to no benefits. Upon being the single person from the 150 students in my school year group to move to Birmingham for University, I found that being part of fandoms and having a common interest on which I could start a conversation made the experience much less daunting. I would consider music to be my main interest, and becoming a fan of this has made me more open to and more appreciative of styles of music I wouldn’t normally have listened to. For this reason I agree with Anthony Giddens in ‘Modernity and Self Identity’ (1991) who states ‘A person’s identity is not to be found in behavious, nor in the reactions of others but in the capacity to keep a particular narrative going.’

Bibliography

Giddens, A. (2008) Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age, Cambridge, Polity.

Jenkins, H. (1992) Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture, New York, Routledge.

Jensen, J. (1992) ‘Fandom as pathology: The consequences of characterisation’ in Lisa A. Lewis (ed.) The Adoring Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media, London, Routledge.