Peak of the Assembly Lines? Online Songwriting Camps as Current Spaces of Individual and Collaborative Creativity

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


One of the central creative cores of popular music cultures is the song. Early on, assembly lines emerged with the commercial production and marketing of music, as in Tin Pan Alley (Jasen 2003). In the 21st century, collaborative, industrial songwriting has increasingly moved online (Campelo 2020), expedited by the Covid-19 pandemic (Ahlers & Herbst 2021), opening up new possibilities for collaboration and creative practice, as noted in a recent Forbes article titled ‘Well Versed: How the Pandemic Rewrote the Book on Songwriting Camp’ (Olson 2021). These camps stand in a long tradition of industrialised songwriting: late 19th, early 20th century Tin Pan Alley; 1960s Brill Building (Barber 2016); 1960s/1970s Motown (George 1986); pro-duction teams like Stock, Aitken & Waterman (Harding 2009).

While preparing a larger research project, it became clear that recent developments and for-mats in songwriting have been inaccessible to the academic public. Most of the data in the emerging field of songwriting studies is retrospective or journalistic, and mostly concerns indi-vidual creativity (Zollo 2003). Apart from some journalistic perspectives, Hiltunen’s (2021) work is a rare exception, providing academic insights into songwriting camps as configurations for collaborative creative practices (see also Bennett 2014).

In the pilot study presented here, professional songwriters from the UK and Germany were interviewed about the complex web of economic interests, individual challenges, group-related experiences and technological developments in the 21st century. One focus of the analyses is to better understand the creative processes that take place under the volatile conditions of the music economy and to be able to classify them as individual (Csikszentmihalyi 1996), distributive (Sawyer & DeZutter 2009) or collaborative (Barrett 2014). The self-concept of the actors and the influencing infrastructures will be included in the findings presented.
Period20 Oct 202222 Oct 2022
Event titleParallel Societies: Effects of Structural Juxtapositions on Popular Music, its Research and Mediation
Event typeConference
LocationVienna, AustriaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational