Return to Popular Culture Syllabus

Music comes to us through a vast range of mechanisms:  MTV airplay, record stores, online playlists, concerts, satellite radio, Rolling Stone, CDs burnt by peers, and--increasingly--the internet.  The internet may well be the primary outlet for promotion, communication and commerce for the legion of bands dotting the world, serving as the place to sell and consume music (legally obtained and otherwise), screen videos, and network with fans.  Those prospects harbor great potential for bands, audiences, and marketers alike:  today, any garage band with a PC can cut a decent-quality CD, put up a web site or myspace page, and potentially reach masses that were unreachable to bands just a decade ago.  Yet, as with most of popular culture, the internet could be reactionary as easily as it could be revolutionary, churning out cookie cutter bands and rehashed American Idol fare and strengthening the marketing grip of the major record companies.

This exercise examines the complex confluence of advertising, community, transparent self-promotion, and musical and cultural expression that exists on band web pages.  Most bands today have an official web page (including tons of myspace band pages) that shares band news, provides music or video downloads, charts tours and band histories, and hawks merchandise.  These pages routinely attempt to balance, on the one hand, an image of artistic independence, musical creativity, and distinctiveness against, on the other hand, commercial interests:  that is, web pages are interesting unions of art and profit by among the most self-professed creative people, rock musicians.  Web pages have become one of the ways bands craft an image that is intended to reflect their genuine creative and social interests but still induce consumers to purchase (or download) their creative product.

In this assignment you will prepare a paper that examines one of the web pages listed below.  Your paper will assess the page's commercial, artistic, and social interests and examine how the band's music reflects these interests. 

You MUST use one of the web pages in the list below:  please do not substitute your favorite band's page.  I have not included myspace band pages because they're so standardized, but some of these web pages do link to supporting myspace sites that you can analyze as part of the broader paper. 

It isn't necessary for you to write your paper on a band that you already know, and in fact it probably will be easier to write about a band that's new to you.  Part of your mission is to simply assess the web page itself in the same way we assess web pages all the time:  that is, is the site navigable, does it contain useful information, is it aesthetically pleasing to you, does it have technical problems, and so on.  Ultimately, though, what you should do is assess the whole "package" that reaches you:  the visuals on the web page, the text, and the music.  Provide a clear and systematic description of the page's organization, layout, and aesthetics and analyze how this influences the page's message and why you have interpreted it in this form.  Examine how these aesthetics mirror the band's music: almost all of these pages include music samples in some format, and you should listen to the band after assessing their web page.  If your band's site does not have music to download, try MP3.comArtistDirect.com, or Epitonic.com, which all have downloadable music and other features.

Your can draw on whatever resources you find to help you interpret the band's meaning as well as the page itself.  For instance, in many cases you can visit other fan pages for these bands, which can be quite different than the bands' official web page (all the sites included below are the band's own page).  You should use those fan pages to help you contextualize how at least the most devoted fans see a particular band or musician; nevertheless, keep in mind that fan pages always come from the most committed fans and band supporters or the most zealous opponents.  Some bands have message boards on their pages or on fan pages as well.  Some of these bands are well-established acts, but others are a bunch of friends still holding down day jobs:  in the latter case you could probably even email the band members to ferret out their internet philosophy.  You will also find genre-based pages that will examine the basic type of music your band is playing:  for instance, there are lots of rap, ska, punk, and electronic music pages that examine the style and inventory bands playing within the genre.

I've reviewed all these pages on a dial-up modem and tried to ensure they're relatively accessible, but pages can go offline at anytime.  The bigger dilemma for those of you using a slow dial-up modem connection is that some of these pages are technically quite complex, requiring long loading times and a variety of plug-ins.  Downloading music can also be slow, depending on the file size and format.  I've tried not to include gratuitously vulgar pages, but some may still contain visuals or ideas that you are not ready to embrace.  If you find a page that you don't like then try another band.  I'm not endorsing any of these bands musically or socially by including them in the list.

Your paper should be typed and double-spaced (justified left margin) and AT LEAST four pages in length.  THE PAPER IS DUE SEPTEMBER 30.  Late papers will be penalized a letter grade for each day they are late unless you negotiate an extension with me beforehand.

Accidental Superhero (pop)
Ani DiFranco (alt-folk)
The Aquabats (ska)
Asian Dub Foundation (fusion)
Bad Religion (punk)
Belle and Sebastian (indie)
Brand New Idol
  (synthpop)
Camper Van Beethoven (indie)
Cathal Coughlin
(alt-folk)
Deerhoof (indie)
Drive-by Truckers (rock)
Eyeless in Gaza (experimental)
Foreigner (70's oldsters)
Grand National (indie)
The Handsome Family (alt-country)
Mercury Rev (neo-psychedelic)
Midlake (indie)
The Muffs (punk)
The Legendary Pink Dots (electronic)
Phish (garage)
Placebo (indie)
Rush (still breathing)
Silent League (experimental)
Sonic Youth (post-punk)
Spiritualized (rock)
Spock's Beard (mainstream alternative)
Things in Herds (mostly acoustic)
Tragically Hip (alternative/roots rock)
TV on the Radio (indie)
Widespread Panic (neo-hippie)

Return to Popular Culture Syllabus Email Dr. Mullins at paulmull@iupui.edu

Last updated July 9, 2008