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UTA team develops digital archive to preserve music by alumni, students, local artists

Friday, July 29, 2016

Media Contact: Bridget Lewis

News Topics: alumni, communications, faculty, Internet, liberal arts, music, students

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A new website developed at The University of Texas at Arlington plans to make music produced by UTA music students, alumni, professors and independent artists in the North Texas region available for free to the world.

David Arditi, UTA assistant director of sociology, collaborated on MusicDetour with faculty and students across disciplines. His previous research examined major record labels' relationship with iTunes.

David Arditi, a UTA assistant professor of sociology, is developing “MusicDetour – the DFW Local Music Archive,” with three goals in mind: to house local music, develop big data that is open and available to all, and to build community.

“Tons of music is recorded in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, but is never fully documented because there is no place to preserve the cultural records,” said Arditi, who contends that recording contracts from major record labels exploit musicians and strip away musicians’ rights. “MusicDetour hopes to give musicians a way to overcome such mistreatment and a nonprofit platform to build a fan base, distribute their music and analyze data about who their fans really are.”

MusicDetour will be hosted initially by UTA in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology’s Center for Theory, but Arditi said future plans involve philanthropic efforts to fund student workers both for curation and greater web development. 

The project’s collaborators include Dan Cavanagh, a jazz pianist, associate professor of music and director of UTA’s music industry studies program; Micah Hayes, a composer and senior lecturer in music industry; Chyng-Yang Jang, associate professor of communication; and staff with the UTA Libraries and UTA Radio, the University’s award-winning student-led internet radio station.

Elisabeth Cawthon, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts, commended the project that represents the collaborative nature of the digital humanities. She also called MusicDetour, which will use data to realize and share new knowledge, as well as enhance current knowledge, a wonderful example of the University’s mission to enhance data-driven discovery, a principle of UTA’s Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.

“By using metadata to note commonalities between musicians, fans, visual artists, actors and others, MusicDetour and UTA sociologists, musicians, librarians and communication faculty and students will develop a community and facilitate connections,” Cawthon said.

“These emerging connections will help develop an alternative cultural model to the culture industry and tangibly demonstrate the value of a liberal arts degree to our current and future students.”

As the site develops, the team said it hopes to reinvent the way music and culture are produced. The eventual plan is to allow listeners to stream and download the music, depending on the artist’s preference for their work.

“A larger project will serve as a hub for local musicians and fans to interact,” said Arditi, noting that under current culture industry models, large corporations control cultural production and distribution. He said the practice limits access to music and changes the content of that which is created.  

Cavanagh admitted that MusicDetour is an ambitious undertaking and runs counter to how people typically think music should be valued.

“We think, however, that this project will be a meaningful start to rethinking the recording industry in a way that gives control back to the creators of the music, rather than the large corporations,” Cavanagh said. “MusicDetour also will serve as a tremendous resource to the extremely talented students who compose and produce original music each year - whether for an assignment or for the love of it - but have no outlet for where it can be archived in this way.”

Arditi’s previous research examined how major record labels have capitalized on iTunes to maintain the same advantage that they held previously through physical media distribution networks. His paper, “iTunes: Breaking Barriers and Buildings Walls,” argued that major record labels were as powerful as ever and appeared in 2013 to generate as much money as when albums, music stores and other historic distribution channels were part of the industry landscape. The research was published in the journal Popular Music and Society.

Arditi also wrote a book on the subject: “iTake-Over: The Recording Industry in the Digital Era,” published by R&L Publishers in 2014.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a Research-1 Carnegie “highest research activity” institution of about 55,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System. U.S. News & World Report ranks UTA fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times’ 2016 Best for Vets list. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more, and find UTA rankings and recognition at www.uta.edu/uta/about/rankings.php.

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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.