Fall 2020

Selling Music

Listed in: Music, as MUSI-441

Moodle site: Course


Amy M. Coddington (Section 01)


The music industry is quickly changing. Over the last year, the concert touring industry has been devastated, as concerts have been cancelled en masse due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, increasing attention has been placed on the racial inequality of the music industry, an industry where white artists and executives over the last century profited from unfairly compensating black musical expression. How are artists and record companies making money in our contemporary moment, and how does that compare to the past?

In this seminar we will analyze the myriad of ways music is sold to the public, focusing on music’s role as a commodity which monetizes musical expressivity. We will start the semester by examining the structure of the music industry, interviewing musicians about their current circumstances to shed light on how the music industry is organized. We will also explore how artists situate themselves in a musical ecosystem quickly evolving thanks to technological innovations and new venues for listener engagement such as TikTok, Patreon, and Soundcloud. Then, we will expand to a more historical perspective, focusing on the ways that the music industry has profited from selling racialized sounds. Through analyzing advertisements and speaking with industry professionals, we will better understand the racial politics of how music is sold to the public as well as how music is used to sell other products while simultaneously selling itself. Students will engage in a semester-long research project focusing on an artist or company of their choice; reading assignments alongside primary source research will help provide context and content for the research project. Fulfills either the departmental seminar requirement or the comprehensive exam requirement for the major.

Limited to 15 students. Professor Coddington. Course will be taught synchronously over zoom, with additional online elements occuring on slack and the course website.

If Overenrolled: Preference given to music majors


Attention to Issues of Class, Attention to Issues of Gender and Sexuality, Attention to Issues of Race, Attention to Research, Attention to Writing


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020