MCS 353/INTC 308: Music Industries and Culture

Spring 2013


Dr. Daniel Makagon

College of Communication                                                                 

Office: 14 E Jackson, #1828   (temporary SAC 597)             

Office Hours: T 9:00-10:00 PM and by appointment

Phone: (312) 362-7979                                              


Course Description and Objectives


Music has remained one of the most important forms of cultural production and sites of media consumption, serving a variety of purposes for individuals and groups. Some consider music to be an outlet for personal expression, others use music as a resource to connect with people who share aesthetic interests, and others are attracted to music as a (creative) source for profit. The individual interests in and uses for music extend to broader cultural and economic features of music. That is, music is a powerful form of symbolic action that is both a site for cultural exchange and a complex industry that is simultaneously influenced by and seeking to shape that cultural experience.


This course critically examines music as a form of cultural communication and as a media industry. We will be guided by two larger learning goals: (1) To investigate how some individuals seek to create and share music and how others use music as a form of collective fandom. (2) To critically assess different features of the music industry in an effort to develop a deeper understanding of the features of this unique media business.

Required Texts


All course readings are accessible via a password protected Web site. You are required to complete the reading assignments before you attend class. This will lead to more fruitful discussion.

Course Assignments


Participation                                        10%                 ____(pts.) X .05 = ______


Music Culture Presentation                 05%                 ____(pts.) X .05 = ______


On-line Reading Quizzes                    25%                 ____(pts.) X .25 = ______


Mid-term Culture Paper (4-6 pages)   30%                 ____(pts.) X .30 = ______


Final Industries Paper (4-6 pages)      30%                 ____(pts.) X .30 = ______


                                                                                    Final Grade= ____________


Reading Quizzes


Weekly reading quizzes will allow me to gauge how well you understand the arguments made in the readings. Unlike your papers, presentations, and class discussion, where I am interested in your opinions about the issues and the strength of the writer's argument(s), the quizzes are designed for you to demonstrate your understanding of the course readings. Reading quizzes will cover assigned materials for that week only. You must take the on-line quiz in D2L by 5:30 PM each Tuesday night. Please note that the quiz will be made available at 5:30 PM on Monday night and will close at 5:30 PM on Tuesday evening. If you choose to take the quiz at the last minute and have technical problems or run out of time, I won't be able to do anything for you. Also, please use the on-line discussion forum to ask questions about issues, concepts, terms, ideas, etc. that you do not understand in the reading. I will answer questions up until 5:30 PM on Monday each week. In general, each quiz will feature 8-10 questions and you will have 12 minutes to take the quiz. We will not have quizzes on days when there are not assigned readings. Moreover, each reading quiz will only feature questions about that week"s assigned readings; once we finish a reading, we will likely continue to discuss the issues in class but we will not be quizzed on a reading beyond the initial quiz for that reading.


Note: When the time expires on a quiz, you can only do one thing: save the quiz. You will not be able to continue to work. You will need to save and then submit. I encourage you to save as you go along.


Music Culture Presentation


The goal of this assignment is to offer each student an opportunity to share with the class some historical and/or contemporary features of music culture. The presentation will focus on a topic that would fall under a broader heading of music culture (i.e., your presentation will cover some feature of music that helps us understand an aesthetic and/or social experience). You will not focus on industry practices, or the business of music, which will be the focus of our guest speakers in the class. I will send around a sign-up sheet the week before each presentation date, which will help me group presentations around similar topics or themes. Each presenter will submit 4 abstracts for each presentation. A sample abstract can be found in the folder where you access course readings. Your abstracts will summarize sources that inform your presentation and can summarize a range of credible popular, academic, and industry sources. Culture presentations will occur on February 7.


Presentations will be graded based on your ability to find and present unique information about your subject from high quality sources, to write clear abstracts that foreground central issues, to present your topic to the class in a way that leaves us feeling more informed about the subject and to do so within the assigned timeframe (i.e., your presentation is smart and tight).


Sample Topics might include, but are not limited to: music festivals, changing music genres, gender/race/sexuality and music, fandom, music and art, live music experiences, music and censorship, music and lifestyle. You want to avoid topics that focus on the business of music.



Mid-term Music Culture Paper


This 4-6 page assignment asks you to make connections among 2-3 course readings about music culture from the first half of the class. Identify some issues, concepts, or themes that foreground how music functions a site of culture/as a cultural experience. Use those issues, concepts, or themes as a foundation for a thesis. Advance an argument about the culture of music through an analysis of the course readings. (We will discuss examples of types of papers that could be written, but this paper assignment is strategically broad so you can write a paper that reflects connections you make based on the issues that interest you.)  A hard copy of this paper is due at 6:00PM on April 30. 


All papers must be typed, paginated, double-spaced throughout the entire essay, and use a consistent style (e.g., Chicago, MLA, or APA). See the writing handout in the folder where you access our course readings for more information about my grading criteria, general writing expectations, and writing tips.


Visit the Writing Center for assistance with your writing:

The Writing Center has offices on the LPC and Loop campuses with outposts in the libraries on both campuses.





This 4-6 page paper asks you to develop an argument about the immediate future of the music industry. Using the course readings, notes from course lectures, and notes from talks by our guest speakers, you will develop a plan to reinvigorate the music industry. Your paper should advance a thesis and then explicate that thesis vis--vis an argument that grounds claims with support from course materials. This paper is due by email on June 11 at 6 PM.


All papers must be typed, paginated, double-spaced throughout the entire essay, and use a consistent style (e.g., Chicago, MLA, or APA). See the writing handout in the folder where you access our course readings for more information about my grading criteria, general writing expectations, and writing tips.


Visit the Writing Center for assistance with your writing:

The Writing Center has offices on the LPC and Loop campuses with outposts in the libraries on both campuses.

Course Policies


Promptness is expected as a general rule. If you are consistently late to class, your grade will be negatively affected. Leaving before the class ends or arriving more than 10 minutes late is an absence.


Attendance and Active Participation are expected and required. You are allowed one absence in this class. That absence will need to be excused if you are absent on a date when an assignment is due (e.g., you have documentation about a medical illness/emergency, legal issue/civic responsibility, or are missing because of an official DePaul function). If you miss more than one class session, even if the second absence is excused, you will receive an "F" in the class. Missing this many class sessions (20% of the term) undermines the integrity of the classroom experience. If you miss this much class because of illness or a family emergency, you should meet with the Dean of Students to discuss withdrawal options.


All assignments are due on assigned days and in class. There will be NO MAKE-UPS. Documented illness or documented emergencies are the only exceptions to this policy. Changes in work schedules, personal celebrations (e.g., birthdays), assignments due in other classes, car problems/EL congestion, etc. are NOT considered to be legitimate reasons for missing deadlines or class meetings. If you have an excused absence for a class session when you would turn in an assignment then you can submit the assignment the next date you attend class. (Note: If you will be missing a class because of a religious holiday, let me know in writing at least two weeks before the holiday so we can make arrangements to make up missed work. If you have documentation that will excuse an absence and that absence extends to hinder your ability to take the quiz, please let me know so we can develop an alternative time to take that quiz.)


Students with disabilities should provide documentation from the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) #370, Student Center, LPC, (773) 325-1677.


Cellular Phones: If you have a cellular phone or pager, turn it off or set it to vibrate, and keep it in your backpack or purse. All cell phones must be put away during the class session. I will confiscate cellular phones for the remainder of the class session if you are sending or reading text messages or using your phone to check email/surf the Internet.


E-mail: We will regularly send e-mail announcements to the class. You need to (1) make sure your preferred email address in Campus Connect is the address you check regularly so messages do not bounce back and (2) make sure our email addresses will pass through your spam filter.




We have often found that plagiarism becomes tempting if students are feeling pressured. Remember, when in doubt quote. If you are quoting someone else in your presentation, you need to clearly identify the information as a quote and the source. Similarly, when paraphrasing, you should clearly identify your source. If you are quoting somebody directly in your paper then you need to list the information within quotation marks and cite a page number. If you are paraphrasing then you need to cite the person and a page number. Never copy and paste entire documents into your paper and do not quote others to the point where your ideas become indistinguishable from your source's ideas. There is no reason to plagiarize given the resources available to you (e.g., opportunities to meet with us; coaches in the writing center; my handout on writing for the class; and DePaul"s policy on academic integrity, which can be found at If you do plagiarize, you will automatically receive a grade of "F" in this class. Moreover, the Academic Affairs office will be contacted.


Grade Scale


93-100 A, 90-92 A-, 88-89 B+, 83-87 B, 80-82 B-, 78-79 C+, 73-77 C, 70-72 C-, 60-69 D, 0-59 F

(We do not assign incompletes)



Tentative Course Schedule




4/2                   Course Introduction   

                        Merchants of Cool Documentary


4/9                   Introduction to the Music Culture and Music Industries

                        Read: Simon Frith, "Towards an Aesthetics of Popular Music"

Read: Keith Negus, "Industries"


4/16                 Guest Speaker: Jeff McClusky from Jeff McClusky & Associates

Read: Richard Meltzer, Intro materials excerpts

Read: Richard Meltzer, "Meltzer at the Met"

Read: Evelyn McDonnell, "Feminine Critique"


4/23                 Read: Tricia Rose, "Prophets of Rage"

Read: David Samuels, "Rock is Dead"


4/30                 Guest Speaker: Kevin Estrada from Kevin Estrada Photography      

Mid-term Due


5/7                   Music Culture Presentations


5/14                 Guest Speaker: Rita J  

Read: Bemis, "A Small New Future"

Read: Bemis, "Myths About"

Read:  Young & Collins, "A View from the Trenches"


5/21                 Guest Speaker: Pete Giberga from Razor and Tie

Read:  Chris Anderson, "The Long Tail"

                        Read: Courtney Love, "Courtney Love Does the Math"


5/28                 Read: Patrick Burkart, "Loose Integration"

Read: Iain Aitch, "British Rockers Chumbawamba..."


6/4                   Read: Ben Sisario, "As Music Streaming Grows..."

                        Read: Tim Brooks, "The Association for Recorded Sound..."         


6/11                 FINAL PAPERS DUE BY 6:00 PM VIA EMAIL