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Professor’s podcast explores technological, social innovation in music industry

Professor Gigi Johnson created her podcast, “Innovating Music,” four years ago. She said each guest shares how they stylistically innovate their own music and how they plan to improve the industry through new musical compositions and artificial intelligence technologies. (Ashley Kenney/Daily Bruin)

By Noor Ghatala

May 14, 2020 2:21 p.m.

Professor Gigi Johnson is interweaving the diverse sounds of music with her podcast, “Innovating Music.”

The alumna said her podcast was inspired by traveling around the world meeting different types of creatives in the industry, such as DJs and composers. She said the conversations she recorded at the time led to the inception of her podcast, with the first episode airing four years ago.

“I’d bring out a recorder and record a half-hour to 45-minute interview with them while I was traveling,” Johnson said. “It let people have a space to talk about change, and really talk about innovation – but everyone has a different lens.”

[Related: Podcast ‘Elderllama’ breaks down the universe with casual conversation]

Since then, the podcast has featured more than 70 guests, Johnson said, including musical industry talents such as composer Siddhartha Khosla and co-founder and CEO of Bandsintown Fabrice Sergent. She said her guests share how they stylistically innovate their own work and their plans to improve the industry through new business strategies, musical compositions and artificial intelligence technologies.

Each podcast provides a different perspective from each guest that speaks to how they are changing the music industry through technological and social change, Johnson said. These “innovators,” as the podcast’s title alludes to, have worked in a variety of mediums, which was key to their success, Johnson said. The mediums vary from public policy and sound diplomacy to technologies that help support artists virtually, and Johnson said her guests often are working to connect the dots between these fields.

“In many ways, it’s their journey,” Johnson said. “The way they innovate and what they do for their current adventure now has to do with the experiences they’ve had.”

One of the previous guests of the show, composer Ed Goldfarb, is most well-known for his musical work on the animated series, “Pokemon.” Goldfarb said he has been composing the musical score for “Pokemon” since 2014 and shared his musical evolution, detailing his journey from playing piano as a child to composing music in his studio as an adult. With shows like “Pokemon” garnering a global audience, Goldfarb said the podcast provides an avenue to share how his work has brought people together.

However, to continue to help the podcast’s audience through marketing, fourth-year communication student Alex Dolven produces the graphic designs for the podcast. He said he oversees the back end of things, such as hosting the guests and working on web design, live sound and studio engineering. Dolven said he thinks the podcast is valuable for college students interested in what the industry entails.

“We want to include more of a community, including kind of people who are outside the insider business portion who want to make those connections and know what’s out there,” Dolven said. “Those are the communities we’re trying to bring into the fold.”

[Related: Podcast decodes ethics in artificial intelligence and its relevance to public]

In its recent episodes, the podcast has come out with content focused on music technology, blockchain and artificial intelligence. However, much of the production is up in the air as universities and industries are changing because of the pandemic, Johnson said.

Johnson said she recently researched social changes in music provoked by the pandemic for the Amplify Music: Resilience and Community Ecosystems, an event co-hosted virtually by the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. In the future, Johnson said she hopes to continue working in both avenues, the “Innovating Music” podcast and the Amplify Music conferences, which for her represents the link between technological change and social change within the music industry.

“A lot of it is a combination of sort of technology and transformation in art,” Johnson said. “There are all these new things happening in the social construction around music, the human stuff. We’ve got kind of both threads going on now.”

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