Thomas Hodgson
Assistant Professor of Musicology; Music Industry, Musicology

Thomas Hodgson’s current scholarship centers on the ethnomusicology of algorithms and artificial intelligence, with a particular focus on how new digital technologies flow outwards from music streaming companies ‘downstream’ to local ethnographic sites of musical creativity in the Global South. At the core of this project is the conjunction of ethnographic and digital methods, addressing ethical questions of representation, power and control, especially as these technologies are deployed and experienced in places quite distant from where they designed in the Global North.

He is currently finishing a book about Kashmiris, music and migration. Journeys of Love: Kashmiris, Music, and the Poetics of Migration explores questions of memory and exchange among musicians in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and the Kashmiri diaspora. One of the central themes of the book is the question of how musicians create value and meaning in environments that are being rapidly and radically transformed by migration, changing flows of money and new technologies. His research has been published in Popular Music, Les Cahier d’Ethnomusicologie, Sound Studies, and Performing Islam, as well as a number of edited volumes.

Outside academia, Thomas co-founded the music technology platform Tigmus (This is Good Music). The company, which came to represent over 900 venues and 4000 artists, made use of data from streaming and social media platforms such as Spotify, YouTube and Facebook to tell artists optimally where and when they should perform, making the gig-booking process more efficient and also equitable for musicians seeking to make a living from music. He is also a practicing musician and composer, playing the trumpet, keys and various other instruments (dulcimers, qanuns, saws, axes, spoons…) in Stornoway, an indie folk band with three UK top-20 albums. Thomas recently collaborated with composer Edward Nesbit to produce an album in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The album – Aenigmata – was shortlisted for the 2019 RMA Tippett Medal.

How Spotify Knows What You Want Next
When the Wall Street Journal wants to understand how Spotify’s algorithm works, they turn to Thomas Hodgson, assistant professor of musicology and music industry at The UCLA Herb Alpert School
New UCLA Musicology Professor Fights for Algorithmic Justice in the Music Industry
Everybody knows the game is rigged. Streaming services like Spotify and YouTube now dominate music distribution worldwide, often leaving aspiring musicians unable to make their voices heard in the din.

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