Pop Conference

A melting pot for fans, musicians, scholars, and journalists.

  1. 2016 MoPOP Pop Conference participants shared personal reflections and wrestled with artists' legacies at a special "In Memoriam" panel, organized in tribute to recently passed artists including Natalie Cole, David Bowie, Lemmy Kilmister, and others.

    Photo by Nat Seymour.

  2. Moderator Ann Powers (NPR Music) explored the role of voice in music with singers Merrill Garbus, Valerie June, and k.d. lang at the 2016 Pop Conference keynote panel.

    Photo by Brady Harvey.

  3. Sonic Boom took the winning title against teams from Everyday Music, Spin Cycle, and Easy Street at MoPOP's first-ever Record Store Showdown, where a few of Seattle's independent record stores put their encyclopedic knowledge of music to the test.

    Photo by Brady Harvey.

The annual Pop Conference at MoPOP, first held in 2002, mixes together ambitious music writing of every kind, in an attempt to bring academics, critics, musicians, and dedicated fans into a collective conversation.

APRIL 20–23, 2017 AT MoPOP

“I’d like to help you, son, but you’re too young to vote,” the Congressman says in Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues.” Music, especially pop music, tends to anticipate politics—young people give a dress rehearsal of what’s to come, building movements or prefiguring new worlds. No less powerfully, music is shaped by politics, from rules of copyright, drinking ages, and noise volumes to crises of war and social injustice, rents in the fabric. Music’s connection to politics goes beyond sloganizing lyrics; it organizes, stirs, performs possibility.

For this year’s Pop Conference, we invite presentations that relate music, of any styles or era, to politics, however that’s defined. Topics might include:

  • Movements and Skeptics: anthems of unity and resistance cultures. Or not: music and bad politics, anti-politics, negation, outsider dissent, and solipsism
  • New Worlds and Nostalgia: futurism, utopian, and fantastic imaginaries from slave spirituals to George Clinton’s Mothership. Traditionalism, nostalgia, residual forces
  • State Politics: national and local policies; definitions of public and private; citizenship and internalized notions of power and control
  • Performing Politics: strategic choices of mannerism, vocality, sound, and style; politicians appropriating music; music and propaganda
  • Identity Politics: teen youth culture and shifts from worker solidarity to racial, gender, and sexual intersections; the radicalism of older artists
  • Transnational and Border Politics: musical experiences beyond the US; immigration and refugees; sonic territoriality
  • Leaders and Followers: Individual artists as representatives and fans as electorate; celebrity and “reality” politics
  • Industry and Everyday Politics: categorizing, i.e. regulating performers; genre wars in country, rock, hip-hop, etc.; band politics and everyday interpersonal issues
  • Limits: factors preventing music from effecting change


Individual proposals for 20-minute presentations should be 300 words, with a 75-word bio. For three-person (90-minute) or four-person (120-minute) panel proposals, include a one-paragraph overview and individual statements of 300 words with a 75-word bio. For roundtables, outline the subject in up to 500 words, include a 75-word bio for each panelist, and specify desired panel length. We welcome unorthodox proposals: ask for submission advice. Please include emails for all participants.


The deadline has passed.

Questions? Email conference organizer Eric Weisbard (University of Alabama) at Eric.Weisbard@gmail.com.

Program Committee Members

José Anguiano (Cal State, Los Angeles); Sarah Dougher (Portland State University); Jasen Emmons (Museum of Pop Culture); Daniel Goldmark (Case Western Reserve University); writer, director, and activist dream hampton; Charles Hughes (Rhodes College); Tavia Nyong’o (Yale); Ann Powers (NPR); writer Laura Snapes; writer and music producer Andy Zax


About the Conference

The conference was held at MoPOP from 2002–2010, then traveled to UCLA in 2011; NYU in 2012; and simultaneously at USC, NYU, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Tulane University, and MoPOP in 2013; before returning to MoPOP as the sole venue in 2014. Three books of conference writing have been published: This Is PopListen Again, and Pop When the World Falls Apart.

Support for the conference is provided by the University of Alabama College of Arts & Sciences, on behalf of the Department of American Studies.