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Forensic Musicology: He’s So Fine


Forensic musicology has hit the headlines lately when recording artists Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were found liable for copyright infringement in a lawsuit accusing them of plagiarizing the late soul singer Marvin Gaye in their hit single Blurred Lines.

One of the most trained ears in this respect is Professor Joe Bennett who has been analysing and transcribing popular music for international publication since 1994. He has written more than 30 books, including transcription, teaching and reference works (published worldwide by Music Sales Group), and more than 300 articles for Total Guitar magazine and others, relating to classic songs, guitar techniques and songwriting.

As a songwriter and composer his work is published by World Domination Music, Music Sales Group and Rockschool Ltd. He is a writer member of PRS for Music and an academic member of IASPM.

As an academic Joe’s primary area of research expertise is the psychology of songwriting and similarity thresholds in popular songs. His PhD research (University of Surrey) was entitled ‘Constraint, Creativity, Copyright and Collaboration in Popular Songwriting Teams’ and it  provided the world’s first detailed systematic investigation into collaborative songwriters’ creative processes. Joe was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship (NTF) in 2004 by the UK Higher
Education Academy in recognition of his contribution to the teaching and learning of popular music. This award was used to fund a five-year investigation into the creative processes used by songwriters and culminated in Joe founding the UK Songwriting Festival, of which he is the director. He is a Fellow of the Higher
Education Academy.

As a forensic musicologist, Joe’s clients have included Universal Music Publishing, Warner/Chappell Music Publishing, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, JWT, Adelphoi Music, Kassner Music, Westbury Music, Simpson & Marwick solicitors, Michael Simkins LLP, Van Straten solicitors and Fatfox Music Publishing, as well as many individual
songwriters. His work was recently used in evidence in Naxos v. Salmon (2012). Recent media appearances include the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme and Voice of Russia radio. He is listed on the UK Music Publisher’s Association’s Register of Expert Witness Musicologists, and although moving to Boston later this year, will retain a UK presence.


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