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Sam Murray


Position: Postgraduate student Email:

PhD Research

The Independent Music Scene in Portland, Oregon and the sustainability of music as a resource within the city

The city of Portland, Oregon is becoming a growing beacon in the northwest of the US for independent music making, across a variety of genres. Musicians are not only flocking to the area to make their next record, but home grown talent is being nurtured through a variety of non for profit organisations, that create performance opportunities and release collections of local songs. Portland as a music city has a growing reputation for creating internationally successful music, with acts such as: The Decemberists, Laura Veirs, The Postal Service, Esperanza Spalding, Pink Martini and The Portland Cello Project, leading the trend. Many of these artists have achieved number one albums and won Grammy™ Awards for their work.  These successes are shared as victories for the city-wide music scene.

This PhD project will be looking at the music scene in Portland, and deconstructing it through the voices of those within it. Not only musicians are marking a great impact on the city; the record shop owners, recording producers and engineers, venue owners, fanzine writers and an army of music volunteers, are helping propel bands to success. In an attempt to form a more holistic picture of the city, the project will comprise of: interviewing scene members, asking them to create maps of their scene (an idea based on the work of Sara Cohen, 2012), participating in the scene through performance and volunteering with charitable organisations, as well as attending performances and collecting local media sources, such as newspapers and fanzines. Another element to the project will be a web space dedicated to collecting thoughts, images and videos from people who live in Portland; asking them to define their own musical spaces.

The project also analyses if the city authorities recognise music as a resource, and the extent of the sustainability of music in such a position. Portland city hall has run successful music programmes such as: ‘Listen Local’, a simple idea whereby the city hall hold music is that of local bands, selected by a committee. Local policies will be analysed to see how the city government views the music scene, and its economic potential.

Educational Background:
BA Popular & World Musics – University of Leeds
MA Popular Music Studies (Distinction) – University of Liverpool

Previous Research:

Performing the Nation, Writing its Song: An Ethnography of Performer and Songwriter Identity in the Eurovision Song Contest – MA Thesis – Supervised by Prof Sara Cohen – University of Liverpool

Untraditional Folk Musics – Collaborative research community analysing different aspects of untraditional folk musics -   led by Rachel Sweeney (Cambridge University)


Conference Assistant - Post-Punk Performance: the alternative eighties in Britain – University of Leeds - 2009

Upcoming conference papers:

‘We are the winners of Eurovision’: An Ethnographic Enquiry into Post-Eurovision Success for Performers and Songwriters -  Visions of Europe in the Eurovision Song Contest - University of Copenhagen (The official Eurovision Song Contest Academic Conference, 5-7 May 2014)

'Taste-Making and Curation in the Portland, Oregon Music Scene' - as part of panel entitled Challenging Pathways: Social Dynamism and Collectivism in Metropolitan Music Scenes - IASPM-UK Biennial Conference - University College Cork (11-14 September 2014)

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