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[update: Philip Tagg, 2021-10-13]

Top History

Starting in the 1970s, when I began teaching subjects like Popular Music Analysis and Music & the Moving Image, up until my retirement in 2010, I had to produce most of my own teaching materials. One cause of the problem was that very little of relevance to the subjects I taught (or to my students), came through regular publishers who, in line with established music scholars of the day, dealt mainly with music that was part of a reputable canon and out of copyright. That lack of engagement with the musical everyday of most people (including my students) was exacerbated by popular music scholars from the social sciences who steered clear of music’s sonic materiality and missed the crucial role of socially constructed sound (music) in the mediation of ideas, values and attitudes. Meanwhile, the subjects I taught typically involved copyrighted music outside any reputable canon. Under those conditions I had no other choice than to soldier on with my DIY repertoire cassettes and photocopied hand-outs, all of which entailed endless arguments with copying machines in badly ventilated work spaces.

Fighting the photocopier

Advances in digital technology and the explosion of the internet in the 1990s came as a relief. It meant I could leave the copying room and focus on hassles with HTML and upload speeds for the website I’d managed to set up in 1995. I also had to confront the deeply undemocratic restrictions of copyright law as practised by corporate legal teams. These circumstances led me to co-found, in 2000, the Mass Media Music Scholars’ Press (MMMSP) and to register my site under the domain name Of course, it would have been logical if the University of Liverpool, where I worked at the time, had housed the course materials I had developed for use there, but the university’s legal experts seemed much keener to avoid the possible wrath of media corporations administering the copyright in works I had to cite for analytical purposes than to address the need to access musical works under copyright for analytical ends. In short, if teaching materials were to be available to students following the courses I was under contract to teach, those materials would have to be housed on a site owned and administered by either another institution or by a private person. It was least hassle to opt for the latter, hence the appearance of my site in 1995, since when it has been owned and maintained by myself as a private person without support from the institutions whose fee-paying students derived benefit from it. It felt strange to be personally subsidising my employers but I could see no other solution.

It was also for the following 8 reasons that I started putting materials for teaching and research on line in the mid-1990s (see also the 9 reasons under Rationale, ethics and aethetics, below).

  1.   It had a much lower carbon footprint than that generated by analogue duplication.
  2.   I no longer had to inhale the photocopier’s ozone, carbon monoxide and toner dust.
  3.   It rationalised my teaching tasks: — I no longer had to worry about materials for students who joined or quit the course, or who missed a session.
  4.   Materials could be stored without occupying visible physical space: — the supply never ran out.
  5.   Since I alone was responsible for the site and its content I was not directly bound by restrictions imposed either by or on my employers.
  6.   It (§5) reduced the risk of corporate copyright intervention.
  7.   It (§5) me ant that materials produced primarily for use by my students at the University of Liverpool could be accessed by anyone anywhere.
  8.   It was at the time the only viable way in which I could make course materials available to my students.

Among the first items to appear on this site were Basic Pop Guitar Notation (1996) and the course description Semiotic Analysis of Popular Music (1997). Milestones in the site’s history include:

  1. The clarification, in the late 1990s, of the Fair Use principle in US copyright law led to the foundation of the Mass Media Music Scholars‘ Press (MMMSP) and to its incorporation in the site whose domain name was changed to and registered as in March 2000.
  2. The arrival of YouTube as —at least initially (2005-6)— a non-commercial online resource for amateur video makers, meant that teaching materials, previously restricted to audio and print media, could now be made available as audiovisual items. This site’s substantial repertoire of video productions was started at around this time. However, as YouTube became increasingly arrogant, high-handed and corporate after its acquisition by Google (2006-7), I dumped YouTube and started posting my videos on either Vimeo or directly on
  3. Retirement from full-time employment in 2010 gave me the opportunity of including more of my non-work-related interests on line (see under Miscellaneous).

Top Rationale, ethics and aesthetics

Nine more reasons for

Reason 1: Access to writings by Tagg
People often used to complain that my writings were hard to get hold of. This site should have helped solve that problem.

Reason 2: Access to writings by others
Other people, including students, were producing useful stuff that could also be difficult to access. This site contributed in a small way to solving that problem.

Reason 3: Ecology
Cutting down trees for excessive paper production has never been a good idea. Besides, standing by a photocopier in a small room was never good for my health and it wasted a lot of my time. I was able to disseminate ideas and information quicker, cheaper and with less pollution when using a website like this one.

Reason 4: Equity
I believe that freedom of information should mean what it says, more precisely that information, ideas and knowledge should be freely available (like universal health care and education) to all, rich or poor, powerful or disempowered, wherever they live and whatever their situation. That’s why I don’t charge for any services on this site, neither directly via quid pro quo nor indirectly via revenue from ads. The only exception is asking for donations towards the costs of maintaining this site, including its book production. I can just about cover things with my pensions (from Sweden, the UK and Canada) and the modest donations I continue to receive but goodness knows what will happen to the site when I die (I was born in February 1944).
[Please contact me if you’d be able to house this site when I’m dead and gone!] With the price of using set to $0 €0 £0 ¥0, etc., a student in Bolivia pays the same as a tenured professor at Harvard —nothing. (Donations via MMMSP books are explained here.)

Reason 5: Including music in music studies
Many publishers steer clear of musicological work containing quotations of music in notated form because: [i] the notationally literate do not constitute a large or lucrative readership; [ii] page laying text with music examples is a time-consuming process, [iii] most of the examples quoted in work about popular music are under copyright whose clearance can involve horrendous amounts of bureaucracy, time and expense (See Copyright matters). It is, however, essential that the results of musicological work in mass media studies be readily available for purposes of education and research. Studying music without studying music is a contradiction in terms (see I was so Naïve! Forty years of frustration with music, musicians, musicology and popular music studies (2015)).

Reason 6: Advertising totally sucks


I passionately and rationally regard consumerist propaganda (‘advertising’) as a lethal psycho-social scourge. Hundreds of times every day we are subjected to messages nagging at us to buy stuff we don't need and which, when done with, the planet is increasingly unable to digest. Moreover, given that the dominant institutions chanelling these torrents of media sewage are usually owned by corporate fat cats, I think it is the duty of every public educator to provide non-commercial and anti-capitalist sources of ideas and information.

Go to top of file Reason 7 (political) User anonymity
To use you don’t need to join anything, pay anything or subscribe to anything. No cookies of any sort are placed on your computer, tablet or phone.

National 'Security' Agency  (NSA); Orwell's 1984.

You don’t have to waste time joining, becoming a member, signing up, logging in, ‘liking’ ‘friends’, nor trying to reject invasive cookie options (while being actively dissuaded from doing so), nor entering IDs, passwords or PINs, etc. At you don’t need to to worry that data about you will be recorded —your email, phone number, GPS, your tastes, likes, dislikes, preferences, browsing habits etc.— or be passed on to dubious third parties like Facebook, the NSA, the CIA or GCHQ, not to mention the pedlars of consumerist propaganda‘Satan’s little helpers’ (Hicks, 1992).

GCHQ AsocialMedia
UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)


Cookies are one of the mechanisms by which you, the internet user, can be identified and sold to the pedlars of consumerist propaganda. You become commodified by unscrupulous browser apps or websites and can be placed in a target group tailored for efficient marketing (your Facebook ‘friends’ constitute one such devious mechanism in this process). For more about these inquities (liberate yourself from them!), see WikiWh online advertising, WikiWh social media marketing, WikiWh behavioural targeting, WikiWh pay-per-click, etc. At the are no such unsalutary shenanigans. I pay up front to protect myself and my visitors (you) from such iniquity. Which is also why you‘ll not find me on Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram, or.... I don’t want to be a Twitface (≈Twatface), do you?

Go to top of file Reason 8 is non-commercial and independent.

I pay out of my own pocket to keep this website running. I'd rather do that than become dependent on income from sources whose activities I oppose or on those who don't like the sort of thing I'm saying here, for example that advertising, like the capitalism it belongs to, totally suck. If you visit a lot of sites that drop cookies on your devices and track your online behaviour (see, for example, WikiWh behavioural targeting), you're selling yourself and your registered online ‘friends’ cheap to marketing creeps in exchange for ... what? (Tip: get a life and show some empathy!)

BehvT7  BehvT2Blu  Splatterburst1
Behavioural targeting, "Die, consumer dog!", "Boiing" & "Splatterburst".

Go to top of file Reason 9 Knowledge, like education and health care, should not cost money
I am currently able, with help from donations, to underwrite the costs of running this website (more details here). I frankly don’t see why anyone, especially students, private individuals and public bodies in non-OECD nations, should have to pay ‘first-world’ prices for accessing knowledge and ideas about the sort of music that most people hear on a daily basis. (For more on this issue, see The Academic Publishing Protection Racket).

MafiosiSilh certainly disseminates ideas and information but it can't generate any profits because its use value can’t really be ‘monetised’ (converted into exchange value). And since it’s aim is not to sell any products or services, .


Coopyright-fair use details. This anchor needs proper placement