Jason King, dean of the USC Thornton School of Music, is a multitalented Canadian American scholar, journalist, author, musician, performer, producer, songwriter, radio and video host and event curator.
Before his appointment at USC, King was chair of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, where he also served as a James Weldon Johnson Associate Professor. He was the institute’s founding full-time faculty member, working alongside music impresario Clive Davis to develop the program. He served as the institute’s first associate chair (2003-06); the institute’s first and only artistic director (2006-12); and the institute’s director of writing, history and emergent media (2003-20). He has also been the institute’s inaugural director of global studies, developing and curating the international study abroad program Clive Davis Institute x Berlin: Future Pop Music Studies in Germany and the institute’s J-Term course in Havana.
With early personal roots in classical piano and musical theater training, King’s musical interests and accomplishments are broad, spanning pop, R&B, gospel, jazz, rock and other styles. As a professor at New York University, King taught classes for more than two decades on popular music history and geography, identity and cultural politics, artist development/A&R and music marketing/branding, and the social aspects of music technology. He taught the inaugural class at the NYU Abu Dhabi campus in the United Arab Emirates, and he returned as affiliated faculty to teach classes at NYU Abu Dhabi for four years. King also taught post-graduate studies for the MFA program in International Media Producing at Tisch School of the Arts Asia in Singapore.
In his leadership capacities, he developed a number of the Clive Davis Institute’s signature programs, including its free high-school pipeline program Future Music Moguls and its unique professional development initiatives. He produced or co-produced many events for NYU and outside of NYU. In most cases, he also served as music supervisor and orchestrator for concerts associated with those events. As the host and keynote producer of the annual Pop Conference for the past several years, he has recruited musical superstars like Steve Perry, Alanis Morissette and Dua Lipa to participate.
King has published numerous scholarly essays and has been a longtime music journalist and cultural critic for publications like Pitchfork, Slate, the Los Angeles Times, The Root and Vice. He has also been a contributing member of the NPR Music team. Besides writing for NPR Music, he was the host and co-producer of NPR’s flagship video documentary series Noteworthy, on the creative process of music superstars. He was also the host of CNN’s original podcast series Soundtracks: The B-Sides.
King served as a guest curator for Vevo and as a consultant for Spotify, and he has served on the boards of several technology startups. As creative director of his own entertainment company Superlatude, he has consulted for record labels, branding and marketing firms. He was also the founder of the innovative New York-based dance music superband Company Freak.
King is the author of The Michael Jackson Treasures, a biography on the King of Pop that has been translated into more than seven languages. He has appeared in many music documentaries, including Netflix’s This Is Pop series and ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke, as well as two Spike Lee documentaries, Bad 25 and Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall.
King is also an inaugural member of the Hip Hop Culture Council at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and the Black Genius Brain Trust, and he serves on the advisory board of the Journal of Popular Music Studies.