SOAS University of London

Department of Music, School of Arts

Studying Popular Music

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Term 1

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate a basic knowledge of popular music and the core debates around it including its definition, modes of production and circulation, stylistic features and the variety of analytical approaches available to study it academically.
  • Students should be able to gain a critical understanding of how popular music differs from (and interrelates with) other musical forms like Western Art and Folk music and World Music, the role of the cultural industries in the circulation of popular forms - including how this has been transformed by digital forms of production and circulation – debates around the relationship of popular music to ‘the people’ and ‘the industry’ and issues around copyright, censorship, policy and creative expression.  
  • The course will provide the necessary intellectual and factual background to inform the study of global forms of popular music in more detail.


  • One hour lecture, one hour seminar

Scope and syllabus

This module is designed as a general introduction to global popular music and the field of popular music studies. It will draw on research in popular music studies, media sociology, cultural studies, musicology and ethnomusicology, theories of identity (including race, class, gender and sexuality) and cultural policy. This course will introduce students to the core analytical approaches they will be able to use as they deepen their studies into Global forms of popular music throughout their academic career.

Outline of lectures:

  • Introduction - Between creativity and commerce: What is popular music?
  • What kind of music? Genres and discourses
  • Riot Girrls, Ill Manors, Eton Rifles, Pet Shop Boys - Music and Identity
  • Sounds of the City: Pop, Place and modernity
  • Teds, Skins, Rudies and Punks: Pop and Subcultural Theory
  • White Riot, Black Noise: Pop music and race
  • It Ain’t Where You’re From, it’s Where You’re at: Hybridity, anti-essentialism and the Black Atlantic
  • You say you want a revolution: Pop protest and censorship
  • Digital desires: dance music, sexuality and consumption
  • The Future of Pop

Method of assessment

  • One 1,200-word essay (worth 40%)
  • One 2,000-word essay (worth 60%)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules