module specification

SM6054 - Analysing Popular Music (2019/20)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2019/20
Module title Analysing Popular Music
Module level Honours (06)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Computing and Digital Media
Total study hours 150
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
105 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 25%   Book Review
Coursework 75%   Essay
Running in 2019/20
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester North Wednesday Morning

Module summary

This module examines key theoretical approaches in the analysis of the production, distribution, consumption and meaning of popular music. It locates popular music as both a cultural form and a commercial enterprise.  Examining the history and contemporary organisation of the music industry, the module considers the social production of popular music, and the impact of technological change on its creation and circulation. The module also considers key critical analyses of the nature and development of popular music as a cultural form. It explores the key social and cultural factors that shape our experience of music and the way we give it meaning within our lives, giving particular attention to issues such as gender, ethnicity, sexuality and social class. Drawing on studies produced within a range of theoretical fields, the module includes discussion of the impact of digital technologies on the music industry, the relationship between popular music and processes of globalisation, the construction of star personas and celebrity culture, and the nature of audiences, fans and subcultures.


Module aims

This module aims to:

  1. Critically consider key theoretical perspectives developed in relation to the analysis of popular musical forms and genres.
  2. Examine historical shifts in the nature and operation of the popular music industry.
  3. Examine the impact of new technologies on the production, circulation and consumption of popular music.
  4. Familiarise students with theories regarding the social and cultural significance of popular music.





  • Appraising the ‘Mass Culture’ Tradition.
  • ‘Culturalism’, Audiences and Popular Music.
  • Technology and Popular Music.
  • From Fordistto Post-Fordist Pop – The Development and Organisationof the Music Industry.


  • Digital Technology and Popular Music.
  • Stars, Music and Celebrity Culture.
  • Pop Music, Fans and ‘Textual Poaching’.
  • Gender, Sexuality and Performance in Popular Music.
  • ‘Race’, Ethnicity and Popular Music.
  • Locality, Identity and Popular Music.
  • Globalization and Popular Music.

Learning and teaching

This module will be delivered through a combination of modes of delivery, including formal lectures, seminars, film and television screenings, and individual tutorials. The mixed-mode module delivery will used to encourage a supportive environment for individual and peer-group learning. 

A blended learning strategy will be employed to enhance the learning experience, facilitate communication between students and tutors and develop collaboration among students. The Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) will be used as a platform to support online activities including on-line discussions, evaluation of online resources, and access to electronic reading packs. The VLE will also be used to facilitate formative assessment and related feedback, as well as a tool to integrate useful online learning materials provided by research institutions, academic publications, professional organisations and other relevant sources.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students will be able to:

  1. Manage their own learning, and make use of scholarly studies related to the analysis of popular music and its cultural significance.
  2. Describe and comment upon theories regarding the production, circulation and consumption of popular music.
  3. Apply the ideas and arguments they have learned to review, consolidate and extend their knowledge in a research project of their own

Assessment strategy

This module includes two pieces of assessment work:

  1. Book Review – This is a formative piece of assessment, to be submitted in Week 7 Students will submit a review of a book related to some aspect of the analysis of popular music. The choice of book is open, but must be agreed with the seminar tutor beforehand. The review must be critical and analytical, and must situate the book within a context of wider issues and debates within the study of popular music. The word count for the book review is c. 1,000 words.  The book serves as a basis on which the second piece of assessment can be developed.

  2. Essay  – This is a summative piece of assessment, to be submitted in Week 15 Students will be given a list of 12 essay questions or appropriate written exercises, from which they must choose one. The options will relate to all the key themes and issues dealt with during the module.The word count for the assessment is c. 3,000 words.



Indicative Bibliography.

Bennett, Andy (2000) Popular Music and Youth Culture: Music, Identity and Place, London: Macmillan.
Bennett, Andy (2003) Cultures of Popular Music, Buckingham: Open University Press.
Bennett, Andy and Peterson, Richard (2004) Music Scenes: Local, Translocal, and Virtual, Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.
Bennett, Andy, Shank, Barry and Toynbee, Jason (eds) (2006), The Popular Music Studies Reader, London: Routledge.
Burns, Lori and Lafrance, Melisse (2001) Disruptive Divas: Feminism, Identity, and Popular Music, London: Routledge.
Connell, John and Gibson, Chris (2002) Sound Tracks: Popular Music Identity and Place, London: Routledge.
Frith, Simon, Straw, Will and Street, John (2001) The Cambridge Companion to Pop and Rock, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Frith, Simon and Goodwin, Andrew (eds) (1990) On Record: Rock, Pop and the Written Word, London: Routledge.
Hawkins, Stan (2008) The British Pop Dandy: Male Identity, Music and Culture, Aldershot: Ashgate.
Hesmondhalgh, David and Negus, Keith (eds) (2002) Popular Music Studies, London: Arnold.
Huq, Rupa (2006) Beyond Subculture: Pop, Youth and Identity in a Postcolonial World, London: Routledge.
Jarman-Ivens, Freya (ed.) (2007) Oh Boy!: Masculinities and Popular Music, London: Routledge.
Katz, Mark (2004) Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music, Berkeley: University of California Press.
Laughyey, Dan (2006) Music and Youth Culture, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Longhurst, Brian (2007) (2nd edn.) Popular Music and Society, Cambridge: Polity Press.
Machin, David (2010) Analysing Popular Music: Image, Sound, Text, London: Sage.
Shuker, Roy (2007) (3rdedn.)Understanding Popular Music Culture, London: Routledge.
Wall, Tim (2003) Studying Popular Music Culture, London: Arnold.
Whitley, Sheila (ed.) (1997) Sexing the Groove: Popular Music and Gender, London: Routledge.
Whitely, Sheila (2000) Women and Popular Music: Sexuality, Identity and Subjectivity, London: Routledge.
Whiteley, Sheila, Bennett, Andy and Hawkins, Stan (2008)  Sonic Synergies: Music, Technology, Community, Identity, Aldershot: Ashgate.
Wikström, Patrick (2009) The Music Industry: Music in the Cloud, Malden, MA: Polity.

Key On-line Resources.

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers –
International Association for the Study of Popular Music –
The Online Library of Rock ‘n’ Roll –

Journal of Popular Music Studies -
Popular Music -
Popular Music and Society -