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Unit information: The Sociology of Popular Music in 2020/21

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Unit name The Sociology of Popular Music
Unit code SOCI30048
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Marshall
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit considers popular music within a social context. This does not just mean how and where popular music is used (though this is important) but, rather, to consider how popular music is socially constructed: how do social conditions give rise to particular forms of popular music, and how do they affect the creation of popular music, and its reception? Using both historical and contemporary examples, the unit introduces students to some of the key ideas needed to understand popular music sociologically.

The unit aims to:

• Provide students with an introduction to sociological theories regarding popular music
• Enable students to recognise the social contexts of different forms of popular music
• Highlight the relationships between popular music production and consumption
• Help students develop the ability to sociologically analyse cultural artefacts

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

• Demonstrate sophisticated understanding of the social context of popular music and sociological theories designed to understand it
• Assess the impact of social, political and economic forces on the production and consumption of popular music.
• Synthesise different topics and areas of literature covered on the unit in order to sociologically understand a specific popular music phenomenon.

Teaching details

The unit will be taught through blended learning methods, including a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching activities

Assessment Details

Formative: 500 word essay plan (0%)  Summative: 3000 word essay (100%, assesses all learning outcomes

Reading and References

• Andy Bennett et al. 2005, The Popular Music Studies Reader, London: Routledge
• Simon Frith and Andrew Goodwin (eds), 1990, On Record, Routledge, London.
• Simon Frith, 1998, Performing Rites, OUP, Oxford.
• Simon Frith, Will Straw & John Street (eds), 2001, The Cambridge Companion to Pop and Rock, Cambridge: CUP
• Chris Rojek, 2011, Pop Music, Pop Culture, Cambridge: Polity
• John Shepard and Kyle Devine (eds), 2015, The Routledge Reader on the Sociology of Music, London: Routledge.