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2024/25 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

COMM3550 Popular Music and Society

20 creditsClass Size: 48

Module manager: Anamik Saha

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2024/25

Module replaces

Although this new module is not a direct replacement, COMM2150 Music as Communication was previously available at level 2

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module provides an in-depth examination of the relationship between popular music, culture, and society. It situates the study of popular music within the fields of media, communication, and cultural studies, and explores key historical, political, economic, technological, and cultural factors and developments that have shaped popular music. Key concepts and debates are explored concerning music industries and production; music media and technologies; music texts, genres, and practices; music communities, audiences, and identities; music histories; and international, diasporic, and/or global musics. The module will consider how creativity and commercialism influence music making as art and as entertainment, and will explore themes related to independent music production, the star system, copyright and intellectual property, and/or promotional culture. Students will examine a range of popular musical practices, forms, and texts, such as: albums, performances, music videos, streaming playlists, music journalism/criticism, and/or music promotion. Students will evaluate and apply module themes and concepts in relation to popular music examples, and reflect on the implications of contemporary cultural and commercial developments for the role of popular music in everyday life.


The purpose of this module is to:
- Examine key theoretical approaches and scholarly debates concerning popular music and its role in culture and society;
- Facilitate understanding of and critical reflection on historical, political, economic, technological, and cultural factors that have shaped the production, circulation, and reception of popular music;
- Investigate and interpret the social, cultural, and economic roles of music industries, technologies, texts, and audiences;
- Reflect on the role and influence of popular music in everyday life;
- Facilitate the development of independent research skills

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students should be able to:
1. Understand key concepts, theories, and arguments regarding popular music, culture, and society;
2. Evaluate key concepts and scholarly debates regarding the study of popular music;
3. Interpret popular music texts, practices, industries, audiences, or histories, using relevant theories and concepts;
4. Present research, critical analysis, and an argument in the form of an academic essay.


- Popular music as art, entertainment, and form of communication
- Histories of popular music cultures, genres, and/or technologies
- The political economy of the music industries
- Music makers, music making, and cultural labour
- Technologies of music production, distribution, and consumption
- Understanding music as sound, notes, lyrics, image, and performance
- Music genres and cultural practices
- Popular music, community, and identity (including gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and/or social class)
- Popular music audiences and consumption: feelings, pleasure, and sociability
- Popular music, advertising, and promotional culture
- Global, international, and/or diasporic musics

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Class tests, exams and assessment11.501.50
Private study hours174.50
Total Contact hours25.50
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Students will be expected to dedicate private study time to: reading assigned journal articles and book chapters in addition to texts found independently (approximately 5 hours per week x 10 weeks = 50 hours total); studying for the in-class multiple choice test, which will examine seminar reading and lecture content (approximately 7 hours per week x 9 weeks of content covered = 63 hours total); and researching and writing an essay that involves critical analysis of popular music and society (approximately 61.5 hours).

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Student progress will be monitored in weekly seminars. Furthermore, the in-class multiple choice questionnaire will enable students to identify strengths and areas for improvement well in advance of the essay deadline.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1 x 3,000 - 3,500 words75.00
In-course MCQTest on seminar reading and lecture content25.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Resits: For the essay, students will revise their first submission, addressing the marker feedback provided. If students did not submit a first attempt, they will follow the assessment instructions provided in the module handbook. For the in-class test, students will be provided with an alternate MCQ.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 04/06/2024 10:40:42


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