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School of Social Sciences

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BAEcon Economics
Learn how the social sciences can help you to understand today's world.

BAEcon Economics

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
Sociology of Popular Music

Unit code SOCY20012
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Sociology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Music is a form of social activity; something that we 'do', either as artists, audience members or in a support role (e.g. manager, promoter or engineer). As such it is interwoven with other social (including economic and political) activities and with our sense of our selves; who we are and what matters to us. The course approaches music, with a specific focus upon popular music, from this point of view, exploring issues of taste and meaning; the industry and threats to it; communities which form around specific types of music; and the social divisions (particularly race and gender) which shape the scope for involvement. The various studies discussed on the course utilise a wide range of research methodologies, from archival and ethnographic approaches, through interview-based studies to more quantitative analysis, and we discuss the music-related ideas of a number of leading sociological theorists, including Becker, Adorno, Bourdieu and the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies.


NB - this information relates to the 2012/13 version of the course. For details of current courses please refer to Blackboard.

This course unit aims to:
- Introduce students to both the social aspects of music and distinct sociological approaches to studying popular music.
- Provide students with an understanding of the dynamic and interactive relationship between popular music, culture and society.
- Explore the significance of a number of key sociological theorists, including Bourdieu, Adorno, Becker and the Birmingham School, for an understanding of popular music.
* Consider some of the diverse range of genres included under the rubric 'popular music' and problematise this categorisation.
- Reflect upon different methods of sociological enquiry and what they can teach us when applied to popular music.
*Consider how different social groups (classes, genders, ethnic and age-related) are involved in and/or relate to music.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit successful students will:
- Have a critical understanding of the different ways in which music is social.
* Appreciate some of the range of different types of music that are commonly deemed 'popular' and be capable of critically questioning the adequacy of this label.
- Understand the dynamic and interactive relationship between popular music, culture and society
- Understand and be able to evaluate the main ideas of a number of key sociological theories of music, including Adorno, Bourdieu, Becker and the Birmingham School.
- Understand how different social groups are involved in and/or relate to popular music.
- Have a critical appreciation of the potential and the limits of different methods of social research for analysing the social aspects of popular music.

Teaching and learning methods

A formal lecture followed by question and answer session plus a workshop including collective discussion of key texts and group-based exercises.

Assessment methods

Exam and essay (50/50) with a mid-semester essay and end of semester exam.

Feedback methods

All sociology courses include both formative feedback – which lets you know how you’re getting on and what you could do to improve – and summative feedback – which gives you a mark for your assessed work.

Recommended reading

Bennet, A. (2009) Cultures of Popular Music, Buckinghamshire, Open University Press.
Bennett, A and Peterson, RA (2004) Music Scenes: Local, Translocal and Virtual, Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press
Frith, S and Goodwin, A (eds) (1990) On Record, London and New York: Routledge
Longhurst, B. (2009) Popular Music and Society, Cambridge, Polity.
Martin, PJ (1995) Sounds and Society: Themes in the Sociology of Music, Manchester: Manchester University Press
Middleton, R. (2002) Studying Popular Music, Buckinghamshire, Open University Press.
Peterson, R. and Kerr, R. (1996) Changing Highbrow Taste, American Sociological Review 61, 900-7.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 30
Independent study hours
Independent study 168

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Nick Crossley Unit coordinator

Additional notes

2015/16 timetable

Tuesday 14:00 - 17:00

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