Popular Music as Culture

My name is Millicent although I do answer to ‘Millie’ as it feels less formal and puts me at ease gives a sense that we are all at the same level not to mention friendly. I hope this course will enhance my skillsets and gain an in-depth understanding of the music industry. My take on ‘popular music culture’ is something that is communal, grows and develops from both good and bad experiences of music making (production) is, shared (distribution), enjoyed (consumed) by most people, influenced by the past, present and whatever may be envisaged in the future hence music is not stagnant. This is apparent in remixes.

Wall (2013) states ‘popular’ is used in different ways by different people similarly Williams (1976) expounds that popular concurrently has three different senses being: widely liked, poor cultural value, belong to ordinary people. ‘Popular music’ is that which ‘…appeals to the largest available audience when compared to other forms of music’, (Thomas, R, 1999, p.5). However in my opinion this is not the same in different places, eras or among a certain segment as there maybe contrasts therefore popular is relative. Hence different genres within music allows identification of specific segments and audiences and demographics

Lifestyles and experiences play a major part in the formation of music. Music does not operate in a vacuum or silos as different processes impact a particular culture influenced by outside forces hence the notion of production, distribution and consumption as cultures. These cultures are interwoven with no clear demarcation more so within the small genres such as UK hip-hop, grime, etc and this will become apparent over the next 10 topics covered in this module, where these culture may operate in isolation or all three components working together a typical example is X Factor or Jay Z.

A schematic of three histories of popular music written by Clarkes (1995), Friedlander (1996) and Chambers (1985), (cited Wall. T, 2013, p.4) provides a concise narrative histories of how music arrives where it is today. However each of them concentrating on different arguments, justifying that opinions differ when it comes to music. Nowadays music is produced somewhat like ‘fast food’, with the inception of auto tunes and synthesisers, some musicians lacking real talent, identity and meaning in the lyrics compared to the 60s, 70s and 80s where originality exuded.

Factors that influence music makers is built upon traditions, people and values that justify how a musical culture is the way it is by adapting and modifying the familiar. Wall (2013) explicates the four discourses of music that are viewed as the musical roots namely Tin Pan Alley, African American, European Vernacular, European Art each consisting of its own understanding of music making and what makes it ‘good’ or ‘bad’. In saying this popular music of various genres have common characteristics in their construction whether marginalised or mainstream. According to William (1976), popular is something that is common culture of the people and a lot of it around on the other hand it could be seen as inferior especially by those who place themselves in a high position.

Social, economic and technical factors have over time shaped and influenced music making. Societies and culture, which is ever changing as a result of migration, escalating economic prosperity and changing power relations. It goes without say that music is consumed and viewed from different perspectives by society serving both entertainment and political agendas. However there are relevant styles and references that relate to a particular era of social change. The inhumane treatment during slavery as Black American musicians later tried to find ways to excel and have a sense of pride depicted through cultural achievements.

Technology provides a meaningful way of recording, developing, play back processes, communicating to a wider audience beyond geographical boundaries and culture. Inception of Internet revolutionised music production, distribution and consumption.



Thomas, R. (1999) Popular Music. Oxford: Heinemann.

Wall, T. (2013) Studying popular music culture. 2nd edn. London: SAGE Publications.

Williams, R. and Williams, P. R. (1976) Keywords: A vocabulary of culture and society. New York: Oxford University Press, USA.



Hesmondalgh, D. (2002) Popular music studies. London: Hodder Arnold.

Machin, D. P. D. (2010) Analysing popular music: Image, sound and text. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.

McQuinn, J. (2011) Popular Music and Multimedia. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

Shuker, R. (2012) Popular music culture: The key concepts. 3rd edn. New York: Routledge.

Thomas, R. (1999) Popular Music. Oxford: Heinemann.

Wall, T. (2013) Studying popular music culture. 2nd edn. London: SAGE Publications.

Williams, R. and Williams, P. R. (1976) Keywords: A vocabulary of culture and society. New York: Oxford University Press, USA.




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