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Course details

Study options

Full-time: 3 years, Part-time: 4-6 years

UK/EU fee

£9,250 per year* (2020/21)

International fee

£14,045 per year (2020/21)

UCAS points

112* (September 2020 entry)

UCAS code


Course level



Joint Honours

Start date



Kedleston Road, Derby Campus

What is Joint Honours?

A Joint Honours degree gives you the opportunity to study two subjects as one degree. This type of degree will broaden your skill set and enhance your career prospects.

You can combine any two subjects as long as they’re in different zones, find out what you can combine this subject with.

Course description

Popular music provides not only entertainment for millions but also opportunities for personal, social and political expression. This exciting and innovative course challenges you to think deeply about popular music’s meanings and influence.

A dynamic and diverse subject

The emphasis of this course is the study of popular music rather than its practice. You will build a comprehensive understanding of popular music as a global phenomenon, examining its histories, platforms and trends and exploring its meanings, influence and pervasiveness.

In the early stages of the course, you will receive an excellent grounding in theoretical and critical approaches to the subject, analysing popular music texts past and present. You will then progress to modules on more specialist topics such as popular music on screen; popular music and the written word; and fans, movements and sub-cultures.

As you grow in confidence and develop your knowledge, there is plenty of opportunity for independent project work to concentrate on the aspects of popular music in which you are particularly interested.

A truly interdisciplinary approach

Our approach to popular music is always informed by wider debates so that you can appreciate how it is created and how it might ‘work’. Alongside a focus on musicians, the industry and audiences, you will cover the ways in which music is produced, mediated, disseminated, consumed and understood.

We view popular music as a cultural practice which has articulated emotions, activism, disruption, discord, optimism and potential liberation for performers and audiences alike. A large part of your mission on this course will therefore be to gage the way popular music has reflected, commented upon, and even helped to shape the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. 

Popular Music in Society draws on a variety of contexts and disciplines such as cultural studies, history, politics and sociology. It also encourages you to view cultures as complex, diverse and multi-faceted networks.

Real world learning

Work-based learning modules in stages two and three of the course feature opportunities for you to spend time on placement in the media and cultural industries. This will give you valuable insights into how your knowledge and transferable skills can be applied in the workplace.

Study visits will also be an important part of your learning experience. You will hear from influential guest speakers and enjoy plenty of extra- and co-curricular events and activities to enrich your studies.

Broaden your horizons

Thanks to our flourishing international links, we offer you the chance to study abroad for a single semester in your second year. You will experience a different academic culture with one of our European or American partner universities, immerse yourself in a new way of life and acquire an even wider set of skills.

Students who take this exciting opportunity find that it enhances their confidence, heightens their global awareness and makes a substantial contribution to their employability.

Learn from influential researchers

Our lecturers are engaging, inspiring and passionate about the subject. They have published a range of research into popular music and are keen to share their knowledge and enthusiasms with you.

Whichever level you are at and whichever module you are taking, you will receive support and motivation from our friendly and dedicated team.

Improve your career prospects

There is much value in a degree that fosters your analytical, evaluative, critical and creative thinking, together with your ability to learn and synthesise new skills and ideas. These attributes will ensure you are well prepared for global careers in fields ranging from the creative and cultural industries to business and academia.

Because Joint Honours gives you the flexibility to cover two subjects in one degree, you will also be able to demonstrate your organisational skills and capacity to work to deadlines, communicate effectively and carry out independent research.

Compelling Joint Honours subject combinations which work particularly well include:

What you will study

Example modules are shown below, the modules available as a Joint Honours student will be dependent on the subject that you combine with. In your first year, modules will be defined for you, and will be dependent on your subject combination to ensure you have the best fit. In your second and third years, module availability and the number of modules you are required to take will depend on whether you choose this subject as a major, joint or minor.

Year 1Year 1Year 2Year 2Year 3Year 3

Code: 4MR509

Multimedia Podcasting

This module aims to advance you to the fundamental skills essential to create an online multimedia publication based on the subject matter of your choice to expected online industry standards.
20 Credits

Code: 4PM501

Pop Life 1: Form, Meaning and Representation (PDP)

This module will provide an introduction to the academic study of popular music and to the discourses of popular music culture. It will, therefore, supply you with the conceptual tools for engaging with popular music in a scholarly fashion.

Familiarity with these critical perspectives and debates will enable you to build an understanding of the historical, cultural, social, economic, technological, and aesthetic developments that have shaped popular music in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In tandem with Critical Approaches 2, then, this module will familiarise you with key issues, theories, and approaches as it focuses on how popular music texts are created, circulated, and consumed. It will explore the relationship between the music, the industry, and audiences – a relationship that often gives rise to multiple, sometimes competing definitions.

Engaging with selective but indicative musicians and their works, this module will consider issues such as agency, creativity, authenticity, genre, and mediation; without of course overlooking the role the industry and audiences can play in the production of meaning(s).

Popular music studies is marked by its interdisciplinary scope, and so you will encounter readings from a range of academic fields – cultural studies, media studies, sociology, ethnomusicology, and musicology – as you explore popular music’s diverse histories and significance via a range of illustrative case studies.

Assessment is by coursework, comprising an individual presentation and an essay.

More information
20 Credits

Code: 4PM502

Pop Life 2: Institutions Industries and Audiences

This module will provide an introduction to the academic study of popular music and to the discourses of popular music culture. It will therefore supply you with the conceptual tools for engaging with popular music in a scholarly fashion.

Familiarity with these critical perspectives and debates will enable you to build an understanding of the historical, cultural, social, economic, technological, and aesthetic developments that have shaped popular music in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In tandem with Critical Approaches 1, then, this module will familiarise you with key issues, theories, and approaches as it focuses on how popular music texts are created, circulated, and consumed. It will explore the relationship between the music, the industry, and audiences – a relationship that often gives rise to multiple, sometimes competing definitions.

In focusing on critical perspectives as these relate to production and consumption, this module will explore the function and organisation of the music industry; considering issues raised via the relationship between commerce and music-making. In seeking to demonstrate how the industry operates, it will examine changing contexts and histories. It will also necessarily explore the processes through which popular music is mediated and commodified. it will also consider the role of audiences; examining, for example, the extent to which these are active and creative.

Assessment is entirely by coursework, comprising an essay and a portfolio.

More information
20 Credits

Code: 5AM500

Audible Republic: American Music and Society

This module examines American popular music in context. The module seeks to assess the extent to which popular music, as cultural practice, has reflected, commented upon, and helped shape US culture in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

American popular music will be evaluated as an articulation of emotions, activism, disruption, discord, optimism, and potential liberation for performers and audiences alike. However, whilst popular music can function as a vital expressive medium for diverse, often politically and economically disadvantaged groups, the paradoxes which inevitably arise from its mass cultural status will also receive careful consideration.

More information
20 Credits

Code: 5FT506


This module aims to explore the relationship between sound and image, the study of music in relation to film and television and the development of uses of soundtrack as music, voice and sound effects in relation to the image track.

The module seeks to explore sound and music as integral aspects of filmic and television and critically understand the way that sound and music have developed both as particular practices and within a range of theoretical perspectives.

More information
20 Credits

Code: 5MS505

Music Business and Management

Upon completion of their studies, many graduating students will expect to find themselves involved in activities that fall within the framework of the music industry. This industry is constantly evolving to meet the challenges that advancing technology and the changing needs of the music consumer brings. Consequently, it is essential to have a clear understanding of this business; this will include a particular focus on Copyright and Publishing.

This module aims to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the music business and associated industries, and challenge them to assess and develop their own personal development in relation to their career plans, maintaining a systematic approach to Personal Development Planning (PDP).

More information
20 Credits

Code: 5PM501

It Says Here: Popular Music and the Written Word

The American rock writer Greil Marcus has described pop as “an argument where anyone can join in.” And of course many have. From its very beginnings, popular music has been accompanied by literary comment.

This writing has helped publicise and so effectively sell popular music as a commodity; but it has also invested it with significance. In evaluating the function(s) of popular music writing, the module will contextualise its developments in relation to various styles, movements and “moments” – for example, by considering the various forms that popular music journalism has taken.

In so doing, we will not only look at the emergence of the rock writer – and at the idea of the “professional rock fan” as “opinion leader, the interpreter, the ideological gatekeeper” (Simon Frith) - but also at the form and meanings of output from alternative platforms such as fanzines and blogs. We will also address and assess rock and pop’s “literary” claims through examination of a range of artist-generated outputs – such as autobiography, poetry, fiction, screenplay and, of course, lyrics.

The module mixes the critical with the practical. In this way, it builds on work undertaken on Writing for Media - which explored the craft of writing in and for the media industries – by giving you the opportunity to develop writing techniques and strategies appropriate to different popular music contexts and “markets,” whilst encouraging you to develop your own voice.

Assessment is by seminar participation/presentation and portfolio.



More information
20 Credits

Code: 5PM502

Research Project in Popular Music in Society (PDP)

This module will enable you to develop your research skills. It will provide an advanced understanding of research methodology. The Project will provide experience in the construction of an extended piece of academic writing, whilst enhancing your criticality in relation to a range of sources and texts. It will give instruction in research methods.

The module will prepare you for the greater emphasis placed on independent learning at level 6. You will also cultivate a broad range of transferable skills, which are essential to your personal development and future employability. Assessment is by coursework, comprising a Progress Report and the Project.

More information
20 Credits

Code: 6HY508

Work-Based Learning

This module provides you with an opportunity to experience working in a cultural, creative, arts, heritage or related organisation and to develop valuable academic and transferable skills.

The main focus is to negotiate and conduct a work-based project with an employer or other outside body. This might be a museum or gallery, a cinema or theatre, a radio or TV station, or an educational establishment, for example. It allows you to bring your academic skills to an organisation, to complete a project that would be useful to them (and, in many cases, the wider community), and gives you the opportunity to gain valuable work experience relevant to your chosen career path.

More information
40 Credits

Code: 6PM501

Children of the Revolution: Popular Music in the Long Seventies

Transatlantic in focus and interdisciplinary in approach, this module demonstrates how cultural identity, historical change, geographical location, and political processes influence how music is produced, distributed and consumed in the “long” 1970s – i.e. 1968 to 1982. Sandwiched between the supposedly more creative, liberal, liberating and liberated ‘60s and the conservative, neo-liberal reformation of the ‘80s, the ‘70s are frequently dismissed as a time of cultural, political and economic stagnation. The module will seek to examine the extent to which this still widely-held representation of the era holds true.

The long Seventies was marked by crises and ferment, as demands for equality collided with social conservatism. It was a transformative period which witnessed the erosion of consensus, widespread popular protest and shifting cultural norms. As Shelton Waldrep notes, “the unstable nature of the Seventies [..] – its very ambiguity – provides the period with its generative and disruptive influences.” In many ways, then, these were more turbulent and tumultuous times than those experienced in the more fabled Sixties. This is arguably reflected in the sheer variety of always vibrant, often conflictual popular music styles and movements that emerged – the study of which allows us to explore key political, social and cultural debates and developments. Assessment is by seminar presentation/participation and extended essay.

More information
20 Credits

Code: 6PM502

The Kids Are Alright: Fans Movements and Subcultures

This module examines the significant role popular music can play in the construction of identity. In this sense, it is “about” what we do with popular music. Via selected case studies, it will consider popular music as lived culture, capturing the multiple, complex, and often contradictory ways through which its sounds, styles, and genres have immense impact on notions of identity.

Popular music has always been associated with different social groups and linked to specific cultural identities defined by gender, ethnicity, class, race, and sexuality. This can be seen – and of course heard – in the importance of blues, jazz, gospel, soul, and hip hop for shifting notions of African-American identity.

In focusing on the dynamics of lifestyle and subcultural identity in the context of its consumption, you will explore how popular music has been – and continues to be – used to affirm a sense of identity, and as a means of asserting difference and excluding others. Therefore, topics such as the social construction of identity, fandom, taste, authenticity, and authorship will be covered. Assessment is by group presentation and extended essay.

More information
20 Credits

Code: 6PM999

Independent Study in Popular Music in Society (PDP)

The Independent Study in Popular Music in Society is the vehicle by and through which you will carry out a substantial piece of independently-researched work in a topic of interest emerging from, and so related to, the key concerns of the programme. It will take the form of an 8000-word dissertation on a topic of your choosing; but one which will build on subject-appropriate knowledge and understanding accrued throughout your degree. Writing a dissertation will enable you to develop your ability to construct sustained and coherent arguments, and demonstrate understanding of theoretical and methodological issues.

Undertaking an independent study will also enhance your employability both through the development of advanced writing and research skills, and of your ability to self-manage a substantial project. You will also present a 20-minute paper based on your research to an audience of your peers at a Dissertation Showcase. Skills developed are, therefore, essential to your future employment and personal development, and can provide a solid basis for postgraduate study.

More information
40 Credits

Please note that our modules are subject to change - we review the content of our courses regularly, making changes where necessary to improve your experience and graduate prospects.

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How you will learn

Active student participation and a relaxed, inclusive style are hallmarks of Popular Music in Society at Derby. Equipped with analytical and critical skills, you will gain an in-depth knowledge of key debates, theories, ideas and works as these relate to your subject.

You will learn and practise technical skills, honing your abilities in research, writing and argumentation. This will be achieved through lectures, seminars, individual and group presentations, workshops and screenings. Your learning experience will also be augmented and enhanced by study visits, guest lectures and plenty of extra- and co-curricular events and activities.

How you'll be assessed

Assessment is 100% coursework-based. This incorporates different tasks and modes which could include: essays; blogs, playlists and soundtracks; document analyses; music, book, film and TV reviews; project and dissertation work; individual and group presentations; work-based learning; and seminar participation.

Who you'll meet

You will be taught by a highly qualified and experienced team of lecturers. They are committed to interdisciplinary explorations of Popular Music but all have individual areas of expertise and research. They include:

Simon Philo, the Subject Leader for Popular Music in Society, whose research interests principally centre on American popular culture. He has published on The Simpsons, MTV, youth television, punk rock and ska, Pop Art, the Rolling Stones, and the literature of the Vietnam War. He is the author of British Invasion: The Crosscurrents of Musical Influence (2014) and Glam Rock (forthcoming 2017).

Dr David Holloway, a Senior Lecturer whose research interests include American visual cultures, narratives of apocalypse in American culture and the “war on terror”. His book on Cormac McCarthy was published in 2002 and 9/11 and the War on Terror was published in 2008. He is also the co-editor of American Visual Cultures (2005).  His journal article “Politics, Modernism, and Bob Dylan’s Search for a Usable Past in the Rolling Thunder Review” has recently been published in Symbiosis (2016).

Dr Nathan Hunt, a Senior Lecturer in Film and Media whose research interests span film, television and popular media with a particular emphasis on media consumption, audience research, mainstream cult media, fandom and para-textuality.  He has published on the reception and consumption of mainstream cult media, and most recently published a chapter on zombies in digital culture – “A Utilitarian Antagonist: The Zombie in Popular Video Game Culture” - in Hubner, L. and Leaning, M. eds The Zombie Renaissance (2014).

Personal academic tutoring

Your personal academic tutor will work with you to help you get the most out of your time at university. Having someone to talk to about your academic progress, your university experience and your professional aspirations is hugely valuable. We want you to feel challenged in your studies, stretched but confident to achieve your academic and professional goals.

Find out more about personal academic tutoring

Who will teach you

Simon Philo

Simon Philo
Programme leader

Simon is Programme Leader for BA Liberal Arts; and Subject Leader for American Studies and Popular Music in Society.

View full staff profileView full staff profile

Entry requirements

September 2020 typical entry requirements

RequirementWhat we're looking for
UCAS points112* (up to 16 from AS-levels)
Specific requirements at A-level

No specific subject requirements

Specific requirements at GCSEGCSE Maths and English Grade C/Grade 4 (or above) or equivalent qualification
Interview / AuditionN/A

Alternative entry qualifications:

For joint honours degree entry you will need to choose two subjects. The entry criteria here is for this subject only. Your offer will be based on the higher entry criteria from the two subjects you choose to do. A good application/performance will be taken into account if you do not meet the criteria/offer conditions.

*The UCAS Points required for entry will depend on the subjects you choose to combine. The subject with the higher entry requirements will determine your offer.

Our entry requirements for this course should be read together with the University's general entry requirements, which details subjects we accept, alternative qualifications and what we're looking for at Derby.

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Academic Achievement Scholarship

We’re offering eligible students a £1,000 scholarship to celebrate your hard work and success.

Learn more about the Academic Achievement ScholarshipLearn more about the Academic Achievement Scholarship

Fees and funding

2020/21 Fees


£9,250 per year*

£1,155 per module*


£14,045 per year


* The fees stated above are for the 2019/20 academic year; fees for 2020/21 have not yet been confirmed by the UK government. We will update this information as soon as it is available.

Further information about our fees and support you may be entitled to.

Additional costs and optional extras

How to apply

UK/EU students

Full-time students applying to start in September should apply for this course through UCAS or you can apply directly to the University for an undergraduate course if you’re not applying to any other UK university in the same year.

Part-time students should apply directly to the University.

Apply through UCASApply directly to the University

Guidance for EU students post-Brexit

International students

Full-time students applying to start in September should apply for this course through UCAS or you can apply directly to the University for an undergraduate course if you’re not applying to any other UK university in the same year.

Apply through UCASApply directly to the University

Guidance for international applicants applying for an undergraduate degree


In common with graduates from other Humanities courses, our Popular Music in Society graduates are likely to pursue global careers in many different fields: the creative, cultural and heritage industries; journalism and the media; teaching and academia; business and commerce; and the civil and uniformed services.

Whichever career route you decide to follow, we do all we can to ensure you acquire the knowledge and experience to excel. We are committed to helping you develop highly prized transferable skills – including critical thinking, written and oral communication, project management, digital and informational literacy, and global awareness – which are particularly attractive to a wide range of prospective employers.

If you take the opportunity to study abroad as part of the course, your international experience will add an exciting dimension to your CV. You will learn to view the world from fresh perspectives, becoming more independent, mature, versatile and confident in the process.

A Joint Honours degree which includes Popular Music in Society will also provide you with an excellent foundation for postgraduate study.

Ongoing careers support

Our Careers and Employment Service will provide you with support from day one of your course to ensure that you leave the University of Derby as a “work-ready” graduate – industry-aware, motivated and enterprising. Throughout your studies, you will benefit from our Personal Development Planning (PDP) scheme which enables you to reflect on your learning and develop your career ambitions.  And this support continues once you have completed your studies too, as you are entitled to further assistance and guidance from the Careers and Employment Service for up to three years after graduating.

Contact us

If you need any more information from us, eg on courses, accommodation, applying, car parking, fees or funding, please contact us and we will do everything we can to help you.

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Additional information about your studies

You will typically study your two subjects equally at stage one, before choosing whether you want to major in one subject at stages two and three.

Download programme specification

Teaching hours

Like most universities, we operate extended teaching hours at the University of Derby, so contact time with your lecturers and tutors could be anytime between 9am and 9pm. Your timetable will usually be available on the website 24 hours after enrolment on to your course.

Additional costs and optional extras

We’re committed to providing you with an outstanding learning experience. Our expert teaching, excellent facilities and great employability prepare you for your future career. As part of our commitment to you we aim to keep any additional study costs to a minimum. However, there are occasions where students may incur some additional costs.

Included in your fees

Mandatory costs not included in your fees

Optional costs not included in your fees

Please note: Our courses are refreshed and updated on a regular basis. If you are thinking about transferring onto this course (into the second year for example), you should contact the programme leader for the relevant course information as modules may vary from those shown on this page.

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Popular Music in Society can be combined with:

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