Popular Music BA Honours | Middlesex University London
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Popular Music BA Honours

Our exciting popular music degree will build your technical skills and industry knowledge to help kick-start a career in the field.
October 2020
EU/International induction: September 2020
3 years full-time
Usually 5 years part-time
£9,250 (UK/EU) *
£13,400 (INT) *
Course leader
Richard Osborne

Our degree enhances your technical musicianship, builds your songwriting skills, and gives you a broad overview of the modern music industry so that you have a taste of everything and understand where you want to go.

Why study popular music with us

Our exciting popular music degree covers everything you need to know to launch a music career in the 21st century. With a focus on popular music practice, popular music business, and popular music studies, you’ll gain an insight into the history of the music industry and learn how to analyse the latest music developments.

Through practical work, we’ll help you develop your song-writing, musicianship, performance, and production expertise. You’ll also get to grips with how the industries work, and learn the entrepreneurial skills needed to make music, make money from music, and to successfully launch a career in the music industry.

You’ll study popular music at our vibrant music department, with plenty of support from professional staff, researchers and industry experts – including visiting professor, music producer and head of Mute Records, Daniel Miller – all of who encourage you to flourish during your studies.

Build your hands-on experience while developing your musical talents

We’ve got new facilities that include a concert hall, music production suites, state-of-the-art soundproof practice rooms and recording studios – with technicians and sound engineers on hand to give you the support to succeed in your studies and your career.

Our London location means you’ll be in the heart of the capital’s music scene, with access to promoters, record labels, concerts and gigs. Former students have performed at venues including Camden Assembly, Cargo, and the Jazz Cafe. You'll even play your final year show at the O2 Academy Islington.

You’ll attend our regular workshops and talks with musicians and industry professionals to further enhance your insight, knowledge and contact list. Our previous guests include some of the finest mixers, writers, producers and professionals in the industry, including the likes of:

  • Jez Ashurst
  • Alan Branch
  • Scott Cohen
  • Clint Murphy
  • Paul Pacifico
  • Tom Robinson

Get the support you need to succeed

We know that sometimes you’ll need assistance and support when it comes to your studies. During your time with us you will get assistance from a Personal Tutor. If you require a little extra help then we have Student Learning Assistants and Graduate Academic Assistants on hand to help.

Our course will give you the transferable skills to pursue a diverse range of career paths within the popular music and cultural industries, including song writing and performance, production, music marketing and promotion, music publishing, music journalism, events management, education, training and music research.

Find out more

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What will you study on the BA Popular Music?

You will have the opportunity to explore musical elements and concepts at an advanced level. You will focus on the interrelation of popular music studies and the repertoire of popular music as well as the ethical and cultural contexts of popular music.  Professional and scholarly approaches to research and planning will allow you to excel in your chosen modules as you begin to focus on specialist music industry practices. You will develop your songwriting, performance and/or production skills at an industry-ready standard.

What will you gain?

As well as gaining an professional level understanding in a range of musical skills, elements and concepts, you will also have the relevant transferable skills which will allow you to step into your future career. You will be able to inform creative work through advanced theoretical knowledge and employ reflective and critical thinking in professional and academic work. You will demonstrate specialist competence in managing music projects as well as having the ability to plan, organise and manage study and research.


You will complete all modules in Year 1, and in Year 2 and 3, you will have the opportunity to choose your modules; four in total for each year.

  • Year 1

    • Introduction to the Music Industries (30 credits) - Compulsory

      This module provides an overview of the music industries, principally in the sectors of recording, publishing, live music and management. You will develop your understanding of related roles (A&R, marketers, managers, publishers, agents, promoters and administrators) to gain a broad-based understanding of contemporary issues and practices.

    • Popular Music Genres (30 credits) - Compulsory

      This module develops your knowledge of the musical and lyrical characteristics of popular music genres in order to create a firm foundation for further study and to inform your practice as musicians and songwriters. The porous nature of genres will be covered, alongside style, repertoire and interpretation. You will develop the ability to work effectively as part of a team, which is crucial to working within the profession as well as a core transferable skill, performance, musicianship and critical listening, and the ability to analyse and reflect upon your own practice.

    • Musicianship and Production (30 credits) - Compulsory

      This module introduces a range of fundamental musical concepts and skills. You will learn to "think in sound," which is an essential ability in the development of effective and rewarding practical musicianship. You will also explore techniques and procedures in digital and acoustic audio environments, allowing you to integrate such tools into you own practices.

    • History of Popular Music (30 credits) - Compulsory

      This module enables you to acquire an understanding of the historical, cultural, social, economic, technological and aesthetic trends that shaped developments in popular music in the 20th century, gain knowledge of the ways that popular music was performed and heard during the 20th century, and develop an understanding of approaches to popular music's history.

  • Year 2

    • Popular Music in the 21st Century (30 credits) - Compulsory

      This module appraises recent and current trends in popular music and identifies related concepts for you to explore and evaluate. The module's relatively narrow time-frame enables detailed investigation of such concepts, which will necessarily be updated annually but will include discussion of new genres, economics, technology and cultural developments. As well as encouraging you to investigate musical practice in order to develop written work, this module encourages you to use theory to produce practical work.

  • Year 2 optional modules - choose at least one module from the following:

    • Musicianship and Performance 1 (30 credits) - Optional

      This module develops a practical understanding of musicianship and performance. You will take both leading and supportive musical roles within an ensemble, and will also develop solo performance skills. Vocal and/or instrumental technique is developed, alongside a practical understanding of style, performance, aural skills and harmonic vocabulary.

    • Recording and Production (30 credits) - Optional

      This module develops expertise in music production theories and practices. You will learn to understand clearly and use confidently advanced techniques and procedures in digital and analogue musical environments and adapt these to achieve desired creative results. You will also explore the critical study of music production and establish a strong sense of its artistic and historical contexts, drawing from this knowledge to inform and enhance your own practice.

    • Songwriting 1 (30 credits) - Optional

      This module develops your skills in practical song composition and is informed by theoretical perspectives. You will develop your critical faculties through aural analysis and practical skills exercises in a variety of styles and genres. Tasks involving various compositional processes (including working to specific briefs) will build technique and stylistic sensitivity, providing a firm foundation for the development of a more distinctive personal voice.

  • Year 2 optional modules - choose at least one module from the following:

    • Music Journalism (30 credits) - Optional

      This module explores the key principles of music journalism and develops practical skills in interviewing and writing reviews, features, biographies, website content and promotional material. You will also explore the history of music journalism and its possible future. As well as considering a career in music journalism, either full-time or part of a portfolio career, the module will appeal to those who would like a greater understanding of working with the press from an artist's perspective.

    • Music Entrepreneurship (30 credits) - Optional

      This module develops your knowledge of the music industries, with a specific focus on entrepreneurship. Such issues are particularly important to those intending to launch a company of your own, or to self-manage and/or self-release, but will also be relevant to those intending to work for an existing company – within the music industries or beyond. You will work on a live case study of a music business, as well as planning your own music-related business, working both autonomously and in groups.

  • Year 3

    • Popular Music Studies (30 credits) - Compulsory

      This module provides an advanced idea of popular music studies through a selective overview of theoretical approaches, including cultural theory, sociology, political economy and musicology. Key areas of popular music studies will be addressed, including production, mediation and reception. Theory will be used to explore popular music practice and popular music practice will be used to explore popular music theory.

  • Year 3 optional modules - choose at least one module from the following:

    • Music for Film, Animation and Television (30 credits) - Optional

      This module cultivates to a sophisticated level an understanding of the history of film music, particularly of the West, and the aesthetic concerns which can be brought to bear in composing music for screen. It is also designed to test the ability to compose appropriate music for media productions with effectiveness and relative speed. You will be introduced to contractual aspects of media music composition.

    • Musicianship and Performance 2 (30 credits) - Optional

      This module develops core practical skills to the point at which you can demonstrate excellence in both style and technique as performers of popular music. The module covers advanced aspects of musicianship, including transposition, chromaticism and extended harmony, chord substitution and appropriate modes. You will attempt to develop an individual soloing voice, and to direct an ensemble.

    • Songwriting 2 (30 credits) - Optional

      This module enhances your existing command of songwriting craft and styles by facilitating the development of a more individual and professional approach to practical song composition. You will be encouraged to establish and maintain a distinctive musical identity - a personal creative 'voice' - that will inform present and future songwriting. You will be willing to experiment and to expand the boundaries of popular music.

    • Recording Project (30 credits) - Optional

      This module allows you the opportunity to gain further knowledge, understanding, and expertise in recording and producing music by pursuing and realising a self-developed project. Subject to approval by the module leader, you will undertake work that constitutes an adequate technical and artistic challenge. You are encouraged to find creative solutions to problems and achieve a highly personal and successful vision.

  • Year 3 optional modules - choose at least one module from the following:

    • Independent Project (30 credits) - Optional

      This module furthers knowledge, understanding and skills in a particular area of interest, whether arising from prior learning or enabling the pursuit of interests not other otherwise catered for in taught modules. Because of the diversity of Independent Projects, the specific aims will vary according to the nature of the project.

    • Community Music and Education (30 credits) - Optional

      This module enables you to affect positively the musical development of a community or individual(s). This will be achieved through the planning and delivery of participatory musical activity within a specific community-based or pedagogical context. To this end, both practical facilitation techniques and theoretical literature will be explored.

    • Applied Music Business Studies - 30 credits (optional)

      This module aims to provide an advanced knowledge of contractual and intellectual property issues relevant for a career in the music industries. You will gain a sophisticated understanding of the use, development and consequences of legal practices in the recording, publishing and live music sectors. This knowledge will be applied in an entrepreneurial context as you develop your own music-related businesses.

You can find more information about this course in the programme specification. Optional modules are usually available at levels 5 and 6, although optional modules are not offered on every course. Where optional modules are available, you will be asked to make your choice during the previous academic year. If we have insufficient numbers of students interested in an optional module, or there are staffing changes which affect the teaching, it may not be offered. If an optional module will not run, we will advise you after the module selection period when numbers are confirmed, or at the earliest time that the programme team make the decision not to run the module, and help you choose an alternative module.

  1. Overview
  2. Teaching and learning
  3. Assessment and feedback
  1. UK & EU
  2. International
  3. How to apply
  4. Interviews and auditions
  1. UK & EU
  2. International
  3. Additional costs

How can the BA Popular Music support your career?

As a graduate you will possess transferable skills that cut across various sectors of the music and cultural industries. The career options with a Popular Music degree are exciting and diverse. They include songwriting and performance, production, music marketing and promotion, copyright, music publishing, music journalism, arts administration and management, events management, education, training and music research.

Richard Osborne
Co-leader and senior lecturer for BA Popular Music

Richard is the author of Vinyl: A History of the Analogue Record (Ashgate, 2012). Prior to becoming a lecturer he worked in record shops, held various posts at PRS for Music and co-managed a pub. He has performed in bands based in Evesham, Cheltenham and London.

Pop Bothering Me - blog

Fiorenzo Palermo
Senior Lecturer in Popular Music

Fiorenzo’s teaching focuses in particular on the intersections between identities and politics in music and especially how gendered identities can be reinforced, challenged, and re-imagined in song; thus topics like feminism, queer theory, masculinities and transgender studies are all explored. His research is concerned with musical instruments and specifically how their fundamental importance in music can be understood through new theoretical frameworks that pertain to a “critical” organology.

Sam Leak
Lecturer in Popular Music

Sam's popular music performance credentials include having performed with Keavy and Edele (B*witched), Lucinda Belle, and Aubrey Logan (of Postmodern Jukebox). He has taught at H.E. institutions including Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Cambridge Universit, and Trinity Laban. He is also a nationally well-known Jazz musician, often hosting the late shows at Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club in Soho.  His album Aquarium was listed as one of MOJO magazine's top 10 international releases of 2011. Outside of his profession as a musician he is undertaking a part-time PhD in Music Cognition at Cambridge University where he is investigating the possibility that Absolute Pitch might be learnable by adults.

Dave Clements
Technical Tutor

As an electronic artist, Dave has worked for some of the UK’s most prestigious EDM record labels including Fabric, Low Pressings, Mute and many others. He now works as a freelance recording and mixing engineer in London. As well as teaching studio craft and audio manipulation at Middlesex, Dave’s particular specialisms are in performance audio tools such as Max/MSP and PureData. He is the university’s accredited expert for Sibelius scoring software.

  • Joe Cox

    BA Popular Music Graduate

    My time studying Popular Music at Middlesex helped me find my career path. From world-class facilities to friendly, informative lecturers, this course is the perfect place for anyone looking to find their place in the Music Industry. I am so glad I chose Middlesex University to study Popular Music. My lecturers had so much first-hand knowledge of the music industry, and having world-famous music scenes like Camden and Islington on my doorstep was life changing. The Popular Music course is the place to be if you want a well-rounded education in modern music. You’ll cover the practical, the theoretical and you’ll learn about the industry, but more importantly you’ll have a great time doing it!

  • Elena Cabal Rodriguez

    BA Popular Music student

    When I came to Middlesex University from abroad, I was really scared of leaving my home to chase my dream of becoming part of one of the biggest industries in the world: the music industry. I can now proudly say it was the best decision of my life. Studying Popular Music has opened doors that I didn’t even know existed. During my degree I have looked at many aspects of contemporary popular music, from production to music journalism. Having knowledge of all these areas of the music industry is really profitable for my future. I am becoming a competitive professional and a versatile artist.

  • Ben Webb-Taylor

    BA Popular Music Graduate

    The course gives you access to so many different aspects of the music industry. From performance to business, journalism to production it offers everything you need to get a foot in the door. With excellent staff and facilities I can't recommend it enough.

  • Blanche Rossier

    BA Popular Music Graduate

    I have really enjoyed my time as a Popular music student. I have learned so much, not only about performing music, but also about recording, production, writing and the music industry. I feel confident going after a job in the music industry now!

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