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Popular music
Popular  music is music with wide appeal[1][2][3] that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music
industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by people with little or no musical training.[1] It stands in
contrast to both art music[4][5][6] and traditional or "folk" music. Art music was historically disseminated through the
performances of written music, although since the beginning of the recording industry, it is also disseminated through
recordings. Traditional music forms such as early blues songs or hymns were passed along orally, or to smaller, local

The original application of the term is to music of the 1880s Tin Pan Alley period in the United States.[1] Although popular
music sometimes is known as "pop music", the two terms are not interchangeable.[7] Popular music is a generic term for a
wide variety of genres of music that appeal to the tastes of a large segment of the population,[8] whereas pop music usually
refers to a specific musical genre within popular music.[9] Popular music songs and pieces typically have easily singable
melodies. The song structure of popular music commonly involves repetition of sections, with the verse and chorus or
refrain repeating throughout the song and the bridge providing a contrasting and transitional section within a piece.[10]

In the 2000s, with songs and pieces available as digital sound files, it has become easier for music to spread from one
country or region to another. Some popular music forms have become global, while others have a wide appeal within the
culture of their origin.[11] Through the mixture of musical genres, new popular music forms are created to reflect the ideals
of a global culture.[12] The examples of Africa, Indonesia, and the Middle East show how Western pop music styles can
blend with local musical traditions to create new hybrid styles.

Form of Western popular music
Development in North America and Europe
Global perspective
Middle East

See also
Further reading
External links


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Scholars have classified music as "popular" based on various factors, including whether a song or piece becomes known to
listeners mainly from hearing the music (in contrast with classical music, in which many musicians learn pieces from sheet
music); its appeal to diverse listeners, its treatment as a marketplace commodity in a capitalist context, and other
factors.[6] Sales of 'recordings' or sheet music are one measure. Middleton and Manuel note that this definition has
problems because multiple listens or plays of the same song or piece are not counted.[2] Evaluating appeal based on size of
audience (mass appeal) or whether audience is of a certain social class is another way to define popular music, but this,
too, has problems in that social categories of people cannot be applied accurately to musical styles. Manuel states that one
criticism of popular music is that it is produced by large media conglomerates and passively consumed by the public, who
merely buy or reject what music is being produced. He claims that the listeners in the scenario would not have been able to
make the choice of their favorite music, which negates the previous conception of popular music.[13] Moreover,
"understandings of popular music have changed with time".[2] Middleton argues that if research were to be done on the
field of popular music, there would be a level of stability within societies to characterize historical periods, distribution of
music, and the patterns of influence and continuity within the popular styles of music.[14]

Anahid Kassabian separated popular music into four categories; "popular as populist," or having overtones of liberation
and expression; "popular as folk," or stating that the music is written by the people, for themselves; "popular as
counterculture," or empowering citizens to act against the oppression they face; and "popular as mass," or the music
becomes the tool for oppression.[15] A society's popular music reflects the ideals that are prevalent at the time it is
performed or published.[16] David Riesman states that the youth audiences of popular music fit into either a majority
group or a subculture. The majority group listens to the commercially produced styles while the subcultures find a
minority style to transmit their own values.[14] This allows youth to choose what music they identify with, which gives
them power as consumers to control the market of popular music.[14]

Form of Western popular music
Form in popular music is most often sectional, the most common sections being verse, chorus or refrain, and bridge. Other
common forms include thirty-two-bar form, chorus form *(Middleton pg 30), and twelve-bar blues. Popular music songs
are rarely composed using different music for each stanza of the lyrics (songs composed in this fashion are said to be
punished "through-composed").[10]

The verse and chorus are considered the primary elements. Each verse usually has the same melody (possibly with some
slight modifications), but the lyrics change for most verses. The chorus (or "refrain") usually has a melodic phrase and a
key lyrical line which is repeated. Pop songs may have an introduction and coda ("tag"), but these elements are not
essential to the identity of most songs. Pop songs that use verses and choruses often have a bridge, which you can cry a
river, build that bridge, and go over it. Which, as its name suggests, is a section which connects the verse and chorus at one
or more points in the song.[10]

The verse and chorus are usually repeated throughout a song, while the bridge, intro, and coda (also called an "outro")
tend to be used only once. Some pop songs may have a solo section, particularly in rock or blues-influenced pop. During
the solo section, one or more instruments play a melodic line which may be the melody used by the singer, or, in blues- or
jazz-influenced pop, the solo may be improvised based on the chord progression. A solo usually features a single
instrumental performer (e.g., a guitarist or a harmonica player) or less commonly, more than one instrumentalist (e.g., a
trumpeter and a sax player).[10]

Thirty-two-bar form uses four sections, most often eight measures long each (4×8=32), two verses or A sections, a
contrasting B section (the bridge or "middle-eight") and a return of the verse in one last A section (AABA).[17] Verse-chorus
form or ABA form may be combined with AABA form, in compound AABA forms. Variations such as a1 and a2 can also be

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used. The repetition of one chord progression may mark off the only section in a simple verse form such as the twelve bar

Development in North America and Europe

"The most significant feature of the emergent popular music industry of the
late 18th and early 19th centuries was the extent of its focus on the commodity
form of sheet music".[18] The availability of inexpensive, widely available sheet
music versions of popular songs and instrumental music pieces made it
possible for music to be disseminated to a wide audience of amateur, middle-
class music-makers, who could play and sing popular music at home. Amateur
music-making in the 19th century often centred around the piano, as this
instrument could play melodies, chords and basslines, thus enabling a pianist
to reproduce popular songs and pieces. In addition to the influence of sheet
music, another factor was the increasing availability during the late 18th and
early 19th century of public popular music performances in "pleasure gardens
and dance halls, popular theatres and concert rooms".[18]

The early popular music performers worked hand-in-hand with the sheet music
industry to promote popular sheet music. One of the early popular music
The 19th century singer Jenny Lind
performers to attain widespread popularity was a Swedish opera singer Jenny
depicted performing La sonnambula
Lind, who toured the US in the mid-19th century. In addition to living room
amateur music-making during the 19th century, more people began getting
involved in music during this era by participating in amateur choirs, joining brass bands or playing in amateur orchestras.

The centre of the music publishing industry in the US during the late 19th century was in New York's 'Tin Pan Alley'
district. The Tin Pan Alley music publishers developed a new method for promoting sheet music: incessant promotion of
new songs. One of the technological innovations that helped to spread popular music around the turn of the century was
player pianos. A player piano could be used to record a skilled pianist's rendition of a piano piece. This recorded
performance could be "played back" on another player piano. This allowed a larger number of music lovers to hear the new
popular piano tunes.[18] By the early 1900s, the big trends in popular music were the increasing popularity of vaudeville
theaters and dance halls and a new invention—the gramophone player. The record industry grew very rapidly; "By 1920
there were almost 80 record companies in Britain, and almost 200 in the USA".[18] The availability of records enabled a
larger percentage of the population to hear the top singers and bands.

Radio broadcasting of music, which began in the early 1920s, helped to spread popular songs to a huge audience, enabling
a much larger proportion of the population to hear songs performed by professional singers and music ensembles,
including individuals from lower income groups who previously would not have been able to afford concert tickets. Radio
broadcasting increased the ability of songwriters, singers and bandleaders to become nationally known. Another factor
which helped to disseminate popular music was the introduction of "talking pictures"—sound films—in the late 1920s,
which also included music and songs. In the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s, there was a move towards consolidation
in the recording industry, which led several major companies to dominate the record industry.[18]

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In the 1950s and 1960s, the new invention of television began to play an increasingly important role in disseminating new
popular music. Variety shows regularly showcased popular singers and bands. In the 1960s, the development of new
technologies in recording, such as multitrack recorders gave sound engineers and record producers an increasingly
important role in popular music. By using multitrack recording techniques, sound engineers could create new sounds and
sound effects that were not possible using traditional "live" recording techniques,[18] such as singers performing their own
backup vocals or having lead guitarists play rhythm guitars behind their guitar solo. During the 1960s era of psychedelic
music, the recording studio was used to create even more unusual sounds, in order to mimic the effect of taking
hallucinogenic drugs, some songs used tapes of instruments played backwards or panned the music from one side to the
other of the stereo image.

In the 1970s, the trend towards consolidation in the recording industry continued to the point that the "... dominance was
in the hands of five huge transnational organizations, three American-owned (WEA, RCA, CBS) and two European-owned
companies (EMI, Polygram)". In the 1990s, the consolidation trend took a new turn: inter-media consolidation. This trend
saw music recording companies being consolidated with film, television, magazines, and other media companies, an
approach which facilitated cross-marketing promotion between subsidiaries. For example, a record company's singing star
could be cross-promoted by the conglomerate's television talk shows and magazine arms.[18]

The "introduction of digital equipment (mixing desks, synthesizers, samplers, sequencers)" in the 1990s resulted in what
Grove  Dictionary  of  Music dubbed the creation of "new sound worlds", as well as facilitating DIY music production by
amateur musicians and "tiny independent record labels".[18] In the 1990s, the availability of sound recording software and
effects units software meant that an amateur indie band could record an album—which required a fully equipped recording
studio in previous decades—using little more than a laptop and a good quality microphone. That said, the audio quality of
modern recording studios still outstrips what an amateur can produce.[19]


Global perspective
In contrast to Western popular music, a genre of music that is popular outside of a Western nation, is categorized into
World music. This label turns otherwise popular styles of music into an exotic and unknown category. The Western
concept of 'World Music' homogenizes many different genres of popular music under one accessible term for Western
audiences.[15] New media technology has led urban music styles to filter into distant rural areas across the globe. The rural
areas, in turn, are able to give feedback to the urban centers about the new styles of music.[14] Urbanization,
modernization, exposure to foreign music and mass media have contributed to hybrid urban pop styles. The hybrid styles
have also found a space within Western popular music through the expressions of their national culture.[13] Recipient
cultures borrow elements from host cultures and alter the meaning and context found in the host culture. Many Western
styles, in turn, have become international styles through multinational recording studios.[13]

Popular African music styles have stemmed from traditional entertainment genres, rather than evolving from music used
with certain traditional ceremonies like weddings, births, or funerals.[13] African popular music as a whole has been
influenced by European countries, African-American and Afro-Latin music, and region-specific styles that became popular
across a wider range of people. Although due to the significance and strong position of culture in traditional African music,
African popular music tends to stay within the roots of traditional African Popular Music.[20][13] The genre of music,
Maskanda, is popular in its culture of origin, South Africa. Although maskanda is a traditional music genre by definition,
the people who listen to it influence the ideals that are brought forth in the music.[21] A popular maskandi artist,
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Phuzekhemisi, had to lessen the political influence within his music to be ready
for the public sphere. His music producer, West Nikosi, was looking for the
commercial success in Phuzekhemisi's music rather than starting a political

Political songs have been an important category of African popular music in

many societies. During the continent's struggle against colonial rule,
nationalistic songs boosted citizens' morale. These songs were based on
Western marches and hymns reflecting the European education system that the
early nationalistic leaders grew up in. Not all African political songs were based
on Western styles. For example, in South Africa, the political songs during the
Anti-Apartheid Movement were based on traditional tribal styles along with
Senegalese rapper, Didier Awadi
hybrid forms of imported genres.[13] Activists used protest and freedom songs
to persuade individuals to take action, become educated with the struggle, and
empower others to be politically conscious.[22] These songs reflected the nuances between the different classes involved in
the liberation struggle.[13]

One of the genres people of Africa use for political expression is Hip hop.[23] Although hip hop in Africa is based on the
North American template, it has been remade to produce new meanings for African young people. This allows the genre to
be both locally and globally influential.[23] African youth are shaped by the fast-growing genre's ability to communicate,
educate, empower, and entertain.[23] Artists who would have started in traditional music genres, like maskanda, became
hip hop artists to provide a stronger career path for themselves. These rappers compare themselves to the traditional
artists like the griot and oral storyteller, who both had a role in reflecting on the internal dynamics of the larger society.[23]
African hip hop creates youth culture, community intelligence, and global solidarity.[23]


Popular music in Indonesia can be categorized as hybrid forms of Western rock
to genres that are originated in Indonesia and indigenous in style.[13] The genre
of music, Dangdut, is a genre of popular music specifically found in Indonesia.
Dangdut formed two other styles of popular music, Indo-pop and
Underground,[24] together to create a new hybrid or fusion genre. The genre
takes the noisy instrumentation from Underground, but still makes it easy to
listen to like Indo-pop. Dangdut attempts to form many popular music genres
like rock, pop, and traditional music to create this new sound that lines up with
KRAS, also known as Heavy Metal
the consumers' tastes.[25] This genre has formed into a larger social movement Punk Machine, is an Indonesian
that includes clothing, youth culture, the resurgence of Islam, and the capitalist heavy metal band
entertainment industry.[13]

Another music scene that is popular in Indonesia is Punk rock. This genre was shaped in Indonesia by the local
interpretations of the media from the larger global punk movement.[24] Jeremy Wallach argues that while Green Day was
seen as the "death of punk," in Indonesia they were the catalyst for a larger punk movement.[24] Punk in Indonesia calls on
the English-speaking world to embrace the global sects of the punk culture and become open-minded to the transnational

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In a 2015 study involving young students in Shanghai, youths stated they enjoyed listening to both Chinese, other Asian
nationalities, and Anglo-American popular music. There are three ways that young people of China were able to access
global music.[16] The first reason was a policy change since the late 1970s where the country was opened up to the rest of
the world instead of being self-contained. This created more opportunities for Chinese people to interact with people
outside of their country of origin to create a more globalized culture. The second reason is that the Chinese television and
music industry since the 1980s has broadcast television shows from their neighboring Asian societies and the West. The
third reason is the impact of the internet and smartphones on the accessibility of streaming music.[16]

In 2015, students in China accounted for 30.2% of China's internet population and the third and fifth most popular uses of
the internet were respectively, internet music and internet video use. The youths described being able to connect to the
emotions and language of the Chinese music, but also enjoyed the melodies found within Anglo-American music. The
students also believed that listening to the English music would improve their English language skills.[16]

Middle East
Modernization of music in the Arab world involved borrowing inspiration from
Turkish music and Western musical styles.[26] The late Egyptian singer, Umm
Kulthum, stated,

"We must respect ourselves and our art. The Indians have set a
good example for us - they show great respect for themselves and
their arts. Wherever they are, they wear their native dress and
their music is known throughout the world. This is the right
Iranian rock band Kiosk, live in 2007

She discussed this to explain why Egypt and the Arab world needed to take
pride in the popular music styles originating in their culture so the styles were not lost in the modernization.[26] Local
musicians learned Western instrumental styles to create their own popular styles including their native languages and
indigenous musical features.[26] Communities in throughout the Arab world place high value on their indigenous musical
identities while assimilating to new musical styles from neighboring countries or mass media.[26] Through the 1980s and
1990s, popular music has been seen as a problem for the Iranian government because of the non-religious meanings
within the music and the bodily movements of dancing or headbanging.[27] During this time period, metal became a
popular underground subculture through the Middle East. Just like their Western counterparts, Middle Eastern metal
followers expressed their feelings of alienation. But their thoughts came from war and social restrictions on youth.[28]

In interviews of Iranian teenagers between 1990 and 2004, the youth overall preferred Western popular music, even
though it was banned by the government.[27] Iranian underground rock bands are composed of members who are young,
urban-minded, educated, relatively well-off, and global beings. Iranian rock is described by the traits that these band
members possess.[27] The youth who take part in underground music in the Middle East are aware of the social constraints
of their countries, but they are not optimistic about social change.[28] Iranian rock bands have taken up an internationalist
position to express their rebellion from the discourses in their national governments.[27]

See also
Music radio
Popular culture

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List of popular music performers

List of popular music genres
Popular music pedagogy
List of honorific titles in popular music
Music popularity index

1. Popular Music. (2015). Funk & Wagnalls New World dedicace l fadda Aloumari et Hamane Encyclopedia
2. Middleton, Richard; Manuel, Peter (2001). "Popular Music". Grove Music Online. Oxford Index. ISBN 9781561592630.
3. "Definition of "popular music" | Collins English Dictionary" (http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/popular-
music). www.collinsdictionary.com. Retrieved 2015-11-15.
4. Arnold, Denis (1983). The New Oxford Companion Music, Volume 1: A-J. Oxford University Press. p. 111. ISBN 978-
5. Arnold, Denis (1983). The New Oxford Companion to Music, Volume 2: K-Z. Oxford University Press. p. 1467.
ISBN 978-0-19-311316-9.
6. Philip Tagg (1982). "Analysing popular music: theory, method and practice" (https://www.amherst.edu/system/files/me
hod%252520and%252520Practice%252520.pdf) (PDF). Popular Music. 2: 37. CiteSeerX (https://cite
seerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi= doi:10.1017/S0261143000001227 (https://doi.org/10.101
7. Lamb, Bill. "Pop Music Defined" (http://top40.about.com/od/popmusic101/a/popmusic.htm). About Entertainment.
About.com. Retrieved 13 November 2015.
8. Allen, Robert. "Popular music". Pocket Fowler's Modern English Usage. 2004.
9. Laurie, Timothy (2014). "Music Genre As Method". Cultural Studies Review. 20 (2), pp. 283-292.
10. Sadie, Stanley, ed. (2001). "Popular Music: Form". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 20. New York:
Grove. pp. 142–144. ISBN 978-0333608005.
11. Lashua, Brett (2014). Sounds and the City: Popular Music, Place and Globalization. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
p. 19. ISBN 9781137283115.
12. Furlong, Andy (2013). Youth Studies: An Introduction. London: Routledge. p. 237. ISBN 9780203862094.
13. Manuel, Peter (1988). Popular Musics of the Non-Western World. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 7, 11–12,
20, 85–86, 88, 205, 210, 212, 220. ISBN 978-0195053425.
14. Middleton, Richard (1990). Studying Popular Music. Philadelphia: Open University Press. pp. 46, 136, 155, 249, 293.
ISBN 978-0335152759.
15. Eisentraut, Jochen (2012). The Accessibility of Music: Participation, Reception and Contact. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press. pp. 41–42, 197–198. ISBN 9781139616294.
16. Law, Wing-Wah; Ho, Wai-Chung (2015-08-01). "Popular music and school music education: Chinese students'
preferences and dilemmas in Shanghai, China" (http://ijm.sagepub.com/content/33/3/304). International Journal of
Music Education. 33 (3): 304–324. doi:10.1177/0255761415569115 (https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0255761415569115).
ISSN 0255-7614 (https://www.worldcat.org/issn/0255-7614).
17. Middleton, Richard (1990). Studying Popular Music. Philadelphia: Open University Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-
18. Middleton, Richard and Peter Manuel. "Popular music" in Grove Music Online.
19. Kane, K. (1999, 11). Recording: Recording options for the indie artist. Canadian Musician, 21, 62.
20. Emielu, Austin (October 2011). "Some theoretical perspectives on African popular music". Popular Music. 30 (3): 371–
388. doi:10.1017/S0261143011000249 (https://doi.org/10.1017%2FS0261143011000249). JSTOR 23359909 (https://

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21. Olsen, Kathryn (2014). Music and Social Change in South Africa: Maskanda Past and Present. Phildephia: Temple
University Press. pp. 61–62, 64. ISBN 9781439911389.
22. Rojas, Eunice (2013). Sounds of Resistance: The Role of Music in Multicultural Activism. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.
pp. 266–267. ISBN 9780313398063.
23. Saucier, Paul Khalil (2014). "Continental Drift: The Politics and Poetics of African Hip Hop". In Lashua, Brett. Sounds
and the City: Popular Music, Place and Globalization. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 196–197, 199, 201, 203–
204, 206. ISBN 9781137283108.
24. Wallach, Jeremy (2014). "Indieglobalization and the Triumph of Punk in Indonesia". In Lashua, Brett. Sounds and the
City: Popular Music, Place and Globalization. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 149, 151–152, 157.
ISBN 9781137283108.
25. Wallach, Jeremy; Clinton, Esther (2013-01-01). "History, Modernity, and Music Genre in Indonesia: Popular Music
Genres in the Dutch East Indies and Following Independence" (https://muse.jhu.edu/journals/asian_music/v044/44.2.
wallach01.html). Asian Music. 44 (2): 3–23. doi:10.1353/amu.2013.0020 (https://doi.org/10.1353%2Famu.2013.0020).
ISSN 1553-5630 (https://www.worldcat.org/issn/1553-5630).
26. Danielson, Virginia (1988). "The Arab Middle East". In Manuel, Peter Lamarche. Popular Musics of the Non-Western
World. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 151, 156–158. ISBN 978-0195053425.
27. Nooshin, Laudan (2005-09-01). "Underground, overground: Rock music and youth discourses in Iran" (http://openacc
0Studies%202005.pdf) (PDF). Iranian Studies. 38 (3): 463–494. doi:10.1080/00210860500300820 (https://doi.org/10.
1080%2F00210860500300820). ISSN 0021-0862 (https://www.worldcat.org/issn/0021-0862).
28. Wagg, Stephen (2014). " 'How Many Divisions Does Ozzy Osbourne Have?' Some Thoughts on Politics, Heavy Metal
Music, and the 'Clash of Civilizations' ". In Lashua, Brett. Sounds and the City: Popular Music, Place and
Globalization. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 136, 141. ISBN 9781137283108.

Further reading
T.W. Adorno with G. Simpson: ‘On Popular Music’, Studies in Philosophy and Social Science, ix (1941), 17–48
R. Iwaschkin: Popular Music: a Reference Guide (New York, 1986)
P. Hardy and D. Laing: The Faber Companion to 20th-Century Popular Music (London, 1990/R)
Larry Freeman: The Melody Lingers on: 50 Years of Popular Song (Watkins Glen, N.Y.: Century House, 1951). 212 p.
N.B.: Includes a chronology, "50 Years of Song Hits", on p. 193-215.
Haddix, Chuck. Rags to Be-bop: the Sounds of Kansas City Music, 1890-1945. [Text by] Chuck Haddix (Kansas City,
Mo.: University of Missouri at Kansas City, University Libraries, Marr Sound Archives, 1991). Without ISBN
J. Kotarba, B. Merrill, J. P. Williams, & P. Vannini Understanding Society through Popular Music. NY:Routledge, 2013
(second ed.) ISBN 9780415 641951
R. Middleton: Studying Popular Music (Milton Keynes, 1990)
P. Gammond: The Oxford Companion to Popular Music (Oxford, 1991)
D. Brackett: Interpreting Popular Music (Cambridge, 1995)
M. Sorce Keller: “Continuing Opera with Other Means: Opera, Neapolitan song,and popular music among Italian
immigrants overseas”, Forum Italicum, Vol. XLIX(2015), No 3, 1- 20.

External links
Genres of popular music - Interactive relationships diagram (http://widohost.selfhost.eu/popgenres.html)
Famous Music Videos (https://archive.is/20121205172627/http://www.famousmusicvideos.com/) - Music Video
Databases I have not seen a thing of my favorite song base - YouTube, Google Video, MySpace TV, MetaCafe,
DailyMotion, Veoh, Current.com, ClipFish.de, MyVideo.de, Break.com and EyeSpot
The 1950s-2000's Week-By-Week (http://pophistorynow.com) - Looks at pop music/albums/radio and music news
through these decades.
Pop Culture Madness (http://www.popculturemadness.com/Music/) Features the most requested pop songs 1920s
through today
The Daily Vault music reviews (http://www.dailyvault.com/)
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Yale Music Library Guide to Pop Music Research (http://guides.musiclib.yale.edu/content.php?pid=18257)

(http://volume.revues.org)Volume! the French academic journal dedicated to the study of popular music
Éditions Mélanie Seteun ! (http://www.seteun.net) a French publisher dedicated to popular music studies - publishes
Volume!, the French journal of PMS.

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