BA Music and Drama

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Music and Consumption in the Digital Age

Course unit fact file
Unit code MUSC20511
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course unit addresses some of the big questions, challenges and opportunities facing musicians and others working in the music industry since the turn of the millennium. It does so by focusing on changing technologies and patterns of consumption. Drawing on the rapid and recent development of scholarship on music and digital culture, and by aiming to situate recent changes in broader historical, political and cultural contexts, the course unit will introduce students to a range of concepts and methodologies that will enable a critical examination of how music is consumed and how consumption in turn shapes music and, by extension, the practices and discourses that produce music (and reproduce it).


Available as Free Choice (UG) or to other programmes (PG)


The course-unit aims:

  • to improve students abilities at close reading and cultural critique in essay writing
  • to introduce students to a range of music and music-related practices and texts; to the issues and meanings that might be heard and viewed therein; to debates and issues pertaining to the study of ‘the digital age’ and related categorisations; to methodological and theoretical debates concerning the study of music, technology and culture;
  • to introduce students to popular music studies, media studies, cultural studies, sound studies and the sociology of music as they intersect with musicology in this course unit; to develop an awareness of different methods for the cultural analysis of popular music and music-related practices and texts; 
  • to enable students to develop confidence, critical engagement and originality in their approach to the study music, consumption and digital culture; to give students the tools to undertake an independent essay; to further develop the skills necessary for related independent projects at level three and beyond.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • demonstrate an awareness of the various topics and approaches pertaining to the study of music, consumption and music-related practices and texts in the ‘digital age’;
  • demonstrate a sound understanding of recent industry changes and their relationship to socio-economic, political, technological and cultural contexts;
  • demonstrate a developing fluency with the theories, concepts and debates in relevant literature and fields of study;
  • demonstrate a firm understanding of ‘the digital age’ and ‘consumption’ as topics and concepts, placing them in historical and other contexts and with reference to relevant scholarly approaches and debates;
  • demonstrate a critical and/or entrepreneurial awareness of the new directions and possibilities in scholarship and musical culture generated by changes in digital musical cultures;
  • articulate and critique different tropes and cultural codes that recur in the existing scholarship and broader journalistic commentary on music and digital culture. 

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • explain the impact of digital technologies and their economic, political and socio-cultural contexts upon selected examples of music-based cultural practice;
  • show an awareness of the complexity and nuance embedded in the visual, musical and discursive levels of music-based texts and practices;
  • locate contemporary experiences and perspectives from within the music industry in a broader critical context;
  • apply and critique relevant theories and bodies of knowledge, for example  in the study of genre, new media or neoliberalism;
  • demonstrate critical engagement with a range of scholarly and non-scholarly discourses.

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to: 

  • produce an independent project to a high standard of presentation and to a set deadline.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:


  • demonstrate the ability to synthesize and evaluate material systematically to produce arguments and solutions that are communicated clearly in both written and verbal form;
  • show an ability to produce good-quality work independently with developing critical self-awareness and within an increasingly self-directed environment;
  • demonstrate the ability to communicate ideas and information clearly in written and verbal form;
  • demonstrate developing data information and organisation skills especially for online materials and non-standard scholarly sources;
  • demonstrate developing team-working and collaboration skills by communicating clearly with peers in seminar discussion and small presentations.

Employability skills

The course-unit requires students to engage critically with contemporary cultural industries, technologies and cultural meanings, improving self-awareness and independence, requiring analytical and problem-solving skills and strong communication (especially the ability to listen to and persuade others). The course-unit builds awareness of different industry discourses and thus the ability to understand and asses underlying causes, patterns and effects. The course-unit fosters an awareness of personal and cultural differences, improving students' emotional intelligence and collaboration skills.

Assessment methods


Assessment task

Weighting within unit


Weekly online tasks


Coursework essay 1










Feedback methods

•    Feedback on blog posts
•    Feedback on formative group presentations
•    Feedback on coursework essay 1 (week 10)
•    Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hours or by making an appointment)

Recommended reading

  • Dominik Bartmanski and Ian Woodard, Vinyl: The Analogue Record in the Digital Age (London: Bloomsbury, 2015).
  • Ragnhild Brøvig-Hanssen and Anne Danielsen, Digital Signatures: The Impact of Digitization on Popular Music Sound (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2016).
  • Jean Hogarty, Popular Music and Retro Culture in the Digital Era (Abingdon: Routledge, 2016).
  • Brian J. Hracs, Michael Seman, and Tarek E. Virani (eds.), The Production and Consumption of Music in the Digital Age (Abingdon: Routledge, 2016).
  • Leslie M. Meier, Popular Music as Promotion: Music and Branding in the Digital Age (Cambridge: Polity, 2016).
  • Mark Mulligan, Awakening:  The Music Industry in the Digital Age (MIDiA Research, 2015).
  • Raphaël Nowak and Andrew Whelan (eds.), Networked Music Cultures: Contemporary Approaches, Emerging Issues (London: Palgrave, 2016).
  • Nick Prior, Popular Music, Digital Technology and Society (London: Sage, 2018).
  • Richard Purcell and Richard Randall (eds.), 21st-Century Perspectives On Music, Technology, And Culture: Listening Spaces (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2016).
  • Jim Rogers, The Death and Life of the Music Industry in the Digital Age (London: Bloomsbury, 2013).
  • Steve Savage, Bytes and Backbeats: Repurposing Music in the Digital Age (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2011).
  • Robert Strachen, Sonic Technologies: Popular Music, Digital Culture and the Creative Process (London: Bloomsbury, 2017).
  • Timothy Taylor, Music and Capitalism: A History of the Present (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2015). See also the accompanying website:

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Roderick Hawkins Unit coordinator

Additional notes


Most years students benefit from invited guest speakers who works in the music industry. 

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