BMus (Hons) Popular Music

  • UCAS
  • Entry requirements
    A-level: BBB
    IB: 33 points overall with Three HL subjects at 655
  • Length
    3 years full time, 4 years part-time from year 2 only
  • Department

Course overview

From mainstream to underground, this degree embraces popular music in its many forms: rock, pop, folk, urban, jazz, experimental and commercial. We've even helped to set up our own independent record label, NX Records, to promote our students' work.

Why study BMus Popular Music at Goldsmiths?

  • At the heart of the degree is the study of creative practice, with many opportunities to expand your skills, whether it's playing in bands or writing/performing music for film, theatre or multimedia
  • The programme is designed to support professional development, and we ensure graduates leave us not only with a wealth of experience and transferable skills, but also a professional portfolio to showcase their work
  • Our record label, NX Records, is a collaboration between the programme and Accidental Records, with the aim of promoting Goldsmiths students' work on an international stage
  • We're one of the largest university music departments in the UK, so you'll have access to a wide range of , including internationally established composers, performers and writers – their diversity of expertise makes this one of the most exciting undergraduate music degrees in the UK
  • There are professional and student-led recitals, concerts, workshops and other music events taking place every week, with opportunities to perform at Goldsmiths and in public venues
  • You'll have the opportunity to perform at our annual music festival PureGold, which celebrates the music created and performed at Goldsmiths
  • You'll be within easy reach of central London's many venues, concert halls, opera houses and research libraries, providing a great international focus
  • We have strong links with the music industry and have frequent high-profile speakers and performers at our lectures, masterclasses and workshops: recent sessions have included pioneering musician and producer, Matthew Herbert, MOBO-winning saxophonist and composer Soweto Kinch, vocal coaches Carrie and David Grant, The Invisible (nominated for the Mercury Music Prize 2009 and itunes Album of the Year 2009), session bass player Yolanda Charles, singer-songwriter Eska (Zero 7, Cinematic Orchestra, Ty), studio arranger Audrey Riley (Coldplay, Manic Street Preachers, Smashing Pumpkins), video and sound artist Vicki Bennett (AKA People Like Us), songwriter Darren Hayman, and producer and performance poet Charlie Dark (Attica Blues, Blacktronica)
  • Employers look for initiative-driven graduates who think critically about their actions, work well with others and adapt quickly to new ideas. This degree will help you develop these skills – sometimes without you noticing!

Contact the department

If you have specific questions about the degree, contact Simon Deacon

Modules & structure


Academically you'll be encouraged to ask questions on how popular music has affected our cultures, identities and lives. In your final year you can choose to follow your own practical or academic interests. For example, you have the opportunity to undertake your own creative or research projects supported by tutors. In the final year, creative work is showcased wherever possible in venues outside Goldsmiths.

Level 4

At Level 4, you study a range of areas including creative and practical music studies, textual and contextual analysis of popular musics, and an introduction to music technology.

All modules are compulsory at this level as we feel it is essential that all our students develop the necessary key skills and knowledge base before further specialisation.

The modules are:

Module title Credits
  Folk and Urban Musics 30 credits
  Popular Music Contexts 15 credits
  Practical Popular Music Studies 30 credits
  Approaches to Contemporary Music 15 credits
  Creative Music Technology 15 credits

Level 5

In term one you will choose from the following Group A choices:

Module title Credits
  Musicians, Commerce and Commodification 15 credits
  Music and Identity 15 credits
  Music in Film 15 credits
  Aesthetics, Meaning and Culture 15 credits

And these Group B options: 

Module title Credits
  Sonic Art Techniques 15 credits
  Performance: Ensemble 15 credits
  Songwriting 15 credits
  Techniques in Jazz and Popular Music 15 credits

In the second term you will choose from the following Group A option: 

Module title Credits
  Music of Africa and Asia 15 credits

And these Group B choices:

Module title Credits
  Popular Music Production 15 credits
  Sonic Art Practice 15 credits
  Media Composition 15 credits
  Performance: New Contexts 15 credits
  Arranging in Jazz and Popular Music 15 credits

A maximum of 30 credits can be in Related Study (modules offered by other departments).

Level 6

You select modules to the value of 120 CATs (credits) across the year.

Across terms one, two and three you choose a maximum of 60 credits from the following Group C options:

Module title Credits
  Creative Research Project 30 credits
  Creative Performance 30 credits
  Research Essay 30 credits

You choose the remainder from these List D options. In term one, these are:

Module title Credits
  Minimalism and Postminimalism 15 credits
  Phonography 15 credits
  Performing South-East Asian Music 15 credits
  Outside Sound: Fringe Aesthetics in Popular Music 15 credits
  Creative Orchestration and Arrangement 15 credits
  Music/Modernities 15 credits
  DIY Practice and Alternative Sites for Music 15 credits
  Music Teaching Skills 15 credits

In the second term you will choose from the following options:

Module title Credits
  Live Electronics 15 credits
  Music Workshop Skills 15 credits
  Narrative, Representation and Popular Song 15 credits
  Improvisation 15 credits
  Psychological Approaches to Music 15 credits
  Advanced Popular Music Studies 15 credits
  Advanced Topics in Music and Screen Media 15 credits

A maximum of 30 credits can be in Related Study (modules offered by other departments).

Individual vocal and instrumental tuition

Our location in London means that we are able to attract visiting instrumental and vocal teachers of the highest quality, with many of our staff also teaching at the major music conservatoires. We provide a generous allocation of tuition time. Our performance modules are supplemented with ensemble classes and workshops/masterclasses given by top professional musicians.

  • First-year BMus Popular Music students are currently entitled to 12 hours of one-to-one tuition per year.
  • Tuition is available to BMus Popular Music students taking performance options in years two and three. The Popular Music programme currently includes up to 12 hours of one-to-one tuition in both years, with regular workshops and masterclasses.

If you do not opt for performance modules you are not automatically entitled to individual lessons, but we can help make private arrangements with our visiting staff, at preferential rates.


There are also many forms of assessment. Typically, during one term’s study you might research and write two substantial essays, rehearse for a solo recital, improvisation or group performance and produce a new composition or creative project that is notated, studio-based or multimedia.

Our degree programmes offer a great range of options so you can select your own coherent programme of study and focus upon the areas of greatest interest and strength for you. Your academic progress is supported by personal tutor meetings that help you navigate through the degree and prepare for a graduate career.

Credits and levels of learning

An undergraduate honours degree is made up of 360 credits – 120 at Level 4, 120 at Level 5 and 120 at Level 6. If you are a full-time student, you will usually take Level 4 modules in the first year, Level 5 in the second, and Level 6 modules in your final year. A standard module is worth 30 credits. Some programmes also contain 15-credit half modules or can be made up of higher-value parts, such as a dissertation or a Major Project.

Download the programme specification. If you would like an earlier version of the programme specification, please contact the Quality Office.

Please note that due to staff research commitments not all of these modules may be available every year.

Entry requirements

A-level: BBB
International Baccalaureate: 33 points overall with Three HL subjects at 655

Music A-level (general, theoretical, music technology, popular music) is preferable, but not essential. BTEC National Diploma in Popular Music, Music or Performing Arts.

You should be able to demonstrate skills and experience in both practical musicianship and music creation. Although we consider each application on its individual merits, we favour students who demonstrate clear experience of and/or commitment to music-making.

Please note that we do not accept applications for deferred entry.

Equivalent qualifications
We accept a wide range of qualifications equivalent to the ones listed above. This includes:

Access: Pass with 45 Level 3 credits including 30 Distinctions and a number of merits/passes in subject-specific modules
Scottish qualifications: BBBBC (Higher) or BBC (Advanced Higher)
European Baccalaureate: 75%
Irish Leaving Certificate: H2 H2 H2 H2

If your qualifications are from another country, find out more about the qualifications we accept from around the world

English language requirements
If English isn’t your first language, you’ll need to meet our English language requirements to study with us. 

For this programme we require:

IELTS 6.0 with a 6.0 in writing and no element lower than 5.5

If you need assistance with your English language, we offer a range of courses that can help prepare you for degree-level study.

Selection process

Selected candidates will be invited for an interview day. This allows us to meet potential students and find out more about their interests and abilities.

If you're invited for an interview, you'll be required to perform on your main instrument and/or bring examples of your creative work. You may also be asked to demonstrate creative/musicianship skills in a short workshop.

After the final interview, in mid-March, your forms will be reviewed together by the Department before decisions on offers of places are made. UCAS will give you the decision before their deadline, by late April/early May.

Read more about our general entrance requirements


Music at Goldsmiths is ranked: 12th in the UK for the quality of our research* 22nd in the world for performing arts**


From opera to electronica, and from Errollyn Wallen to James Blake, music studies at Goldsmiths are unique and different. Firmly rooted in the 21st century, our programmes entwine academic with practice-based study, and historical with contemporary repertories.

Performance opportunities

We’re committed to high quality, ambitious and innovative performance, and we have a wide range of ensembles that you can join, including:

  • Goldsmiths Sinfonia
  • Chamber Choir
  • Contemporary Music Ensemble
  • Creative Jazz Ensemble
  • Lunchtime and evening recitals
  • Music Collective
  • Studio Laptop Ensemble
  • Goldsmiths Vocal Ensemble
  • Plus student-led ensembles: Chamber Orchestra, New Music Ensemble, Big Band and Film Orchestra

These culminate in our end-of-year degree show and public music festival PureGold, which in recent years has launched at London’s Southbank Centre.


We have excellent rehearsal and performance facilities including:

  • Goldsmiths Music Studios
  • Electronic Music Studio
  • Sonics Interactive Multimedia Laboratory
  • Council Chamber (with its Steinway Model D)
  • Two suites of practice rooms

Find out more about the Department of Music

*Research Excellence Framework 2014, Times Higher Education research intensity subject rankings
**QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017

Learning & teaching


We are committed to teaching that is stimulating and supportive. You'll develop an advanced, critical approach to music that is supported by theoretical understanding and practical skills. We will help you develop many skills valued in the music professions, and by employers more widely.

We ensure the aims of your degree are addressed rigorously and effectively through many types of learning experiences, with active participation always in mind. In any single term of study you are likely to attend lectures and discussion seminars, one-to-one tutorials and performance lessons, practical workshops, collaborative projects, computer lab and music studio sessions.

Independent study

For each hour of taught learning, we expect you to complete another 5-6 hours of independent study. This typically involves carrying out required and additional reading, preparing topics for discussion, rehearsing, or producing project work. Independent study requires excellent motivation and time management skills. These skills will stay with you for life, and are the kind of  that are highly sought after by employers. 

Virtual learning environment

Our programmes are complemented by a comprehensive ‘virtual learning environment’ (VLE), accessed online, which publishes all course materials, and includes assessments, online discussions and electronic submission of coursework.

Find out more about these learning and teaching approaches.

Skills & careers

Most of our graduates choose careers in fields related to their musical knowledge, including:

  • Teaching
  • Performing
  • Arts administration
  • Music librarianship
  • Publishing and retailing
  • Record companies and production
  • Technical work in radio or television

Statistically, music graduates demonstrate very good employment rates, because they are often highly trained in the kinds of transferable skills employers are seeking, such as individual motivation, team working and effective communication. You can find out more about the career options open to you after graduating on our Music careers page.

Mercury Music Prize nominees Katy B and James Blake (who was also nominated for the 2012 Ivor Novello Award for best song) are among some of the who have studied in the Department of Music.

Find out more about employability at Goldsmiths.

Student work

PureGold degree show
PureGold degree show
PureGold degree show
PureGold degree show
PureGold degree show
PureGold degree show
PureGold degree show
PureGold degree show


Student profiles

Rosie Lowe

"I was writing music very quickly; for the first time in my life I didn’t feel self aware about what I had created."

In the five years since Rosie Lowe graduated from the BMus Popular Music programme, she's gone on to make a resounding impression on the music industry. With the likes of Sir Elton John and Adele reportedly fans of her music, Rosie's sultry sound and vulnerably honest lyrics have caught the attention of many.

Read an interview with Rosie


"There's something quite communal about the Goldsmiths experience."

Guy, Robin and Aviram met studying BMus Popular Music and set up record label and music collective squareglass. 

"Each one of our solo projects evolved as part of and during our studies at Goldsmiths. Establishing squareglass was quite an organic move - something we felt would empower us creatively and practically, and would enable us to further establish our careers as individual artists."

Around the time they finished their studies the three artists began playing in eachother's live bands, which taught them about the dynamics of working together as a group.

"There's something quite communal about the Goldsmiths experience. You get to know and work with people from different backgrounds and you become part of a small community that feels like a home-away-from-home. For us it was a very immersive experience...studying and living in South-East London"

All three have released their own music on squareglass, plus work by others and compilations. They also put on events, looking for original ways to translate recorded music into live shows.


"It's going to make a massive difference to me."

"I found out about the [Rob Stringer] scholarship during our induction when I first started the course, and found out that I was eligible because I was from London. The application involved filling out a form, writing a personal statement and then getting a reference – I’d been at music college before coming here so I asked one of my tutors from there. It was quite straightforward and definitely worth doing! When I found out I'd got the scholarship I was so happy, it made my day! It means that I can now go and have music lessons outside of uni – I'm doing a vocal specialism, but I also play a bit of piano, and some evening classes will really help me improve. So the scholarship will really benefit my studies and will help me be the best I can be.

If you're thinking of applying for the scholarship this year, start thinking about references in advance so that you're well prepared. Maybe also discuss with your parents things like your household income too, as that’s something else that was needed for the application form."

Read Amber's full interview

Find out more about undergraduate scholarships

See more profiles for this programme

Fees & funding

Find out about our undergraduate tuition fees and funding opportunities.

Joe Brown Memorial Award

Second-year students are eligible to apply for an award of £1,000 towards final-year Creative Projects with an electronic component.

Rob Stringer Scholarship

The Rob Stringer Scholarship offers £12,000 to a BMus Popular Music student starting their degree in October 2017.

Related content links

University statistics for this course