Sound, Gown and Town: Students in the Economy and Culture of UK Popular Music

Paul Long, Lauren Thompson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


As Paul Chatterton notes: ‘although it is clear that universities have a major cultural, as well as teaching and research, role in the community, few attempts have been made to specify these in detail’ (Paul Chatterton, ‘The Cultural Role of Universities in the Community: Revisiting the University-Community Debate’, Environment and Planning 32 (2000), 169). One area in which universities, and students in particular, have had a major role is in the field of popular music. Since the 1970s, the music industries have had a productive relationship with the National Union of Students (NUS) and individual students’ unions (SUs) and across the UK higher education sector. Music companies and promoters have been able to take advantage of an established culture and infrastructure of NUS co-ordination, subsidised venues and audiences deemed to be receptive to a variety of musical forms. In fact, SUs have constituted a coherent touring circuit for professional (and semi-professional) bands. However, in scholarly and biographical literature about students and the music world, and indeed in music press reviews, the university or SU (the distinction is not always clearly demarcated) usually appears as little more than a taken-for-granted mise en scène. Rarely, if at all, is attention given to how such sites became important, why popular music has been performed in such places and their particular character. Drawing upon official and unofficial archives, this chapter seeks to explore the role that students and union sites have played in popular music culture in the UK. It asks: How has activity in the higher education sector played a part in national and local scenes? What has been the nature of relationships with promoters, non-student audiences and the wider popular music culture and economy? Indeed, how has the vibrancy of the engagement with music cultures among students played a part in ‘branding’ both institution and town, underpinning the appeal of universities for applicants as much as academic credentials?

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStudents in Twentieth-Century Britain and Ireland
EditorsJodi Burkett
Place of PublicationCham Switzerland
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9783319582412
ISBN (Print)9783319582405
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes

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