Popular Music Project

The Popular Music Project (PMP) takes pop music seriously as an object of sustained critical inquiry through a mix of research projects, course development, public events, videos, publications and artists’ residencies.

Musician and Girlschool founder Anna Bulbrook
Named 2019-2020 Distinguished PMP Artist in Residence

New residency and podcast to spotlight key figures working to address
inequality in the music and creative industries

Anna Bulbrook is a recording violinist and multi-instrumentalist known for her work as a founding member of The Airborne Toxic Event and as a frequent collaborator with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Bulbrook founded Girlschool in 2016 in response to how few women she saw around her in the rock world and on international music festival stages. Girlschool started as a local music and ideas festival, centering women-identified talent and bridging creative communities with a mission: to celebrate, connect, and lift women-identified artists, leaders, and voices. It has since expanded by popular demand into a creative cultural programming and curatorial studio that centers excellent, if under-represented, talent on the forefront of popular culture and social good. Read the press release.

PMP treats the making of pop music as a key site for education and pedagogy and for re-thinking questions of society, culture, history, and communication. PMP brings together USC faculty and students with musicians, critics, and industry innovators.


USC Annenberg doctoral candidates Courtney Cox and Perry Johnson discuss the now deeply-intertwined relationship between music and sports, with critical focus on issues of authenticity, identity, citizenship, belonging, space/place, mythology, inclusion/exclusion and multiple understandings of commodification. In this short video, they present some of their fresh, fascinating research on “The Star-Spangled Banner” and its place at American sporting events. MORE on The Sound of Victory.

More than ever before, pop music is a ubiquitous part of everyday life: It plays a key role in how people around the world are configuring identities, negotiating social and civic positions, and interacting with greater cultural spheres on local, regional, national, and transnational levels.

Because of its Los Angeles home base, PMP takes a particular interest in Southern California as a pop music hub and intends to be a major voice in public debates and dialogues about music and musical community throughout the city. We have five areas of focus:

  • Pop Music and Identity
  • Pop Music and Technology
  • Pop Music and the Entertainment Industry
  • Pop Music and Social Justice
  • Pop Music and the Work of Criticism

2016-2017 PMP Artist in Residence: NDLON

EVENT: The Arts of Opposition: Art and Social Change in the Age of Trump – Concert and Panel Discussion

What We Do

Public Events

PMP hosts a variety of events, from small, informal conversations to full-scale concerts and panel discussions, both on campus and throughout Southern California.

Los Angeles Residencies

Once a year, PMP hosts a local musician, critic, scholar or industry innovator to be a part of the USC community. The resident is supported by PMP to participate in a campus event and in relevant USC courses and seminars, and meet with undergraduate and graduate groups.


PMP also supports faculty-proposed pop music research proposals. The emphasis is on the empirical side of research gathering in an attempt to substantively add to the knowledge base surrounding pop music.

Publications, Podcasts and Videos

PMP sponsors print publications as well as podcasts and videos of our concerts, discussions and events.