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.

The intent is to treat 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.

PMP Director Josh Kun, Bosch Fellow in Public Policy,
The American Academy in Berlin, Spring 2018

Learn more about Josh.

PMP Artist in Residence: NDLON

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

“The Arts of Opposition: Art and Social Change in the Age of Trump” features performances by bands Cambalache and Los Jornaleros del Norte, followed by a discussion with National Day Laborer Organizing Network leaders Xochi Flores and Pablo AlvaradoNaima Keith from the California African American Museum, USC professor Manuel Pastor and others, led by Professor Josh Kun. This event was a collaboration between the Popular Music Project and USC Dornsife’s Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration. The full video is here.

PMP Background

More than ever before, pop music is a ubiquitous part of everyday life. While many media scholars have claimed that pop music is the only true universal mass medium (that old “music is a universal language” rag), this much is true: pop music 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. Never has it been more important to take stock of how music’s brought us here and where it’s taking us.

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

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.