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Faculty of Music


Professor Simon Frith

University of Edinburgh

What are we doing when we are listening to music?  A sociological answer

I took up the Tovey Chair of Music on January 1 2006 having had quite an unusual academic career. My undergraduate degree (from Oxford ) was in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. My Masters and PhD (from the University of California, Berkeley ) were in Sociology. (My thesis topic was Education and the Working Class in Leeds, 1780-1870.)

I initially taught in the Sociology Department at the University of Warwick , before moving to Strathclyde University to become Director of the John Logie Baird Centre for Research in Film and Television and Professor of English Studies. In 1999 I moved to the University of Stirling and a chair in Film and Media.

For much of my career, as both an academic and journalist, I have been engaged with the problems of taking popular music seriously. As an academic I was a founder member of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music and a founding editor of the journal, Popular Music, and the majority of my scholarly publications have been in this field. As I journalist I started out as an editor of the pioneering British rock magazine, Let It Rock, and became rock critic for both theSunday Times and the Observer. I was a music columnist for the New York Village Voice from 1980-1995, and have chaired the judges of the Mercury Music prize since it began in 1992.

Research activity
I am currently researching various aspects of the historical sociology of British music culture since 1950, including music criticism in newspapers and magazines; and live music as a business and social experience.

From 2009-2011 I has a research grant from the AHRC for a three year project, in collaboration with Dr Martin Cloonan of Glasgow University, on the history and current practice of live music promotion in the UK. We are presently running a follow-up project. Also funded by the AHRC, exporing ways to propmote knowledge exchange between academic researchers and live music industry practitioners—see  The first volume of our history of live music in Britain will be published by Ashgate in March 2013.

Wednesday, 5 March, 2014 - 17:00 to 18:00
Event location: 
5.00pm, Recital Room, Faculty of Music