Popular music, sometimes abbreviated to pop music, is music belonging to any of a number of musical styles that are (at least in their heyday) broadly popular. A narrower sense of the term, usually "pop music", covers mainstream music that does not fall into any more specialized style such as jazz or hip hop. In the broader sense, "popular music" means any sort of music intended for mass consumption and propagated over the radio and similar media. For the varieties of popular music in this sense, see the list below.
Popular music as a business enterprise
A defining characteristic of popular music (in the broader sense) is that it is the product of the modern business enterprise, and is disseminated for the purpose of earning a profit. Executives and employees of popular music businesses try to select and cultivate the music that will have the greatest success with the public, and thus maximize the profits of their firm. In this respect, popular music differs from traditional folk music, which was created by ordinary people for their own enjoyment, and from classical music, which was originally created to serve the purposes of the Church or for the entertainment of the nobility. (Today classical music is often subsidized by governments and universities.)
Although the controlling forces of popular music are business enterprises, young people who aspire to become popular musicians are certainly not always driven by the profit motive. Rather, they often want to find an outlet for their sense of expression and creativity, or simply to have fun. Historically, the conflicting motives of business people and musicians has been a source of tension in the popular music industry.
Performance of popular music by amateurs
Many people play popular music together with their friends, often in garages and basements, on a casual amateur basis. This activity is one of the most widespread forms of participatory music-making in modern societies. As participatory music, "garage bands" are in a sense a resurrection of the old tradition of folk music, which in premodern times was composed and performed by ordinary people and transmitted exclusively by word of mouth. The difference between the old folk music and modern amateur performance of popular music is that the participants in the latter genre are well acquainted with the expert performances that they hear on recordings, and often try to emulate them.
The older folk music of a society often lives on in a popularized version, which is likewise performed by experts and commercially disseminated. Such updated versions of folk music often have heavy amateur participation.
A list of current performers of popular music can be found at:
Popular music dates at least as far back as the mid 19th century. Below is a list of genres.
Different genres often appeal to different age groups. These often, but not always, are the people who were young when the music was new. Thus, for instance, Big band music continues to have a following, but it is probably a rather older group, on average, than the audience for rap. For a few of the genres listed below (for instance, Ragtime), the original target generation may have died out almost entirely.
- Acid House
- Adult Contemporary (AC)
- Modern Blues
- Big Band
- Blues Rock
- Bubblegum Pop/Bubblegum Rock
- Chinese Rock
- Country Music
- Desert rock
- Easy Listening Music
- Electronic Music
- Elevator music
- Folk music, specifically in its popularized forms, as opposed to performed by traditional folk musicians
- Goth rock
- Industrial rock
- Music Hall
- New Age
- New Wave Music
- Pop Music
- Progressive Rock
- Punk Rock
- Rap Music
- Rock and Roll
- Rhythm and Blues
- Smooth jazz
- Soul Music
- Tin Pan Alley music
- Traditional Pop Music
- World Music
Genres that are not popular music
Musical genres usually not considered popular music would include the following:
- Children's songs (including Nursery rhymes and Jumprope songs)
- most Classical music, including Opera
- Folk music, as created by traditional performers
- Gregorian chant, Hymns, and many other forms of religious music
- Military music
- National anthems and other patriotic music
As noted earlier, these have a distinct character from popular music: either they are transmitted by word of mouth rather than in organized fashion (children's songs, authentic folk music) or else they are produced to fill the needs of a particular social institution (church, aristocracy, the military, or the state).