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Music, popular

Last Updated: 13-Oct-2015

Resources for the study of popular music, including rock, metal, rap, and punk.

Subject Librarians

Ray Heigemeir, Music Library
Public Services Librarian for Music
(650) 384-9985

Reference works

Additional online encyclopedias:

These works are both online and in print.

4th ed. New York : MUZE : Oxford University Press, 2006.
Music Library » Reference » ML102 .P66 G84 2006 V.1
A good source for artist biographies.
Provides thoghtful overviews of popular music in many countries and regions.

On the reference shelf

These are useful titles in the Music Reference Room:

3rd ed. London ; New York : Routledge, 2012.
Music Library » Reference » ML102 .P66 S58 2012
2nd ed. New York : Routledge, 2005.
Music Library » Reference » ML128 .R6 P65 2005
New York : Routledge, 2010.
Music Library » Reference » ML128 .P63 M43 2010
1st ed. London ; New York : Rough Guides, 2005.
Music Library » Reference » ML102 .R6 B47 2005
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 2006.
Music Library » Reference » ML102 .R6 C64 2006
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 2008.
Music Library » Reference » ML102 .R6 S63 2008
Archive of Recorded Sound » Reference » ML156.4 .P6 S87 2013 V.1

Books and articles


Find books on pop music subjects and performer biographies in SearchWorks, the library catalog.

Browse the stacks at these call number ranges:

ML 420 Individual artist biographies
ML 421 Performing groups
ML 3470 General works and subgenres
ML 3475 By region or country
ML 3531 Rap
ML 3534 Rock
See also:  
ML 82 Women and music
ML 3916 Social and political aspects of music
ML 3970 The music trade



Search for articles in these databases. Some results will link to full text entries; others provide the citation only--you'll want to look up the journal title in SearchWorks to find the printed copy.

Ipswich, MA : EBSCO Pub.
Stanford University Libraries » Online resource » eResource
[Ipswich, Mass.] : Ebsco Publishing.
Stanford University Libraries » Online resource » eResource

Browse a list of popular music journals in the Stanford Libraries.

Databases and links


Stanford University Libraries » Online resource » eResource
"A single search of international charting albums and singles under exclusive academic licence from Billboard, the Official Charts Company. Sophisticated tools allow you to interpret, graph, analyse, compare and contrast musical trends and interactions at the touch of a button. Listen to audio samples for each track and album quickly and easily."
London : Rock's Backpages.
Stanford University Libraries » Online resource » eResource
"The online library of pop writing. The ultimate archive of music journalism. Thousands of classic articles on artists ...on all genres from rockabilly to hip hop... "
[Ann Arbor, MI] : Proquest.
Stanford University Libraries » Online resource » eResource
"An archival research resource containing the essential primary sources for studying the history of the film and entertainment industries, from the era of vaudeville and silent movies through to 2000. The core US and UK trade magazines covering film, music, broadcasting and theater are all included, together with film fan magazines and music press titles."


Find circulating CDs and DVDs in the SearchWorks library catalog.  They will be located in either the Music Library or in the Green Media & Microtext Center. While Stanford Libraries do not generally collect recent popular music releases in depth, an increasing number of significant recordings and concert videos are added to the collections each year. 

Find historical recordings in the Archive of Recorded Sound.

The Archive also collects discographies and other supporting material, such as the Great Indie Discography; you may browse discographies online or in person.


Streaming music databases provide access to a small amount of popular music, primarily from non-Western traditions. A growing number of commerical sites allow access to streams for free or for a small fee.  See this review of sites in PC Magazine.

Staff favorites include Pandora Internet Radio, Slacker Radio, and Spotify.


Printed music is generally represented by piano/vocal arrangements of popular songs. Search the catalog, or browse in the Music Library stacks, at ML 1630.18. More information may be found in the Songs & Singing topic guide.