Dr Matt Brennan
- Reader in Popular Music (Music)
Matt Brennan is an author, musician, and researcher. His creative practice as a musician informs his teaching and research process, which also draws from historical, sociological, business, and ethical approaches to understanding music in society.
He has served as Chair of the UK and Ireland branch of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM), and held a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship and Chancellor’s Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh prior to taking up his current post as Reader in Popular Music. At the University of Glasgow he is Director of the Interdisciplinary Music Industries Research Group (IMIRGe) and Convenor of the MSc Music Industries degree.
Matt has authored, co-authored, and edited several books in the field of popular music studies. His most recent book, Kick It: A Social History of the Drum Kit (Oxford University Press 2020) was named one of the "best books of 2020" by the Financial Times and awarded the 2022 Nicholas Bessaraboff Prize by the American Musical Instrument Society. His previous monograph, When Genres Collide (Bloomsbury 2017), also received international recognition (named as one of Pitchfork’s “Favourite Music Books of 2017”; Honourable Mention at the Association of American Publishers’ 2018 PROSE Awards; winner of the 2019 IASPM Canada Book Prize).
He has also co-authored the three-volume History of Live Music in Britain (Ashgate 2013; Routledge 2019; Routledge 2021), and co-edited The Cambridge Companion to the Drum Kit (Cambridge University Press 2021) and The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Music Education (Routledge 2017). Together with Simon Frith, he is editor of the Bloomsbury book series Alternate Takes - Critical Responses to Popular Music.
Matt’s current research focuses on three areas: music and sustainability, the music industries, and popular music history.
Music sustainability and climate crisis: “Sustainability” is an incredibly slippery concept which has migrated from the field of sustainable development and infiltrated the discourse of arts and culture. As a result, the term is now much used (and sometimes abused) by academics, industry lobbying groups, and policymakers to make sense of the creative sector. Matt’s work investigates the relationship between music and sustainability in all its various connotations (e.g. economic, social, environmental), as well as how related concepts (challenges facing musical “ecosystems" in cities, strategies for "resilient" music scenes, etc.) are used in music research. Visit the project website for “New Directions in Music and Sustainability Research.”
Popular music history: Matt's current research interest is the social history of the drum kit. His book Kick It uses the drum kit and drummers - and their fluctuating status in spheres ranging from copyright law to music education - as a lens to rethink how the meanings of everyday concepts such as “musician,” “technique,” “literacy,” “talent,” “collaboration,” and “authorship” have changed over history and up to the present.
Music industries and live music: A dramatic shift has taken place in the music industries away from the record sales-based paradigm that dominated the last half of the twentieth century, and towards a twenty-first century paradigm that places increased value on live performance. Matt's work responds to this shift through an ongoing collaborative project investigating the social, aesthetic, and business dynamics of live music. He led the UK Live Music Census, the first nationwide census of its kind in the world.
Matt has led several externally funded research projects as a Principal Investigator:
Imagining a Just and Green Future for Music Cities: The Case of Glasgow as a UNESCO City of Music (2023, Royal Society of Edinburgh)
Turn Up The Volume Survey: Music Fan Attitudes Towards Environmental Sustainability (2022, NERC, project partnership with Music Declares Emergency, Beggars Group, BPI, Secretly Group, and Involved Group)
Matt is interested in supervising PhD students in all areas of popular music studies, including (but not limited to) history, the music industries, live music, musical instruments and society, music journalism, music and genre, and the relationship between music and economic / social / environmental sustainability. He currently supervises the following PhD students:
- Allan, Robert
Mapping the Scottish Music Industry
- Barr, Samantha
Non-‘extraordinary measures’ – exploring access problems to the live music industry in Scotland
- Ehlinger, Arthur Pascal Vincent
Live Music Streaming and the Contemporary Music Industries
- Saunders-Beswick, Cadan
The Changing Roles and Changing Faces of The Drummer: A Study of Drummers, Drumming and The Drum Kit 1965–2015
Convenor of MSc Music Industries