Job title: AHRC Leadership Fellow

Role: Programme Co-Director of MA (Hons) Music

Tel: +44 (0)131 650 2803


Research: See Dr Matt Brennan on Edinburgh Research Explorer

Please note that Matt will not be teaching during the 2017-18 academic year. Instead, he will serve as an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Leadership Fellow working on “New Directions in Music and Sustainability Research.” Visit the project’s website for more details.

Matt Brennan specialises in the interdisciplinary field of popular music studies. His creative practice as a musician informs his teaching and research, 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 was a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow and Chancellor’s Fellow prior to taking up his current post as an AHRC Leadership Fellow.

Matt has authored, co-authored, and edited several books, including When Genres Collide: Down Beat, Rolling Stone and the Struggle between Jazz and Rock, The History of Live Music in Britain from 1950-1967, and The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Music Education. He is the editor of the Bloomsbury book series, Alternate Takes: Critical Responses to Popular Music.

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.

In addition to his current fellowship, Matt has also led several AHRC-funded research projects as a Principal Investigator:


  • Course organiser:
    • Festivals
  • Lecturer:
    • Music 1A: Psychology of Music
    • Music 1B: Instruments, Culture, and Technology
    • Ways of Listening
    • Music 2B: Music and Ideas from Romanticism to the Late Twentieth Century
    • Research Methods in Music


  • Course organiser:
    • Making Sense of Popular Music

Matt’s current research focuses on three areas: music and sustainability, the music industries, and popular music history.

Music and sustainability

“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.

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.

Popular music history

Matt has published on a range of topics pertaining to popular music history. He is currently writing a book on the social history of the drum kit (under contract with Oxford University Press). The study 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.

Current PhD students

PhD Supervision Topics

popular music, cultural history, social history, music industries, live music, instruments and society, music journalism, music and genre, music and sustainability (economic / social / environmental), twentieth century, twenty-first century, contemporary