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Popular Music Resources

Databases, special collections, and general resources on the history of popular music


The Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library has a variety of resources to help you with your popular music research project, including databases, articles, books, CDs, and some unique primary sources. 

Below you'll find a brief description of some of the tools that may be most helpful to you. The box on the left has some quick links to these resources.

Finding articles

The library subscribes to a number of databases that can help you locate articles related to the history of popular music.

  • Music Index Online is an index to literature on all genres of music, including popular genres. It tends to cover more popular music magazines like Spin or Rolling Stone. So Music Index is a good place to check for non-scholarly but reputable sources. More information about how to search Music Index is available in this library guide.
  • For scholarly articles about music, RILM is probably your best bet. Although it focuses more on classical music, RILM also includes many sources on jazz and popular music. It includes journal articles, dissertations, book chapters, and more.
  • Rock's Backpages is a database of more than 25,000 articles since 1960. It covers music journalism about all genres of popular music: rock, pop, soul, hip-hop, folk, and much more. You'll find features, interviews, album reviews, and commentaries from hundreds of publications, as well as over 400 audio interviews. You can browse by genre or publication, or search for your favorite artist. This library guide explains the database in more detail.

Books and recordings at the library

The Performing Arts Library contains thousands of books, CDs, DVDs, and other materials on all genres of music, including popular music. Enter your search terms in the library catalog, WorldCat UMD. On the lefthand side of the search results page, you will be able to limit by format.


You can check out up to three CDs at a time for one week.


Reference books

There are many discographies and guides to research in the reference section of the Performing Arts Library. Here are a few that may be especially useful.

Special collections in popular music

You can find collections of rare or unique materials at Special Collections in the Performing Arts (SCPA), located inside the Performing Arts Library. A few collections might be especially interesting to popular music researchers: