Dr Jan Butler

Senior Lecturer in Popular Music

School of Arts


Jan Butler is a Senior Lecturer in Popular Music with an active teaching and research portfolio.  Her main areas of expertise are in popular musicology, with particular interest in the nature of records and the recording industry, and film musicology, with particular interest in popular music on screen.

Areas of expertise

  • The development and impact of ideologies of authenticity on popular music
  • Industry structures, production developments and the role of specialist media in 60s rock (with particular focus on the Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane)
  • Use of popular music in film
  • Explorations of the nature of the recorded musical work 

Teaching and supervision

Modules taught

I teach across a number of modules and supervise dissertations at UG and PG level, usually focusing on popular music history and analysis, and film music studies.


I have previously co-supervised a PhD student exploring Radiohead and genre, and am currently supervising two PhD students - one working on the extent of religious discrimination in the music industry, the other exploring the New Romantics. 
Inquiries from prospective PhD students exploring areas of pop musicology or film musicology are always welcome


I have two related areas of specialism, with popular music at their core.  In pop music studies, I focus on the impact of the ideology of authenticity on popular music, exploring how musicians negotiate the expectations of their audience, the industry and the media and analysing the resultant sounds and visuals. Much of this work so far has focussed on the birth of rock in the 60s, looking at the Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane as particular examples.  I am also interested in the nature of recordings and the analysis of record production and have recently completed a collaborative project exploring these questions in relation to the Squeeze album, Spot the Difference
In film music studies, I focus on the role of popular music in and on film.  I have a particular interest in the use of the cultural connotations of popular music in film and have recently published a chapter on the use of music in Baz Luhrmann's William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet.  I am currently working on a monograph exploring Baz Luhrmann’s use of music and sound across his film and TV work.   

Research impact

I took part in the Think Human festival in 2022, discussing Bob Dylan’s book The Philosophy of Modern Song (2022) with academics and the public.  In 2023 I broadcast a follow up discussion through the My Jericho youtube channel, discussing particular tracks in relation to the same book with Prof Gary Browning.

I co-organised PMRU's 'Nightshift: Exploring Oxford’s Music Magazine', a one-day public symposium at Oxford Brookes University bringing together academics and broadcasters, journalists, promoters and musicians of the Oxford music scene journalists to discuss the history and impact of Nightshift magazine.

I organised and presented at a PMRU workshop on our 'Spot the Difference' project as part of the Oxford Ideas Festival, September 2018.



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Professional information

Memberships of professional bodies

I am an Associate of the Higher Education Academy, and a member of the International Association for The Study of Popular Music and the Association for the Study of the Art of Record Production.


  • 2023 – Opening and closing remarks, Sound on Screen II conference, Oxford Brookes University.  Co-organizer of a three-day hybrid international conference bringing together academics and practitioners to discuss music, sound design and soundtracks in a variety of visual media.
    2021 – Opening and closing remarks, Sound on Screen conference, Oxford Brookes University. Co-organizer of a three-day online international conference bringing together academics and practitioners to discuss music, sound design and soundtracks in a variety of visual media.
  • Sep 2018, ''Spot the Difference': Reproduction, Re-recording and the Reimagining of historic tracks', Crosstown Traffic, Popular Music Theory and Practice international conference, Huddersfield University
  • Apr 2018, Interview with Ronan Monroe, Nightshift: Exploring Oxford’s Music Magazine Study Day, Oxford Brookes University (co-organiser)
  • Apr 2013, 'The Musicology of Record Production', Institute for Musical Research postgraduate training day, invited speaker 
  • Apr 2011,  Lead organizer of Shifting Ground II: A Symposium on Music and Publishing, Oxford Brookes University
  • Jan 2010,  ‘The Role of the Rock Cultural Intermediary: The Birth of the American Rock Press in the 1960s’, Shifting Ground: A Study Day in Popular Music and Publishing, Oxford Brookes University (co-organiser) 
  • Nov, 2009 ‘Authentic Independents: Myth or Reality?’, The Art of Record Production Conference, University of Cardiff
  • Jul 2009,  ‘The Critic as New Cultural Intermediary: the rise of the American rock press in the 1960s’, 6th International Conference on Music since 1900, University of Keele
  • Jul 2009, 'The Reception of the Use of Technology in the work of Jimi Hendrix', 15th Biennial International IASPM Conference, University of Liverpool
  • Jun 2009, ‘Ticket To Ride’: Album Art as a Gateway to the Psychedelic Community’, RMA Study Day: Image, Music, Identity: Constructing and Experiencing Identities through Music in Visual Culture Conference, University of Nottingham
  • Sep 2005, ‘The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and the musicology of record production’, CHARM/The Art of Record Production Conference, University of Westminster 
  • Aug 2005, ‘High Fidelities: The discourse of authenticity and Jimi Hendrix’, 4th International Conference on Twentieth-century music, University of Sussex                            
  • Jan 2004, ‘Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge: A new film music?’, RMA Students’ Conference, Royal Holloway

Further details

You can find out more about the work I have done as part of the Popular Music Research Unit at PMRU blog.

Sound on Screen Research Unit (link to) https://cora.brookes.ac.uk/groups/popular-music-research-unit-pmru-2/