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Popular music

Popular music, sometimes abbreviated to pop music, is music belonging to any of a number of contemporary musical styles broadly popular (ergo the term). A narrower sense of the term, usually "pop music", covers mainstream music that does not fall into any other convenient style such as jazz or hip hop. In the broader sense, "popular music" means any sort of music intended for mass consumption and propagated over the radio and similar media. For the varieties of popular music in this sense, see the list below.

A defining characteristic of popular music (in the broader sense) is that it is the product of the modern business enterprise, and is disseminated for the purpose of earning a profit. Executives and employees of popular music businesses try to select and cultivate the music that will have the greatest success with the public, and thus maximimize the profits of their firm. In this respect, popular music differs from traditional folk music, which is created by ordinary people for their own enjoyment; and much classical music, which was originally created to serve the purposes of the Church or for the entertainment of the nobility.

Although the controlling forces of popular music are business enterprises, young people who aspire to become popular musicians are certainly not always driven by the profit motive. Rather, they often want to find an outlet for their sense of expression and creativity, or simply to have fun. Historically, the conflicting motives of business people and musicians has been a source of tension in the popular music industry.

Many people play popular music together with their friends, often in garages and basements, on a casual amateur basis. This activity is one of the most widespread forms of participatory music-making in modern societies. As participatory music, "garage bands" are a new development in traditional folk music, which (where it survives) is likewise performed by ordinary people for enjoyment. The difference is that amateur performers of popular music are well acquainted with the expert performances that they hear on recordings, and often try to emulate them. In the past, folk music had few professional experts and was spread by word of mouth and by songsheets, although today folk music is the subject of considerable scholarly study and is widely available on recordings.

A list of current performers of popular music can be found at:

Music genres that can be described as popular music include: See also: