Bachelor of Music (Hons) Popular Music

As one of the world’s most forward-thinking conservatoires, the RNCM is proud to offer the UK’s only four-year Bachelor of Music (Hons) in Popular Music.

Inspired by Manchester’s enviable music scene, both past and present, our unique programme prepares students to be artists fit for the future, catering specifically to those who want to work in the popular music industry. Through a blend of intense individual and group tuition, ensemble performance classes and professional engagements, the course actively encourages and supports you in establishing a professional career alongside your studies, ensuring you’re industry-ready at the time of graduation.

Programme Overview

Duration: 4 years, full-time
UCAS Conservatoires code:
Applications open: mid-July
Deadline for on-time applications: 1 October
Tuition Fees

The BMus (Hons) in Popular Music comprises of 480 credits over four years, with half of the programme dedicated to developing skills in your Principal Study instrument/voice.

In addition to one-to-one tuition, the course develops academic and creative skills, and cultivates business acumen and entrepreneurial activity through employment and employability training.

Delivered at the RNCM, Blueprint Studios and Lever Street Studios, students work with teaching staff who are high-standard academics and active professionals in the music industry, working as session musicians, producers, songwriters, recording artists, composers, musical directors, writers, managers, promoters and performers. You will also benefit from the invaluable expertise of a team of Visiting Tutors who have a wealth of industry experience working with singers and bands including Adele, CeeLo Green, Incognito, Jamiroquai, Al Jarreau, James Morrison, One Direction, Simply Red, Sting, Take That, Amy Winehouse, and Steve Winwood.

Entrance Requirements

Age, Qualifications and Standards

All applicants must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age on 31 December in the year of entry.
  • Possess passes at GCE A level (A2) in two subjects, or a Rockschool Level 3 Music Practitioner qualification or National Diploma in a music-related subject.
  • Have four GCSE level passes (grades A*-C/9-4) including English Language and Mathematics.
  • Applicants whose first language is not English must have IELTS 5.5 or equivalent in each and every component (or CEFR B2).
  • Possess ABRSM Grade 5 Music Theory, or equivalent (e.g. Trinity, LCM).
  • Pass an RNCM audition in the year prior to entry demonstrating a high level of performing ability – equivalent to ABRSM/Rockschool/Trinity Grade 8.

Alternative Qualifications and Direct Entry (accreditation of prior learning)

Candidates with Scottish or Irish qualifications and those with alternatives such as a BTEC or NVQ, should contact Admissions on 0161 9075 465 or email International students should also refer to the international student entry requirements.

Candidates who have undertaken relevant qualifications/modules at a recognised Higher Education Institution, and who wish to be considered for direct entry into Year 2 onwards of the BMus programme, should contact Admissions for guidance before submitting an application. In the first instance, please email details of your prior learning (summary of educational background and copies of transcripts) to

Programme Details

Principal Study

Available in:
Bass Guitar
Drum Kit

160 credits

Principal Study is at the core of your training and focuses on enabling you to realise your true potential both technically and creatively on your instrument/voice through individual tuition with some of the world’s leading teachers.

You will learn how to critically evaluate and perform a broad range of repertoire inspiring a cultural connection between historic, contemporary and progressive material, and will be encouraged to develop your own musical voice through the composition and performance of original material.

You will also learn how to integrate music technology into live performance, and in the final year will have the opportunity to devise, produce and realise a public final recital.

Ensemble Performance

60 credits

Ensemble Performance focuses on the development of a technical and critical understanding of the role of your instrument/voice within a range of musical environments and styles. You will gain skills in effective ensemble rehearsal techniques and will learn how to integrate music technology into performance within a range live and studio performance situations.

You will work with a number of different musicians from across the college throughout the first half of the programme before creating your own ensemble project in your third year. You will also have the opportunity to perform in the Northern Session festivals and live recordings, both at the RNCM and at venues across Manchester.


60 credits

Musicianship underpins your technical and practical skills development and establishes a theoretical understanding of key musical components through creative improvisation based performance. You will develop your musical literacy to a professional level, enabling you to employ your theoretical, aural, and improvisation skills across a range of musical settings. You will also have the opportunity to apply these skills to original work in the Artist and Repertoire and Optional Modules.

Artist and Repertoire

60 credits

Artist and Repertoire focuses on artist development, both in terms of creative practice and entrepreneurial activity. You will compose original music and develop the skills required to promote yourself and your music to a broad audience. You will study song writing through the analysis of established and emerging repertoire and will produce a portfolio of original work. You will also develop a knowledge and understanding through research and academic study of the music industry and business practice in the context of you as a professional performer and artist, enabling you to begin your career in conjunction with, and informed by, your studies.

Original Ensembles Project

40 credits

The Original Ensembles Project follows on in Year 3 from the Ensemble Performance modules studied in Years 1 and 2, and allows you to specialise further in areas of research and creative practice that will form the basis of a professional career. In this self-devised project, you will build your own ensemble, compose original material, rehearse and record to professional standards, and give live showcase performances in professional venues in Manchester and across the UK.

Professional Engagement

60 credits

Working with our industry partners and partner institutions, the Professional Engagement module is designed to allow you to experience life as a professional freelance musician, band or artist, before returning to College to reflect, plan and realise your individual and collective goals as you graduate from the programme. The engagement takes place in the first semester of your final year and provides you with the opportunity to gain valuable experience and make influential contacts that will pave the way into your career as a full time professional musician. Opportunities include work and study abroad as well as within the UK.

Optional Modules

40 credits

The Optional Modules are designed to allow you the opportunity to tailor your studies according to your areas of interest and to specialise in areas that will best complement your artistic and academic goals. The options are contemporary and relevant to today’s music industry and are available to students from all RNCM Schools of Study, actively encouraging cross-school collaboration and diversification. The modules have been designed to promote a collegiate approach in areas with genuine crossover potential, including Musical Theatre, Film Music, Composing for Media, Recording and Production, and Music Education.