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Popular Musicians and Bands

How to research popular musicians and bands, including rock, hip hop, rap, country, classic rock, 50's, etc.

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Matthew Vest

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Matthew Vest
Subjects: Music & Dance

Purpose of this Guide

This research guide provides information about primary and secondary resources on popular musics, including Rock-n-Roll, Hip Hop, Rap, Country, Funk and Punk that can assist you in gathering materials for projects and papers. Please let me know if you have questions, or suggestions of how we can enhance this guide. 

Tips to Get Started

Some tips before you get started!

  • Musicians and bands with common or one word names like Beck, Prince, or The Smiths will be hard to find unless you add more specific information like a song or album title.
  • Songs can be hard to find if they have titles like I love you, Go Away, or Summertime. When you search, add the name of the performer or song writer and put the title in quotes, for example: "I Love You" Anita O'Day
  • Some musicians and bands may be too recent, too indie, or too local for there to be easily available or trustworthy information about them. Be prepared to dig.

Where to look First

Essential places to start.

Get some general information first; take advantage of the work someone else has already done before you.

  • Contemporary Musicians. Provides brief biographical information, album and song lists, and bibliographies (often a photo!) for thousands of popular musicians and bands, some you will not find any where else. Also in the Music Library reading room under ML385 .C668. The last volume indexes the whole big set.
  • Oxford Music Online: Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Linked from the Music Library home page as Oxford Music Online. Provides short articles with a bibliography written by a scholar of popular music.
  • Wikipedia. You can't beat it for completeness and currency, although you'll want to verify any questionable information. Also ask your teacher if she will accept it as a resource--some don't.
  • UCLA Library Catalog, the library's "search engine". For people use a Subject List (start of) and enter the person's name, last name first (if they have only one name, enter that). For bands, just enter the name. If you find the name of the person or band in the catalog, you'll have no trouble researching them. You are lucky. There are already some books about them.


Thanks to other music librarians and their guides, particularly Emily Farigno at Yale and her Guide.