Founded in 1988, the IPM became the world’s first specialist centre for the study of popular music. The institute's activities concentrated on research, teaching, the supply of information, the provision of resources, and support for initiatives in education and employment.
From the outset the IPM sought to contribute to the international development of popular music studies while also contributing to the life of the city and region in which it was based. It has therefore had a particular interest in the place of popular music on Merseyside, past and present, and its potential role in local change and development.
In 2003 the IPM joined forces with the Department of Music to form a new School of Music and became a specialist research institute.
The first 20 years of the IPM are discussed in an interview with former IPM director David Horn published in Popular Music History (Volume 3, Number 1, 2008). The establishment of the IPM is also discussed in a journal article: 'The Institute of Popular Music at the University of Liverpool'.