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Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music

Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music

by David SuismanDavid Suisman
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From Tin Pan Alley to grand opera, player-pianos to phonograph records, David Suisman's Selling Sounds explores the rise of music as big business and the creation of a radically new musical culture. Around the turn of the twentieth century, music entrepreneurs laid the foundation for today's vast industry, with new products, technologies, and commercial strategies to incorporate music into the daily rhythm of modern life. Popular songs filled the air with a new kind of musical pleasure, phonographs brought opera into the parlor, and celebrity performers like Enrico Caruso captivated the imagination of consumers from coast to coast.

Selling Sounds uncovers the origins of the culture industry in music and chronicles how music ignited an auditory explosion that penetrated all aspects of society. It maps the growth of the music business across the social landscape--in homes, theaters, department stores, schools--and analyzes the effect of this development on everything from copyright law to the sensory environment. While music came to resemble other consumer goods, its distinct properties as sound ensured that its commercial growth and social impact would remain unique.

Today, the music that surrounds us--from iPods to ring tones to Muzak--accompanies us everywhere from airports to grocery stores. The roots of this modern culture lie in the business of popular song, player-pianos, and phonographs of a century ago. Provocative, original, and lucidly written, Selling Sounds reveals the commercial architecture of America's musical life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674064041
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 05/07/2012
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 304,494
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

David Suisman is Associate Professor of History at the University of Delaware.

Table of Contents

  • Prologue

  1. When Songs Became a Business
  2. Making Hits
  3. Music without Musicians
  4. The Traffic in Voices
  5. Musical Properties
  6. Perfect Pitch
  7. The Black Swan
  8. The Musical Soundscape of Modernity

  • Epilogue
  • Abbreviations in Notes
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index

What People are Saying About This

Emily Thompson

Selling Sounds masterfully charts the rise of the modern music industry in all its commercial complexity. As engaging as the new popular music Suisman describes, his account deserves an audience as wide as that music enjoyed.
Emily Thompson, author of The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural Acoustics and the Culture of Listening in America, 1900-1933

Lizabeth Cohen

This book is music to my ears-- a much needed history of the rise of the commercial music industry in the first decades of the twentieth century. Deeply researched, smartly argued, and engagingly written, Selling Sounds will sweep you off your feet.
Lizabeth Cohen, author of A Consumers' Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America

Michael Denning

Ranging from Tin Pan Alley song pluggers to Supreme Court decisions on copyright, from Caruso's Victor Red Seal records to Black Swan, the first major black-owned record company, David Suisman's Selling Sounds is a marvelous cultural history of the ways the music industry retuned the soundscape of modern times in the United States.
Michael Denning, Yale University

Customer Reviews