Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music by David SuismanSelling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music by David Suisman

Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music

byDavid Suisman

Paperback | May 7, 2012

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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.

Title:Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American MusicFormat:PaperbackDimensions:368 pagesPublished:May 7, 2012Publisher:HarvardLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0674064046

ISBN - 13:9780674064041

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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

Editorial Reviews

If you're interested in the history of the music industry, or have wondered idly how the song that's stuck in your head got to be there, you should read David Suisman's detailed and entertaining Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music. Every page held a new discovery for me, from the competitive world of song pluggers (piano-and-crooner teams hired to perform songs in advance of the sheet music publication, often to "spontaneous" applause from plants in the audience), to the rise of the player-piano (in 1900, it would have been regarded as more potentially culture-transforming than phonographs), to the reason tenors surpassed sopranos in popularity (their voices better masked deficiencies in early recording), to Irving Berlin's nine rules--some seemingly contradictory--to writing a hit song. The chapter on Black Swan Records alone, which from 1921 to 1923 attempted to combine racial uplift with a viable business model, is worth the price of admission. Selling Sounds is a profound and fascinating book, not just for academics but for anyone with ears.