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Beyond the Beat:
Musicians Building Community in Nashville
Daniel B. Cornfield

Shortlisted for the 2016 ASAP Book Prize, Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present

Hardcover | 2015 | $35.00 | £27.95 | ISBN: 9780691160733
232 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 5 line illus. 2 tables.
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At a time when the bulwarks of the music industry are collapsing, what does it mean to be a successful musician and artist? How might contemporary musicians sustain their artistic communities? Based on interviews with over seventy-five popular-music professionals in Nashville, Beyond the Beat looks at artist activists—those visionaries who create inclusive artist communities in today's individualistic and entrepreneurial art world. Using Nashville as a model, Daniel Cornfield develops a theory of artist activism—the ways that artist peers strengthen and build diverse artist communities.

Cornfield discusses how genre-diversifying artist activists have arisen throughout the late twentieth-century musician migration to Nashville, a city that boasts the highest concentration of music jobs in the United States. Music City is now home to diverse recording artists—including Jack White, El Movimiento, the Black Keys, and Paramore. Cornfield identifies three types of artist activists: the artist-producer who produces and distributes his or her own and others' work while mentoring early-career artists, the social entrepreneur who maintains social spaces for artist networking, and arts trade union reformers who are revamping collective bargaining and union functions. Throughout, Cornfield examines enterprising musicians both known and less recognized. He links individual and collective actions taken by artist activists to their orientations toward success, audience, and risk and to their original inspirations for embarking on music careers.

Beyond the Beat offers a new model of artistic success based on innovating creative institutions to benefit the society at large.

Daniel B. Cornfield is professor of sociology at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of Becoming a Mighty Voice and coeditor of Worlds of Work.


"This innovative sociological study of the Nashville music scene explores the business realities of an industry that has been radically changed by technology. . . . His findings are encouraging because they reveal an environment in which many artists support one another in their quest for individualistic attainment."--Choice

"Anyone who wishes to read a remarkably grounded analysis of how cultural work--in this case music--is changing, and about the roles of both artist entrepreneurs and trade union activists in pursuing a community-encompassing response, will find this book a wonderful read and an eye-opener for students in multiple fields: the sociology of occupations, the economics and sociology of the arts, arts management studies, industry studies, and labor relations. That Cornfield also offers a conceptual framework for thinking about structures and strategy is an extra plus."--Ann Markusen, ILR Review

"A compelling analysis of how musicians are responding to ongoing rapid transformations in the music economy and the broader post-industrial economy."--Daniel Silver, Contemporary Sociology


"An emerging generation of musicians and artists in Nashville, Tennessee is drawing on a dynamic peer community that encourages activism, collaboration, and cross-promotion. Cornfield's illuminating and insightful Beyond the Beat skillfully chronicles the cohesive culture of this highly engaged and often inspiring community, and offers an encouraging take on creativity in the wake of digital disruption."--Ken Paulson, president of the First Amendment Center

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Table of Contents:

Preface and Acknowledgments ix
Chapter 1. Creating Community in an Individualistic Age 1
Chapter 2. Artist Activism: Building Occupational Communities in Risky Times 17
Chapter 3. Self-contained, Self-expression: The Transformative Generation of Enterprising Artists 34
Chapter 4. Identities in Play: The Contemporary Generation of Enterprising Artists 65
Chapter 5. Creating Social Spaces for Artists: Pathways to Becoming an Artistic Social Entrepreneur 93
Chapter 6. Artist Advocates: The Corporate and Entrepreneurial Generations of Arts Trade Union Activists 121
Chapter 7. Community, Agency, and Artistic Expression 150
Appendix. Interview Schedule 166
Notes 173
Bibliography 191
Index 203

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    File created: 9/7/2017

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