Historical Social Research

Klaus Nathaus,Turning Values into Revenue: The Markets and the Field of Popular Music in the US, the UK and West Germany (1940s to 1980s) [Abstract]

Taking the popular music business in the US, the UK and West Germany as an example, this article shows how the value of cultural content is generated and negotiated in fields and that these values in turn shape the performance of cultural markets to a great extent. While in Western Germany a functional understanding of music persistently dominated, the participants of the music field in Britain in the 1960s began to orient their decisions toward what became defined as the artistic value of popular music. In contrast to Europe, where music producers and their values dominated the field, the US example is characterized by the fact that market research and its methods to quantify popularity played a central role in the production and dissemination of pop music early on. Comparing three distinct cases, the paper suggests employing the field concept to analyze both the change and the embeddedness of markets.