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Everyone Loves Live Music

A Theory of Performance Institutions

For decades, millions of music fans have gathered every summer in parks and fields to hear their favorite bands at festivals such as Lollapalooza, Coachella, and Glastonbury. How did these and countless other festivals across the globe evolve into glamorous pop culture events, and how are they changing our relationship to music, leisure, and public culture? In Everyone Loves Live Music, Fabian Holt looks beyond the marketing hype to show how festivals and other institutions of musical performance have evolved in recent decades, as sites that were once meaningful sources of community and culture are increasingly subsumed by corporate giants.
Examining a diverse range of cases across Europe and the United States, Holt upends commonly-held ideas of live music and introduces a pioneering theory of performance institutions. He explores the fascinating history of the club and the festival in San Francisco and New York, as well as a number of European cities. This book also explores the social forces shaping live music as small, independent venues become corporatized and as festivals transform to promote mainstream Anglophone culture and its consumerist trappings. The book further provides insight into the broader relationship between culture and community in the twenty-first century. An engaging read for fans, industry professionals, and scholars alike, Everyone Loves Live Music reveals how our contemporary enthusiasm for live music is more fraught than we would like to think.

344 pages | 18 halftones, 5 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2020

Big Issues in Music

Music: Ethnomusicology, General Music

Sociology: Social Institutions, Sociology of Arts--Leisure, Sports


”Many of us do indeed love music venues and summer music festivals, and in this book Holt does a terrific job of showing how even such beloved institutions are tied up with excessive commercialisation, dubious policy developments and property speculation. That shouldn’t stop people from enjoyment, but it might help us understand our pleasures better by forestalling naïve assumptions that contemporary musical experience is innocently separate from the nastier elements of our capitalist societies.”

David Hesmondhalgh, University of Leeds, author of Why Music Matters

“This book is a highly original and quite brilliant approach to the study of musical performance institutions. I know of no other book that has such a broad perspective. Unique in its approach, ground-breaking in its objectives, Everyone Loves Live Music presents some fascinating information about both rock clubs and large rock festivals that make it a milestone and a point of reference for future studies.”

Anthony Seeger, University of California at Los Angeles

“After half a century of writing about recorded popular music, an exhaustive analysis of the phenomenon of live music is finally available, thanks to this book by Fabian Holt! Everyone Loves Live Music provides original and relevant keys to understanding the extraordinary development of festivals, concerts, and live shows.”

Gérôme Guibert, Sorbonne Nouvelle University

"Adopting a critical approach, Holt upends commonly-held ideas of live music and introduces a theory of performance institutions. The two central institutions of popular music—the club and the festival—are analyzed within the broader history of music and cultural life in modernity, shedding new light on organized cultural life in capitalism, urban media cultures, and the role of festive events in society. Everyone Loves Live Music argues that while live music provides exciting experiences for many people, it also promotes a new ideology of music in neoliberal capitalism."

The New Books Network

"Everyone Loves Live Music: A Theory of Performance Institutions presents an important contribution to the study of contemporary clubs and festivals, by way of critical and informative historical, political economy, and media analysis."

Urban People

"Since the beginning of the 2000s and the record industry crisis, live music has triggered attention from various sectors (economic, technological, political, and intellectual), causing a severe inflation of discourses and narratives about its authenticity and new economy. Fabian Holt has been involved in this dynamic through several decisive academic contributions and professional activities related to festivals. In this book, he looks back at these numerous narratives, not without a (self-)critical eye. This is the first and greatest merit of the book, as it not only offers an overview of the many discourses on live music, but also questions the meaning of this renewed interest. The second great merit is that it proposes a real theorization of live music, and questions its nature in depth when many works are content with an industrial, depoliticized, superficial conception. . . .  Holt’s work thus constitutes a great opportunity to reconsider our views on music as a public value."

Popular Music

"While it is true that many scholars have previously identified the economic forces that operate behind the live music industries, Holt takes a broader perspective that allows him to describe a Global North phenomenon in which corporate power and anglophone pop music culture dominate the market... It is still difficult to determine what live music studies will look like in the future or what the main outcomes of this interdisciplinary field have been... In any case, Fabian Holt has made a very important contribution to its refinement."

Ethnomusicology Review

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction: The Social Study of Musical Performance Institutions
Chapter 2. Conceptualizing Musical Performance Culture

Clubs in Everyday Urban Life

Chapter 3. The Social Study of Music in Cities
Chapter 4. The Commercial Institutionalization of the Rock Club in New York 
Chapter 5. How Did the Rock Club Evolve in Europe?

Music Festivals in the Summer Season

Chapter 6. A Worldview History of Music Festivals
Chapter 7. The Evolution of Anglophone Global Culture
Chapter 8. Three Industry Evolutions That Changed Festival Culture
Chapter 9. Festival Video and Social Media
Chapter 10. Conclusion
Works Cited

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