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American Festivals and Placemaking in Austin, Nashville, and Newport


American Festivals and Placemaking in Austin, Nashville, and Newport

Austin’s famed South by Southwest is far more than a festival celebrating indie music. It’s also a big networking party that sparks the imagination of hip, creative types and galvanizes countless pilgrimages to the city. Festivals like SXSW are a lot of fun, but for city halls, media corporations, cultural institutions, and community groups, they’re also a vital part of a complex growth strategy. In Music/City, Jonathan R. Wynn immerses us in the world of festivals, giving readers a unique perspective on contemporary urban and cultural life.

Wynn tracks the history of festivals in Newport, Nashville, and Austin, taking readers on-site to consider different festival agendas and styles of organization. It’s all here: from the musician looking to build her career to the mayor who wants to exploit a local cultural scene, from a resident’s frustration over corporate branding of his city to the music executive hoping to sell records. Music/City offers a sharp perspective on cities and cultural institutions in action and analyzes how governments mobilize massive organizational resources to become promotional machines. Wynn’s analysis culminates with an impassioned argument for temporary events, claiming that when done right, temporary occasions like festivals can serve as responsive, flexible, and adaptable products attuned to local places and communities.

336 pages | 29 halftones, 4 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2015

Culture Studies

Music: General Music

Political Science: Public Policy

Sociology: Urban and Rural Sociology


“In Music/City, Wynn takes on an important, ambitious, and well-executed project that cross-cuts a number of fields. The result is a compendious book with something for everybody. The characters we encounter here are charming, and the quality of the research as valuable. Music/City has broad appeal—to sociologists and musicians alike.”

Howard S. Becker, author of Becoming a Marihuana User

“Wynn’s Music/City provides important new insight into the role of music in shaping the culture, economy, and attractiveness of cities. Combining a sociologist’s eye with the ear of a musician, Wynn shows how music festivals like the Newport Folk Festival and Austin’s SXSW, have become increasingly important platforms as much for cities and their economies as for the careers of musicians. Wynn’s book is a must read for mayors, economic developers, downtown leaders, and urbanists who endeavor to build and live in more attractive, vibrant, and economically successful cities.”

Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class

“In Music/City Wynn stitches together an entertaining and enlightening look into the social, economic and historic elements that go into city based music festivals. As a professional musician who rarely sees festivals from any perspective but the stage I found Music/City jam-packed with fascinating and indispensable information. Wynn has created a must read for music fans and festival goers the world over while also generating a how-to for the prospective host communities.”

Tegan Quin, singer-songwriter for the Grammy–nominated band Tegan and Sara

“It’s common knowledge that festivals are increasingly important to the music business, but before Wynn, no one had really examined their full impact and potential. With Music/City, his innovative, street-level research gives us new ways to think about the culture, community, and economy of our large-scale, high-volume gatherings.”

Alan Light, former editor-in-chief, Vibe and Spin magazines

Music/City is a resounding success. The book is elegantly written, combines multiple methods, and joins sociological imagination with musical insight. It could be assigned in both undergraduate and graduate courses in the areas of urban sociology, urban policy, culture, and music. Academics, musicians, and city leaders will all learn from Wynn’s sensitive analysis of the promises and pitfalls of festivalization.”

American Journal of Sociology

Table of Contents

Introduction: City and Stage

1. The Unlikely Rise in Importance of American Music Festivals
2. Music in Ruins: The Newport Folk Festival
3. “When Country Comes to Town”: Nashville’s Country Music Festival
4. Part-Time Indie Music Club: Austin’s South by Southwest
5. The Long-Term Effects of Fleeting Moments: Part One
6. The Long-Term Effects of Fleeting Moments: Part Two

Conclusions: Festivalization as Good Policy

Encore: Toward a Sociology of Occasions
Appendix A: The Lineup (Methodological Note and List of Interviewees)
Appendix B: Music City Set List

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