Beyond the BeatMusicians Building Community in Nashville

Beyond the BeatMusicians Building Community in Nashville

Daniel B. Cornfield

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780691160733

Publisher: Princeton University Press


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, this book looks at artist activists—those visionaries who create inclusive artist communities in today's individualistic and entrepreneurial art world. Using Nashville as a model, the book develops a theory of artist activism—the ways that artist peers strengthen and build diverse artist communities. The book 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. The book 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, the book examines enterprising musicians both known and less recognized. It 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. The book offers a new model of artistic success based on innovating creative institutions to benefit the society at large.