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Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music Hardcover – May 31 2009

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Jack Ryan

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; 1 edition (May 31 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067403337X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674033375
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 2.5 x 24.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 726 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,390,341 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


This book is music to my ears-- a much needed history of the rise of the commercial music industry in the first decades of the twentieth century. Deeply researched, smartly argued, and engagingly written, Selling Sounds will sweep you off your feet.
--Lizabeth Cohen, author of A Consumers' Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America

Selling Sounds masterfully charts the rise of the modern music industry in all its commercial complexity. As engaging as the new popular music Suisman describes, his account deserves an audience as wide as that music enjoyed.
--Emily Thompson, author of The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural Acoustics and the Culture of Listening in America, 1900-1933

Ranging from Tin Pan Alley song pluggers to Supreme Court decisions on copyright, from Caruso's Victor Red Seal records to Black Swan, the first major black-owned record company, David Suisman's Selling Sounds is a marvelous cultural history of the ways the music industry retuned the soundscape of modern times in the United States.
--Michael Denning, Yale University

Virgin's music emporium will soon become a thing of the past: Like so many other retail music stores of late, it has announced that it is going out of business. The story of Selling Sounds, then, is especially timely.
--Ken Emerson (Wall Street Journal 2009-05-12)

A fascinating, well-written, richly detailed story of how music became a commodity in America...[Suisman's] scholarship is amazingly wide-ranging.
--William F. Gavin (Washington Times 2009-06-03)

[It's a] fascinating narrative that David Suisman unfurls...Here you learn everything from how the work of creating the songs is distributed to the various sales techniques employed by song pluggers (basically, the salesmen of music publishing), including the use of slides to add a visual component to the song. While there are numerous accounts of the position of so-called song pluggers in the development of popular music in the first decades of the 20th century, one rarely encounters a description that so accurately and compellingly details the quotidian life of these remarkable salesmen and the ways in which they learned to compete while peacefully coexisting...This [is a] really wonderful book. It warrants repeated readings and deep consideration. It is full of surprising revelations and some truly hilarious anecdotes. Well-researched and beautifully documented, replete with beautiful illustrations and photographs, this book belongs on the shelf of any reader serious about popular music and the music industry and given the impact of that industry on our daily lives, that really ought to be all of us.
--Chadwick Jenkins (PopMatters 2009-06-19)

Suisman...tell[s] an alluring story.
--George Anders ( 2009-07-07)

A fascinating new book about the formative history of the American music business.
--Matt Miller (The Deal Magazine 2009-07-15)

Inventors ran wild during the years bracketing the turn of the 20th century, creating technology that repeatedly transformed the ways people heard and consumed music. It happened again a hundred years later, which makes David Suisman's lucid account of the emergence and consolidation of the music industry particularly welcome.
--Grant Alden (Wilson Quarterly 2009-06-01)

[A] meticulously researched history of [the music industry's] early days.
--Mark Athitakis (Washington Post 2009-08-23)

About the Author

David Suisman is Associate Professor of History at the University of Delaware.

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November 16, 2013
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