Klaus Nathaus, Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo
Pop songs and superhero cartoons, vaudeville shows and blockbuster movies, fashion and spectator sports are among the many examples of contemporary popular culture, defined here as widely affordable, commercial experience goods and services. Historians began to take this seemingly trivial and inconsequential culture seriously as an object of study some forty years ago. Starting in the second half of the 1970s, when social historians in Britain and the United States began exploring turn-of-the-century working-class leisure, the discipline’s interest in the phenomenon was maintained in the 1980s and 1990s by cultural historians who interpreted ‘pop’ as the ‘folklore of industrial society’ (Lawrence Levine), a form of ‘symbolic resistance’, a factor for social levelling and democratisation as well as the manifestation of widely shared world views. Historians extended the period under study to encompass the inter-war years and then the post-war decades, and interest in the topic spread to German historiography. In due course, historians variously came to view popular culture as a site where class relations were negotiated, gender and race identities expressed, power exerted and contested, popular needs represented and satisfied, modernity experienced, older norms challenged and new values promoted, money earned, people persuaded, social relations forged. Reservations about the relevance of ‘pop’ for historians have not completely disappeared but have certainly receded. On the whole, the discipline has moved beyond the issue of whether historians should study popular culture to concentrate on the question of how they should study it. What questions and theoretical assumptions about the role of popular culture in contemporary societies guide the research on the subject? And to what findings and narratives does this research lead?
The following article engages with these questions as it reviews major trends and influential works in the historical study of contemporary popular culture. It is written primarily with a German audience in mind, in light of two relatively recent research initiatives on the history of popular culture in that country. A team of researchers at Free University Berlin, led by Tobias Becker, Daniel Morat and Paul Nolte, have been studying metropolitan entertainment culture between 1880 and 1930, and historians Bodo Mrozek, Alexa Geisthövel and Jürgen Danyel, based at universities and research institutions in Berlin and Potsdam, published two volumes in 2014 on concepts and case studies in ‘Popgeschichte’ (pop history) since the late 1950s. (As I contributed to both ‘Popgeschichte’ volumes, they will not be discussed further here.) Evidently, the research field is fertile, and the proposed new label ‘Popgeschichte’ suggests that this is a good time to take stock and reflect on future directions for the study of popular culture.
The present article is the second and final part of a longer, interdisciplinary review. The first part engages with sociological perspectives on ‘pop’ and discusses the merit of prominent approaches, such as Cultural Studies, the Frankfurt School and the Production of Culture Perspective, through the presentation of influential works. Intended to expand historians’ conceptual horizon, it makes the point that popular culture need not be seen as a manifestation of deeply internalised values, norms and beliefs (Clifford Geertz) or as a site in the struggle for hegemony (Antonio Gramsci), the two approaches that historians have come to rely on. Popular culture may also be fruitfully studied as a ‘social’ or ‘art world’ (Howard Becker), the outcome of the collective activities of specialist content producers (Richard Peterson), an organisational field and marker of distinction (Pierre Bourdieu), a ‘technology of the self’ (Tia DeNora), or a behavioural constraint and resource, strategically deployed in particular situations in often inconsistent ways (Ann Swidler). The conceptual discussion identifies new topics for empirical research, among them the particularities of social worlds, including their physical spaces, conventions and encounters; the dynamics of content production; the uncertainty of demand and the disconnect between content producers and their audiences; the constructed nature of ‘authenticity’ and pop-cultural identities; the political economy of the cultural industries and issues of fairness around creative labour; the strategic use of ‘pop’ repertoires in public as well as the accumulation and deployment of ‘subcultural capital’; and the intimate ways in which people embrace and are affected by popular culture as a technology of mood regulation. Initially devised as a conceptual inventory for historians, Part I of the review grew in size and began to take up sociological concerns. As a consequence, it was published in a sociologists’ forum, which is readily available to historians interested in the theoretical underpinnings of the present article. Readers who understandably have the impression that thinkers like Theodor Adorno or Stuart Hall appear merely as wispy ghosts here are advised to consult the first instalment, where these influential characters appear centre stage.
The present article concentrates on the historiography of contemporary popular culture. It takes into view the ‘long’ twentieth century, extending from the last two decades of the 1800s to the present, and follows from the observation that the commercial, syndicated and globally distributed entertainment fare, which we now recognise as contemporary popular culture, originated in the late nineteenth century. Familiarity with these origins adds to the understanding of post-war trends and makes it possible to historicise some of the more recent developments. This article looks at historiographical trends in (West) Germany as well as in the United States and the UK, primarily because twentieth-century popular culture crossed national boundaries, thus requiring the historian to adopt a transnational perspective and take into account the influence of the two twentieth-century centres of ‘pop’. The study of cultural transfers is a prominent topic in the following pages. In addition to this transnational concern, this article’s exploration of the more firmly established research on popular culture in Britain and the United States may provide inspiration to historians of Germany to pursue topics that have been studied to a lesser extent in that country.
Although it takes a long view, the present article is limited in two respects. Concentrating as it does on three Western countries, it omits studies of popular culture in the East and the global South. As much as this would be desirable, it is simply beyond this reviewer's expertise. Additionally, the article largely focuses on music. This is by no means to say that the socio-historical role of popular culture cannot or should not be studied in other cultural realms, such as film, television, advertising, sport or food. However, music does have a particular immediacy that has made it the prime medium to convey authenticity and express identity, concerns that are central to the scholarly debate about popular culture more generally. Having said that, the present article is more than simply a review of popular music research, not least because music inevitably leads the researcher to the various media through which it has historically been disseminated. Much larger than the history of recorded sound, the history of popular music is intertwined with the history of theatre, film, radio and television, the arts, concert halls, celebrity culture, journalism, advertising, festivals, bars, discotheques and home entertainment.
This article consists of four chronological sections. The first is on the ‘long’ turn of the century (1880–1930), which marks the early years of popular culture, a period in which the production of entertainment became organised as a veritable industry. Yet, the business and goods of popular culture still offered opportunities for improvisation and advancement. The main reason for this is that ‘pop’ had to be performed in the moment and in the presence of an audience. In other words, the quintessential ‘liveness’ of popular culture around 1900 saved it from attempts by powerful theatre syndicates as well as middle-class reformers to control and homogenise it. That changed in the subsequent era of mass culture (1930–1955), discussed in the second section of this article, when recorded culture established new standards and the ‘culture industry’ integrated further, clustering around sound film and radio as the two dominant mass media. Subsequently, popular culture and its producers gained ‘respectability’, which had consequences for its social inclusiveness. The third section looks at the period that witnessed the rise of youth-, sub- and countercultures (1955–1980) and asks how historians have interpreted this development against the backdrop of a ‘mainstream’. The fourth section turns to the decades since, roughly, 1980, when technological and regulatory changes contributed to both an enormous diversity of the global ‘pop’ repertoire and a new, complementary relationship between a shrinking number of increasingly big and multinational entertainment providers and a growing number of nominally independent content producers. Running through this chronology are topics such as class, gender and race relations in popular culture; ‘pop’ as modernity; creative labour; ‘pop’ and politics; and the transfer of culture, often discussed as ‘cultural Americanisation’.
Although the review aspires to be as comprehensive as possible, it does not try to present the literature in a ‘neutral’ way. It contends primarily that popular culture owes its successful introduction into the historical discipline to the way it was conceptualised as a reflection of trends and developments that originated in other social realms, i.e. politics, the economy, demography, mentalities. By approaching popular culture in this way, that is, ‘from the outside in’, historians have synchronised its history with the incisions of major political events (1914, 1918/19, 1933, 1945, 1968), economic trends (1973) or changes in mentalities (e.g., the ‘Zeitgeist’ of the ‘Roaring Twenties’ or ‘Swinging Sixties’). Thus, they made it compatible with key historiographical debates and established narratives of popular resistance, youth rebellion, women’s emancipation, liberalisation, democratisation, Americanisation and ‘cultural revolution’. While this approach furthered the acceptance of the ephemeral phenomenon among historians, it is not without problems. It has often overlooked the intrinsic dynamics of popular culture, faded out numerous aspects worth researching and led to a surprisingly one-sided view that ‘pop’ was, by and large, a force of progress, liberation and equality. To enrich the historiographical agenda with new topics and—most importantly—pay heed to the irreducible intricacies of the ‘small’ phenomenon that make ‘pop’ a factor of social life in its own right, this article stresses the need to study popular culture ‘from the inside out’, starting from its commercial, mediated nature and moving to the particular settings and modes of its reception. It remains to be seen to what kind of ‘bigger picture’ this approach might lead to. Given that the relevance of popular culture in contemporary societies is now established in the discipline, historians have the opportunity to diverge from well-trodden paths, develop new stories and discover how they relate to dominant narratives.
1. Syndicated but Live: The Early Years of Contemporary Popular Culture, 1880–1930
Popular culture as working-class leisure
Contemporary popular culture attracted growing interest among historians in the second half of the 1970s and was studied first with a view to its role in class relations. In Britain, the study of working-class leisure could latch onto a tradition of social history as ‘history from below’, exemplified by E. P. Thompson’s ground-breaking book on the ‘making’ of the English working class. In the wake of Thompson’s study, some of the early research on leisure concentrated on the period of the Industrial Revolution and its aftermath and followed the development of traditional pastimes. Subsequently, the temporal focus shifted to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and to spectator sports, gambling and the music hall.
An early intervention in this emerging research field was made by Gareth Stedman Jones in an article that interpreted popular amusements with respect to their effect on class politics. He found that the music hall remained working-class in character despite middle-class attempts to control it, and argued that this form of entertainment played an important part in the ‘remaking’ of a working class in late nineteenth century Britain. He described this class as politically acquiescent and socially conservative, pointing to workers’ stubborn indulgence in commercial culture as one important explanation. With their work-based and politically potent sociability in decline, Stedman Jones argued, London workers’ appetite for radicalism was sedated by music hall ditties. In conclusion, he called late nineteenth-century working-class culture ‘a culture of consolation’.
Stedman Jones’s article must be read against the question of why there was no workers’ revolution in nineteenth-century Britain, a question that informed much British social history at the time. His answer distinguished sharply between politics and leisure. Subsequently, this distinction was gradually blurred as historians gave up the overthrow of industrial capitalism as a criterion for meaningful working-class activism. They turned from Marx to Gramsci and widened their concept of politics to include ‘tactics’ that subverted ‘cultural hegemony’ in social arenas outside formal politics. A range of social histories of sports, the music hall, gambling, seaside holidays, popular music and other forms of entertainment now amassed evidence that the working class retained a considerable degree of autonomy, agency and collective assertiveness within the expanding realm of leisure.
This line of argument can also be found in the early historiography on turn-of-the-century popular culture in Germany, which had a later and more difficult start than leisure history in Britain. From the more marginal position claimed by ‘Alltagsgeschichte’ (history of everyday life) and ‘Volkskunde’ (in this case, a historically-minded ethnography) since the early 1980s, West German researchers of popular culture have been less concerned than their British counterparts with the Marxist debate about a working-class revolution, and adopted earlier a wider definition of politics. In comparison with the British pioneers of leisure studies, West German historians also found less resonance with their disciplinary peers when they tried to establish popular culture as a research topic. Whereas by the 1980s social histories of Victorian and Edwardian Britain were likely to contain a chapter on working-class leisure, the topic was conspicuously absent from German histories of society, which had not been impressed by Thompsonian ‘history from below’. In Britain, popular culture was an obvious topic for social historians in search of workers’ experience, but in West Germany, it remained on the fringes of the discipline until it found traction with an emerging cultural history.
Irrespective of sub-disciplinary labels, the narrative that emerged from early social-historical studies of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century leisure in both countries featured working-class people, mostly men, indulging in pursuits that became the target of middle-class social reformers, state regulators and the police. Against attempts to promote ‘rational recreations’ and establish ‘social control’, workers cleverly evaded coercion and appropriated to their own needs the leisure provisions offered by philanthropic sponsors. This story of working-class subversion of middle-class control often drew on source material created by the regulators and reformers decrying the moral degeneracy of the ‘lower orders’. These sources framed popular entertainment as a conflict between prejudice and obstinacy along the class divide, and thus supported the ‘resistance’ narrative. Subsequently, commercial entertainment was interpreted as a means through which ‘the people’ retained autonomy. Not only was it regarded as an alternative that allowed workers to decline middle-class offers of ‘rational recreation’. It was also thought that its suppliers were forced to accommodate workers as paying customers.
Popular culture as a catalyst for modernity
The assumption that the suppliers of commercial amusements, dependent on mass sales, catered to pre-existing needs of working-class audiences provided the foundation for studies that interpreted popular culture as manifesting values, norms and beliefs widely shared among its recipients. Such cultural histories of popular culture gained prominence in the 1980s and 1990s and still form a major strand of research on the topic. In a conceptual article published in 1992, American cultural historian Lawrence Levine explained the underlying theory of this approach. Coining a new term, he labelled commercial culture ‘the folklore of industrial society’ and identified it as a manifestation of the mind-set of people who do not write books or fill newspaper columns, but rather, appropriate the texts, images and sounds supplied to them by the producers of mass culture. In describing popular culture as ‘folklore’, Levine reversed the arrow of cause and effect that Stedman Jones had drawn in his depiction of entertainment operators manipulating a self-defeating working-class. Instead, Levine suggested that it was the consumers who guided the suppliers of culture, through what may be called choice and voice.
On the one hand, the concept of ‘industrial folklore’ was still compatible with the ‘resistance narrative’ that had emerged out of social histories of nineteenth-century leisure. Cultural historians were able to continue studying how ordinary, socially marginalised consumers used popular culture to their own ends, sometimes wrestling commercial entertainment out of the hands of capitalist suppliers in the process. On the other hand, the interpretation of contemporary culture as folklore privileged semiotic analysis, very much in line with the ‘cultural’ and ‘linguistic’ turns that shaped the historiographical debate more widely in the 1980s and 1990s. The method of textual analysis not only promised to be more appropriate for studying a culture that, since the turn of the century, was increasingly distributed by technological media such as film, phonograph records and, a bit later, radio. The focus on texts, images, symbols and rituals also seemed better suited for the study of popular cultural phenomena that attracted audiences too heterogeneous to be described as working-class. Textual analysis thus enabled cultural historians to address major shortcomings of social histories of leisure, namely their preoccupation with the nineteenth century and their neglect of social identities other than class.
‘Modernity’ lent itself as an alternative paradigm for studies of turn-of-the-century popular culture. As a result, commercial entertainment was studied as a site, medium, laboratory, catalyst or contested field of modern traits and tendencies. While being conceptualised as a kind of ‘folklore’, contemporary popular culture was also regarded as a quintessentially new phenomenon that separated the nineteenth-century world of industrial production and class struggle from the more liberal-democratic consumer societies of the twentieth century.
In West Germany, the historian who was most influential in shifting the interpretative framework from class to modernity is Kaspar Maase, a pioneer in the historical study of popular culture whose rich and diverse work spans the whole of the twentieth century. Maase identifies the second half of the nineteenth century as the take-off period for a ‘mass culture’, whose particular modern trait is its appeal to members of all classes. In view of its wide social and geographical reach, its near simultaneous reception across space and—not least—its highly immersive quality, film is the first ‘mass art’ in the full meaning of the term for Maase. While he does not deny that social distinctions were maintained to some degree in the engagement with cheap literature, spectator sport, social dancing and other amusements, Maase’s primary interest is to show how ‘mass culture’ extended the horizon of ‘ordinary’ people, appealed to higher-class patrons and became the consensual culture of contemporary Western societies. The particular aesthetic experience of popular culture, which he frames as sensual, bodily and intense without requiring specific concentration—think of a rollercoaster ride, for example—represents a major area that Maase set out to explore.
Compared with social histories of leisure, Maase’s work is rather more positive about the levelling effect of ‘mass culture’, which he closely aligns with the democratisation of Western societies. He does not ignore that ‘cheap thrills’ were criticized and condemned, often in hysterical fashion. Quite the contrary, part of his research is centrally concerned with such reactions. Nevertheless, he proposes that popular culture in the twenty years before the First World War ‘can be understood primarily as a field of behaviour that fostered experiences of approximation and convergence among the mass of people enjoying it’. He argues that popular culture attracted less opposition before 1914 than during the Weimar Republic, when the war and subsequent economic crisis had eroded the trust that was necessary to bear an irreverent culture that mocked core values. To some extent, Maase grounds his optimism about the democratic potential of ‘pop’ on the assumption that commercial culture inevitably caters to consumers’ needs. Similar to Levine, Maase proposes that under the conditions of the market, the supply of popular culture is ultimately guided by ‘what the people want’. Accordingly, producers with a ‘nose’ for a volatile demand and without inhibitions to please the multitude were spurred by competition to increase the appeal of their offerings to a mass audience. In turn, this made ‘rational recreations’ and similar attempts to patronise the people fall by the wayside. Maase understands the consumption of commercial popular culture as a societal debate about values and norms, a debate about which literate critics wrote newspaper articles, whereas the masses voted with their feet. This liberal-democratic model of popular culture as an alternative public sphere, based on the neo-classical notion of a transparent, demand-led market, gave popular culture political relevance and thus helped to establish ‘pop’ as a viable research topic. It still underpins much historical research on popular culture.
Apart from democratisation and aesthetic experience, research on popular culture as a factor of modernisation has linked it to the rapid urbanisation of the late nineteenth century. Much more than just a precondition for the rise of commercial amusements, the metropolis is often regarded in its own right as a driving factor for their breakthrough, as exemplified by Peter Jelavich’s pioneering study Berlin Cabaret. Drawing on Georg Simmel’s contemporary conception of the metropolitan mentality, Jelavich explains the emergence of the cabaret as a response to city dwellers’ new psychological disposition. With their nerves strained from intense stimulation, metropolitans developed a blasé attitude that masked their craving for ever newer, greater thrills to gain momentary satisfaction. Having turned to variety theatre first, metropolitans demanded something more ‘tasteful’, yet equally ‘catchy’. Thus, cabaret emerged as the solution to social-psychological needs.
Berlin Cabaret deserves mention here also because of the way it connects popular culture with political history. While Maase and Levine invest commercial culture with democratic potential, Jelavich approaches texts and images as manifestations of political culture. In the second part of his book, the political development of the Weimar Republic and the rise of National Socialism replace the metropolitan mentality as the driving forces. Chapters in that section are synchronised with the three phases in the established chronology of the Weimar Republic (foundation and post-war crisis until inflation; relative stability; decline and fall), and much of the discussion revolves around the inability of cabarets to effectively criticise or even foresee the Nazi threat. Entertainment mirrors politics, as when, around 1930, the kick lines of the girl revues ominously symbolise ‘an underlying sense of economic and military order that demanded the dissolution of all personality and the dismemberment of the person.’ The way in which the narrative is linked to political history demonstrates the use of cultural histories to illustrate stories of undisputed relevance. This adaptability certainly furthered ‘pop’s’ acceptance in a discipline preoccupied with politics. However, the invocation of mentality and political culture as driving forces may also indicate that such cultural histories are ultimately derivative, as they gain their momentum from external stimuli and are mounted on established narratives.
Modernity also plays a central role for the more recent research of a group of historians around Tobias Becker, Daniel Morat and Paul Nolte who studied metropolitan amusements in Berlin between approximately 1880 and 1930. Their research project looked at commercial entertainment, such as theatre, social dancing, amusement parks and popular music, as media and catalysts for an ‘inner urbanisation’. According to this perspective, popular culture served metropolitans as a site for experiencing the tempo and diversity of modernity and experimenting with new roles and identities in order to adapt to their fast-changing environment. Metropolitan amusements thus mirrored, but also shaped, the modern experience.
A result from this project as well as a joint research initiative on the popular stage in Berlin and London is Tobias Becker’s Inszenierte Moderne, which focuses on the role of popular theatre in the process of ‘inner modernisation’. The book comprehensively covers its subject from the structure of its economy and the regulatory framework for representations of dramatic texts on stage to the practices of theatre entrepreneurs and audiences. It brings the better-researched British case into conversation with the German experience and shows convincingly that Berlin’s popular theatre resembled its counterpart in London’s West End in most aspects up until the early 1930s, when the commercial stage in Germany succumbed to the triple impact of the Weimar state’s one-sided support of ‘art’ theatre, Black Friday and the National-Socialist takeover of government.
A major achievement of Becker’s study is that it brings into view the multiple transfer of productions and performers, the translation of dramatic texts and the transnational networks of theatrical entrepreneurs. The mutual exchange of culture along the axis between Berlin and London is explored in further detail and from multiple angles in an anthology edited by Becker in collaboration with Len Platt and David Linton. The book resulted from the project West End and Friedrichstraße on the history of the popular musical theatre in the two capital cities during the long turn of the century. Contributions to the volume delineate the legal and economic conditions of the trade in musical plays between London and Berlin (while not forgetting the connections to Paris and New York!), look at the local contexts of performance and adaptation, highlight the contribution of actors on stage and behind it, trace the translation of plays, and assess the role of this quintessential modern form of theatre in the formation of national and cosmopolitan identities.
All in all, the studies of the Berlin project pay far greater attention to the production of culture than did earlier cultural histories on the topic, at least with respect to Germany. They also locate popular entertainment in specific urban settings, which brings the reader closer to audiences and promises a better understanding of their experience. Yet these studies also seem hampered by a concept of culture that regards it as something emanating from people’s needs. Becker, who in his monograph subscribes to Levine’s ‘industrial folklore’ theory, devotes a whole chapter to the theatre business. But this chapter comes at the end of the book, making the business aspect seem more like an add-on than a driving element of the story. Very little agency is attributed to impresarios, for example, who are characterised as ‘hardnosed’ businessmen with an infallible sense for upcoming trends (the very impression these men tried to create!). Reduced to caterers to a given demand, they allegedly supplied metropolitans with the modern myths they craved. In this way, ‘modernity’ appears not so much an effect of cumulative actions than the underlying cause of what happened in and around the popular theatre.
Likewise, the concept of culture that informs the research on metropolitan amusements offers little for deepening analysis of the social relations among participating audiences. Instead, the case studies of the Berlin project both confirm the thesis that commercial entertainment had a levelling effect, and also acknowledge that new, more subtle distinctions were being established in this social realm. How far the ‘levelling’ actually went and what kinds of distinctions were established in popular entertainment are questions that have been addressed from a different perspective and with greater yield in American studies on social interaction.
Winking, treating, slumming: the study of interaction in popular entertainment
Bearing in mind the treatment of producers and social relations among audience members, it is instructive to compare the more recent German cultural histories of metropolitan amusements with the work of Peter Bailey, a pioneer in the social history of leisure whose perspective shifted from class struggle to performance as he moved his academic home from Britain to Canada. Bailey describes this intellectual trajectory in a personal (and characteristically entertaining) fashion in the introduction to his Popular Culture and Performance in the Victorian City, a collection of some of his major publications from 1977 to 1996. Substituting Gramsci with Goffman for his major conceptual inspiration, extending his research from the music hall repertoire to the music-hall business and considering social identities beyond class, Bailey arrives at nuanced and original analyses of both the suppliers and the consumers of this culture. For example, in his chapter on ‘business and good fellowship in the London music hall’, he describes the hall’s proprietors as self-made men who rose into the commercial middle class as they controlled expanding ‘Empires’. Yet he also stresses that these men retained the beery whiff and the larger-than-life personality of the publican, because ‘good fellowship’ was an essential part of the modus operandi of these red- rather than hard-nosed operators. The chapter on ‘music hall and the knowingness of popular culture’ offers an equally down-to-earth characterisation of working-class spectators. Whereas older social histories had depicted them engaged in a struggle for cultural hegemony, Bailey describes them as a shifty lot, competent enough to make sure that the laugh was not on them, but hardly inclined toward ‘symbolic resistance’, let alone in need of ‘consolation’. Bailey agrees with the aforementioned studies of metropolitan culture that music hall audiences adapted to the challenges of city life. In contrast to them, however, he portrays this adaption not as a mental transformation, but rather as a more opportunistic, outer-directed ‘muddling through’. His short-sighted, incoherent and utilitarian music hall patrons did not so much negotiate values as they did situations. They were not immersed in culture, but drew from its scripts strategically.
Research such as Bailey’s breaks down the rather grand notions of ‘class’ and ‘modernity’, thus offering an important corrective. At the same time, it does not preclude or even suggest more wide-ranging interpretations of popular culture. Indeed, it describes case by case how contemporaries forged social relations in popular culture up from the ground of situated practices and rationales.
Turning, as has Bailey, to performance, self-conduct, situations and settings, a number of American studies explore interaction in urban amusement spaces around 1900 with a view to relations of class, gender, race and sexuality. Early signs of this approach can be detected in Kathy Peiss’s Cheap Amusements, a pioneering book on working women’s participation in commercial leisure in turn-of-the-century New York, which draws mainly from the reports of moral reform groups such as the Committee of Fourteen, which saw the new entertainments as a seduction to vice and immorality. Setting out with concepts from British Cultural Studies, the work turns Goffmanian by the time it reaches the chapter on dance halls. Peiss’s most important finding is the identification of ‘treating’ as a key social mechanism whereby working women, who ceded a good part of their income to their families and thus depended on men to pay for their participation in ‘cheap’ amusements, accepted the generosity of male suitors, knowing that they were expected to provide a sexual favour in return. On the one hand, the offer of a ‘treat’ confirmed the attractiveness of a woman to members of the opposite sex, making it a status marker within her female peer group. On the other hand, young women had to be careful to avoid the impression that they had prostituted themselves, as this would have led to their social exclusion. Exploring the ‘treating’ exchange, Peiss’s study shows that commercial entertainment, which working women had not asked for but felt compelled to take part in, did not so much liberate them from traditional constraints as substitute new social obligations for older ones.
Tensions between working-class men and women on and around dance floors from the 1890s to the 1930s are further explored in Randy McBee’s Dance Hall Days, a book that utilises both the concepts and the sources of the then-nascent ‘Chicago School’ of sociology, in combination with reports of moral reform societies and oral histories. The study adds to Peiss’s work by focusing on the male perspective. Since women were keener dancers, developed strategies to keep male suitors at arm’s length and dominated the dance floor, many working men felt that their leisure spaces had been invaded and their male sociability disturbed. Thus, men demonstratively withdrew from polite engagement with women and instead chose to perform their manliness in front of their male peers, through drinking, chewing tobacco, smoking, swearing and generally being stroppy in ways reminiscent of latter-day Teddy Boys. With respect to their ethnicity, male cliques in dance halls behaved tribally. They wore similar clothes, laid claim to ‘their’ women and got into fights with other groups, confirming McBee’s contention that ‘class, ethnicity, and neighborhood affiliation still rigidly divided this new world of commercial leisure’.
While McBee and Peiss studied the ‘cheap amusements’ of working men and women, Chad Heap’s Slumming turns to upper- and middle-class participation in the illicit leisure activities of the lower classes and racial and sexual minorities. Like Peiss and McBee, Heap draws on the rich sources of middle-class moral reform societies, and finds further evidence in sociological studies, novels, newspapers, amusement trade publications and local government records. Covering the period from 1885 to 1940 and focusing on New York and Chicago, Heap follows a succession of slumming vogues from ‘adventures’ in the cities’ red-light districts and the ‘Bohemian Thrillage’ to excursions into a ‘”Mysterious Dark World”’ of black entertainment and the ‘”Pansy” and “Lesbian Craze”’. The middle and upper classes engaged with allegedly dangerous amusements in environments that were actually quite safe and often staged for their consumption. A policeman was always nearby, and ‘slum’ operators keenly served their well-heeled clientele the ‘real’ experience. The main motivation of ‘slummers’, says Heap, was to gain sophistication in the varied ways of urban life, i.e. experiential knowledge that could be used to impress peers. In addition, ‘slumming’ had an immediate social value for the seekers of illicit pleasure. On site and in action, mutual relationships were developed beyond the stricter conventions that applied to other social settings. A backdrop of immorality and danger, for example, gave a young man license to put his protective arm around a female companion. As a homosocial activity, ‘slumming’ furthered neither a levelling nor a mixing of classes, genders or races. Heap argues that it actually had the opposite effect and ‘contributed significantly to the emergence and codification of a new twentieth-century hegemonic social order—one that was structured primarily around an increasingly polarized white/black racial axis and a hetero/homo sexual binary’.
Histories of interaction in urban amusement venues demonstrate how social identities can be analysed at the micro-level, by focussing on settings and behaviour and conceiving of the latter as strategic performances by actors trying to manage the impression they make on relevant others. Thus, they show how historians can put the ‘audiences’ of popular culture centre stage, quite literally. They equip their historic actors with agency, instead of investing them with ‘desires’ or ‘needs’. Apart from conceptual inspiration, these interactionist studies suggest that commercial amusements around 1900 did less for social equality and social mixing than is often claimed. While the aforementioned books confirm that the new commercial popular culture had an integrative effect far beyond working-class men, they also point out that differences of class, gender and race were re-calibrated and oftentimes strengthened in the realm of leisure. Rather than thinking of social boundaries as ‘eroding’ within a common culture, the interactionist approach understands social relations in popular amusements as relations of power that changed only indirectly in response to outside developments and whose balance was tilted in ways specific to these sites. What is more, the studies by Peiss, McBee and Heap identify social mechanisms that regulated these relationships, thus offering a clearer view of the ‘subtle distinctions’ mentioned in the German works previously referenced.
The overall picture of social interaction in popular amusements at the turn of the century is one of complexity, rapid change and great variety. This is not simply an effect of the microscopic interactionist approach creating a more fine-grained image. It is also due to the nature of popular culture itself at this time, which unfolded in public spaces rather than at home through the consumption of entertainment media. The fact that contemporary ‘pop’ was new, situational and a face-to-face affair and that recorded culture played a relatively minor role at that time meant that the behavioural conventions of urban amusements were often unreliable, improvised and ambiguous. While entertainment operators, moral reformers, regulators and the police fought over restrictions and tried out formulas, crowds met in a fast-changing environment with little guidance for self-conduct. It is therefore neither the defiant worker nor the carefree dancing couple who best represents popular amusements at the turn of the century, but rather the strategic impostor (male or female) who skilfully navigated the shifting grounds.
Outsiders opting in: historical studies of cultural production
The con artists among the amusement revellers had their counterparts in the wheeler-dealers and go-getters who built the new entertainment industry and rose with it in social status and economic prosperity. As said, these people have received relatively little attention in studies that trust ‘the market’ to satisfy popular demand and empower the consumer as the ‘real’ producer, or that see larger social trends, such as ‘modernity’, as propelling the development of commercial culture around 1900. However, some studies, particularly within the field of American history, have focused on those involved in the creation and dissemination of content.
An important book in this context is David Suisman’s Selling Sounds, which tells the story of the formative period of American music between 1890 and 1930. Reflecting on the beginnings of the US music industry against the current backdrop of commercial music’s ubiquity, Suisman states explicitly that ‘the creation of modern musical culture was not a consumer-driven phenomenon’. He thus concentrates on the motley crew of entrepreneurs, inventors, manufacturers, publishers, sales agents, advertisers, critics, retailers, educators and lawmakers, all of whom played a role in shaping the American music business and, by extension, its songs and sounds. Suisman’s book sets the scene by introducing the brothers Witmark, three teenagers who started their sheet music business in 1886 with a small printing press won in a school competition and who became, in the subsequent two decades, the leading publishers of vaudeville songs. In the twenty to thirty years around 1900, the Witmarks were no exception in the American entertainment business, which was dominated by young upstarts who often had a background of recent immigration and poverty. Peddling songs was a less-than-respectable way to earn a living, and so the entry barrier to this branch of the entertainment trade was low. Suisman describes how these marginal entrepreneurs established a music business whose success owed mainly to the integration of song-writing, the promotion of tunes on the stages of the emerging vaudeville circuits, and the retailing of sheet music in the new dime stores. He also looks at recorded sound, showing how marketing, retailing and technological advances contributed to transforming phonograph records from a fairground attraction into a legitimate music medium, thus elevating tinkerers like Thomas Edison into purveyors of culture.
Focusing on music producers who sought to attain often short-term goals and were oblivious to longer-term consequences of their actions, Suisman highlights and explores the impact of technology and intellectual property rights in particular on the development of commercial popular music. This allows him to identify turning points in the early history of contemporary popular culture and demarcate his period of study sharply from earlier eras in which popular culture could still be called ‘folklore’. While he distinguishes the modern music business from the music-making of earlier periods, his portrayal is free from the conveyor-belt associations that the term ‘culture industry’ evokes. Instead, the music ‘industry’ becomes apparent as a conglomerate of projects and improvised moves, the analysis of which requires localised research focused on the motivations, skills and working conditions of contemporary actors. Suisman offers such an analysis, while integrating his findings into a larger narrative of the modern transformation of the musical soundscape in turn-of-the-century America. He is fortunate to be able to draw from the relatively rich business archives of record companies and music publishers and to build on previous research on the subject. The business of popular music in the United States has been taken seriously since the early twentieth century, and thus records were collected and kept and key players routinely covered by journalists, providing source material for historians that is much richer than that available in Germany.
In the study of American popular culture, race represents a prominent topic, owing both to its importance in American historiography more generally and to the presence of African American performers, composers and authors in US popular culture in particular. Concerning this aspect of popular culture, the dominant interpretation can be described as ‘love and theft’: White people, in search of sensual release and confirmation of their often unstable racial superiority, indulged in the illicit amusements of black people. Exploiting black culture for their own interests, not least for commercial benefit, whites disowned the true originators of this culture.
Two recent books that approach popular music from a production angle propose a different interpretation. David Gilbert’s Product of our Souls focuses on black musicians in turn-of-the-century New York, asking how these men both made professional careers in music and infused popular music with ‘black’ styles. In his account, ragtime musicians, who initially played for tip money, and composers of ‘coon’ songs for the vaudeville stage, not only faced exclusion and exploitation from an entertainment business dominated by whites, but were also castigated by an African American elite that promoted ‘racial uplift’ through cultural refinement. Facing prejudices from whites and middle-class blacks alike, black popular musicians advanced their social position by enhancing their professional status, which they achieved by turning racist clichés into an asset. Bandleader James Reese Europe, a classically-trained violinist who had worked as a popular musician soon after his arrival in Manhattan, founded the Clef Club in 1910, which helped to find decent jobs for many African American musicians. Crucially, the Clef Club required members not only to be well turned-out and on time for society gigs, but also to pretend that they played even the latest Broadway show tune by ear, even though many Clef Clubbers were in fact avid sight-readers. Claiming that the music its members played was ‘the product of their souls’, the Clef Club made it common knowledge that black musicians were superior performers of the popular styles of the 1910s and 1920s. By accommodating the presumed stereotypical expectations of white dancers, black musicians traded versatility and formal musical training for the financial rewards that ‘authenticity’ offered. Reinforcing the cliché that ‘black’ music is rooted in deprivation and emanates from the body, they managed in this instance to play the racist system to their own advantage.
Gilbert does not portray African American musicians as unconscious carriers of a black culture. His protagonists did not express their racial identity through the performance of authentic music of ‘their people’. Instead, the black performers who ‘made it’ in Manhattan’s musical marketplace were men who successfully cornered a market by branding their service as ‘authentic’. Rather than showing defiance through culture, they were outsiders opting in. For them, work in the emerging entertainment industry was a means of escaping the drudgery of hard, menial labour for a better life in the city.
This view of African American musicians raises the issue of the essence of black culture, which is addressed in Karl Miller’s Segregating Sound, a very important study of the fabrication of folk and popular music in America around 1900. Miller begins his analysis in the American South and shows that the repertoire of local musicians had long been permeated by songs popularised by New York publishers. Southern musicians were highly versatile also because they played at all sorts of events, from weddings to funerals, as well as to diverse audiences, requiring them to adapt to a great variety of performance settings. Against that backdrop, stylistic specialisation becomes apparent as an anomaly for professional musicians. However, if those same musicians followed the lure of the music business and migrated to the urban centres in the North, or met field recording teams sent to their region in the 1920s by record companies, they found that they were required exclusively to perform a single, ‘Southern’ style—either blues or what came to be called first ‘hillbilly’ and, later, ‘country’. The reason was that, in the 1910s, American record firms had begun to match ethnically defined music with respective audiences. They had developed this marketing strategy a few years earlier, when they had tried to sell gramophones and records around the world and found that ‘local’ audiences were more responsive to ‘their’ sounds than to renditions of European classical music, which the firms had initially tried to sell. Record manufacturers applied this insight from the global to the domestic market, targeting ethnically defined consumer groups with recordings of ‘their’ music. By segmenting the market in this way, they were dividing up a fluid, heterogeneous musical culture into stable, generic sounds. This led to the invention of ‘race’ and ‘old time’ music from elements which were inextricably mixed in ‘grassroots’ music-making but segregated along the colour line into black folk and white hillbilly pop.
Segregating Sound shows how the ‘folkloric paradigm’ was taken up by popular music entrepreneurs to meet anticipated consumer demand. Miller proposes that pop-cultural identity, which has become powerful and fiercely contested in the course of the twentieth century, was not so much ‘rooted’ in collective experience as fixed as a result of marketing decisions. This argument turns the dominant narrative of ‘pop’s’ evolution around: Whereas that story begins with the pure expression of an untainted and already distinct subculture and ends with its dilution in a commercial ‘mainstream’, Miller’s account starts with music-making outside the confines of the industry, where it resembled a ‘primordial soup’ of creativity, and follows it to the point where it becomes filtered, purified, stabilised and labelled to be sold as a particular flavour. Miller’s interpretation makes apparent that commercialisation was not simply a force for cultural homogenisation but also a driver of stylistic differentiation. Commercialisation did not cut music’s ‘roots’ and make it superficial; rather, it often charged sounds with ethnic identity in the first place. Thus, the trajectory does not lead from diversity to homogenisation, from distinctiveness to compromise or from depth to shallowness, but from fluidity to institutional fixedness. In this way, Segregating Sound suggests a new ‘bigger picture’ of twentieth-century popular culture, one in which ‘pop’ becomes visible as an influential factor that contributed to the differentiation of contemporary societies into distinct cultural identities.
The production of audiences and emotions
Another example that shows the potential of a production approach is Rick Altman’s Silent Film Sound. This canonical book staked out a new field of research and has subsequently inspired similar work on European cinema before the sound era. Altman starts from the critique of what he considers the received wisdom of film studies: that silent film was a medium that poorly compensated for a lack of sound with haphazard piano-tinkling, wainting for the arrival of sound technology to fulfil its true potential. In discarding this teleological view, Altman opens up the silent era and shows it to be a period in which movie technology was deployed in surprising ways, leading to solutions that were far from obvious or inevitable. Altman regards film screenings as performances and embeds their evolution into a larger history of entertainment. He concentrates on film producers, exhibitors and musicians as well as vaudeville directors, music publishers and trade press columnists to tell the story of how film evolved from a cheap closing act in variety theatres into an entertainment medium in its own right. In this process, the makers and exhibitors of films borrowed from existing models of showmanship, ranging from lectures to noisy ballyhoo. At the same time, Altman shows how these entertainment formats shaped an emerging film aesthetic.
As part of his intricate account of silent film’s history, Altman offers findings that are relevant to historians’ wider interest in the experience of the audience, an issue that is often named as a desideratum and notoriously difficult to address. Altman points to strategies of film producers and exhibitors who, from the mid-1910s, tried to direct the attention of their hitherto unruly costumers to the goings-on on the screen. Before that time, film screenings were not unlike vaudeville acts in the way that they addressed the auditorium, presenting images as well as sounds that were devised to invite spectators’ participation, often by playing one faction of the audience against the other. But from the mid-teens, immersive fiction replaced the practice of directly addressing the audience, in effect turning audible spectators into silent voyeurs. This silencing of the audience was achieved by creating film narratives that unfolded ‘as if nobody were watching’. Musicians and noise-makers were banished from cinema-goers’ view. Film companies and cinema proprietors trained musicians not to ‘kid’ the film image by choosing songs that countered the visual plot, supplying them instead with musical selections that matched the respective mood of a movie scene. Catalogues of classical music (which had the additional benefit of being out of copyright) were mined for suitable material, to be arranged and cut to fit the size of ensembles and length of scenes. Pop songs, which had been an attraction in their own right in earlier film shows, were replaced with music that had no lyrics, which deliberately discouraged spectator participation. Music was written to accompany film, with the result that image and sound became synchronised. This, in turn, enhanced the receptive experience of cinema-goers, as it allowed for the kind of silent immersion that present-day spectators are familiar with. Aligning sound and vision in this way, film became the medium that reliably provokes emotions in individual spectators, who—alone together—experience goose-bumps and shed tears in the darkened auditorium.
The study of audience experience poses huge challenges to the historian. This is not simply because testimonials of audience members are rare, but also because such evidence, when available, comes with its own problems, ranging from the pragmatics of its creation to its representativeness. Since historians have no way to enter the heads of recipients, Altman’s approach of encircling the situation of reception by describing as densely as possible the performance of the film screening offers a promising perspective on audience experience. The approach of studying past experience via situational circumstances rather than through an analysis that regards texts as a mirror of values, beliefs or needs is likely to provoke the criticism that spectators are rendered passive dupes. Thus, a careful assessment of the relationship between the suppliers of content and their audiences is needed, and Altman provides it. On the one hand, Silent Film Sound makes evident that the creators of film performances did not oversee the contingent consequences of their actions, let alone control their audiences. On the other hand, Altman states explicitly that spectators were ‘the least self-conscious of all groups interested in film’. He qualifies their agency as a response to decisions made by content suppliers, who changed the setting of reception from a stage delivery to a screening of pre-recorded images.
2. The New Respectability of Recorded Content: Culture for the Masses, 1930–1955
Much of the new commercial popular culture established in the West in the four to five decades before 1930 involved the co-presence of performers and audiences in physical spaces from theatres to amusement parks. Performed and consumed on site and in unscripted situations, popular culture allowed and even encouraged spectators’ participation. Recipients who were able to improvise were most likely to benefit from the instability of conventions in entertainment venues. Producers who could think on their feet could pass over relatively low-entry barriers and establish themselves in a business that required relatively little investment and was still some way from being respectable. To be sure, there were attempts to streamline and sanitise entertainment and to discipline audiences in an increasingly syndicated and integrated industry. Yet the inherent ‘live’ character of that period’s popular culture prevented such initiatives from being fully successful. Variety theatre, arguably the most important site for commercial popular culture around 1900, is a case in point.
The main feature that distinguishes mass culture from the popular culture of the previous decades is recorded content, which began to set the standard, shape expectations and, in turn, contribute to making popular culture ‘respectable’. ‘Live’ entertainment certainly did not disappear. But radio and sound film quickly became the primary media of popular culture. The history of this transformation and its far-reaching consequences has been studied by historians from various angles and with different results.
Media histories of mass culture
The economic and technological changes that led to the rise of mass culture around 1930 make it an important subject of research for media historians. They became increasingly interested in this period at the turn of the twenty-first century, not least because they noticed the parallels between contemporary developments in the media industry and past trends of concentration and cross-media integration. Topics such as the transition to the ‘talkies’, the advance of broadcasting, the rise of advertising and the restructuring of the music business have been studied with the focus on the changing political economy of media production, but also with respect to media programming.
While there is still groundwork to be done, the last ten years or so have also seen studies that try to assess the social, cultural and political influences of mass culture more widely, in an attempt to make media history meaningful to ‘mainstream’ historiography. A German example of this line of work is Corey Ross’s Media and the Making of Modern Germany, which traces the history of mass communication from the Empire to the Third Reich. The book draws from a wide range of research on the press, cinema, radio and advertising, and supplements it with original work on the often neglected record industry. Media entertainment under National Socialist rule forms an important part of the study. Starting from the question of how the National Socialists used the media to integrate the German people into a ‘Volksgemeinschaft’, Ross notices that the regime gave up attempts to indoctrinate the people soon after Hitler’s takeover of government. To be sure, the Nazi rulers brought media organisations under their control and ended the careers of ‘unwanted’ producers, most importantly those whom they excluded and persecuted as Jews.
Yet they gave film companies, advertising agencies and music firms remarkable leeway to produce content that was primarily entertaining and quite often modelled on American examples. As Ross argues, the regime realised that in order to create a ‘people’s community’, it had first to ‘give the people what they wanted’. As a consequence, the Nazis helped to promote a ‘middlebrow’ entertainment culture that addressed all Aryan members of society, inviting them to identify with film stars or sing along with the studio audience of popular radio programmes. Thus ‘the commercial culture under the Nazis neither seduced Germans through the charms of manipulative indoctrination nor (…) demobilized them into a mass of apathetic consumers, but rather invited mass participation within a socially expansive yet politically circumscribed culture of entertainment.’ Ross notices that social differences prevailed among the audience, but also stresses that the Nazis were relatively successful in using mass culture to integrate Germans into a national community. This development, however, was less the result of deliberate political planning than a side effect of media trends that were unfolding across the industrialised world anyway.
Ross’s point that propaganda and manipulation are not suitable categories for understanding popular culture and mass communication in the Third Reich is now widely reflected in the historiography, as is his designation of changes in the entertainment sector as modernisation and the reception of popular culture as consumption. His aim of linking media studies with ‘mainstream’ historiography in order to write a history of society that includes the media is highly commendable. However, his particular blend of those historiographies contains a far greater share of ‘mainstream’ interpretations than of media analysis. As a consequence, Media and the Making fades out the intrinsic dynamics of media production and adds surprisingly little to our understanding of media audiences, given that Ross addresses their neglect as a major desideratum. As do so many other historians of popular culture, he conceives of mass communication as a dialogue between ‘needs’ and profit-interest via a transparent market. Thus, he subscribes to the idea of the media consumer as a ‘voter’, a concept that has been criticised as a ‘marketing myth’ that owes its birth to the audience research and liberal economists of the 1930s and 1940s.
A study that looks behind this myth and its function in the American film industry during the 1930s and 1940s is Susan Ohmer’s George Gallup in Hollywood. Having correctly predicted Franklin Roosevelt’s election victory in 1936, Gallup promised to be able to tell politicians and businesses alike what the American people wanted even before they cast their votes or opened their wallets. Building on his enormous reputation, the nation’s leading pollster offered his services to film producers, ostensibly keen to know about public opinion before sinking large amounts of money into making movies. But Gallup initially met with little interest in Hollywood. Especially the ‘moguls’ who headed the big studios preferred to rely on their intuition. Gallup’s film research division, the Audience Research Institute (ARI), was eventually hired by firms and producers who occupied a more marginal position in the industry and saw in market research a means to navigate their companies through crises. In the case of RKO, a ‘small major’ company that had gone bankrupt in the mid-1930s, the contract with the famous pollster served to signal its employees and the film industry that it was determined to get out of the doldrums. The actual data and recommendations supplied by ARI were, however, largely ignored by the studio, mainly because they were at odds with the professional expertise of filmmakers. In another example, producer David Selznick used Gallup’s estimates of the potential audience for Gone with the Wind (1940) as leverage to negotiate favourable terms with his distributor. As in the case of RKO, however, Selznick did not heed ARI’s findings when it came to producing films. Fully aware of how much a poll’s questions shaped its results, he instead micromanaged the formulation of questionnaires in order to make the polling results fit his objectives. Finally, Walt Disney used opinion polls to calculate ‘enjoyment ratings’ for each of his company’s animation projects. In this way, the studio boss deployed quantitative data to evaluate the productivity of each animation unit and generate competition between them. The quantification of enjoyment allowed Disney to withdraw from the day-to-day management of his firm, but also stirred discontent among his creative personnel, who felt that the balance of power within the company had shifted from them to the ‘suits’ in marketing.
Ohmer shows that, far from offering Hollywood producers objective insights into demand, audience research was used selectively by clients who sought evidence for things they already knew and to support projects they pursued in the face of resistance from other decision makers. Her book shows the film industry to be a motley crew of producers, scrambling to reach conflicting goals. Earning money was, of course, a major objective, but so was achieving an aesthetic vision, a standard of craftsmanship and reputation. Seemingly objective data was biased, as Ohmer demonstrates, subject to endless interpretation or conveniently ignored. For instance, Gallup found in the early 1940s that a third of cinema tickets were bought by people below twenty years of age. But it took another fifteen years and the impact of television before the film industry ‘discovered’ the teenage market.
George Gallup in Hollywood shows that public opinion is an enigma, both produced and productive, even though its constructedness is evident to everyone involved. It confirms what sociologists have written about the ‘disjunction’ between producers and audiences, the non-transparency of markets and the ‘nobody knows property’ of content production. Furthermore, it resonates with research on the ‘scientisation of the social’ (Lutz Raphael), which points to the far-reaching implications of social scientific knowledge for the organisations that govern and service society as well as for the life-world of ordinary people. While these insights have made inroads into ‘mainstream’ history, they have not yet permeated research on popular culture. Preoccupied with ‘active’ recipients, this research does not recognize that content providers often justify their decisions on the basis of made-up, ‘institutionally effective’ audiences.
Social inclusion and exclusion in mass culture
Histories of mass culture in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s and in Britain in the era of the two world wars are centrally concerned with the relationship between popular culture and politics. The consensus appears to be that, in Germany, commercial popular culture proved compatible with a racist dictatorship, whereas in Britain, it functioned as ‘a culture for democracy’.
Among the historians who propose the ‘culture for democracy’ argument is James Nott, author of two important books on popular music and dance in Britain during the first half of the twentieth century. A study of music on records and in broadcasting, cinema and dance halls, Music for the People argues that the commercialisation and mass production eroded differences of class and created music that catered to ‘ordinary’ people and their ‘ordinary’, often sentimental tastes. Bound by the demand of the majority and exposed to American influences, popular music contributed to a ‘common culture’ and, in turn, ‘probably (…) helped to promote social cohesion’ and ‘arguably played a part in producing and maintaining the political stability of Britain at a time when it was experiencing great upheaval’.
More recently, Nott published Going to the Palais, a comprehensive social and cultural history of social dancing in Britain from its beginnings after the First World War to the decline of the dance halls in the early 1960s. The study approaches its subject from different interpretative angles, with chapters on gender, race and youth as well as on the long-standing issues of class relationships and the political implications of the pop-cultural phenomenon. The result of this multi-faceted analysis is convincing, insightful and intriguing in many respects, but is not without problems. To begin with, Nott links the rise and fall of the dance hall closely to the disposable income and alleged needs of working-class people. He thereby reduces the contribution of dance hall operators to little more than a response to a customer demand, whereas, in fact, they made risky decisions in contingent situations, and thus they both shaped how people socialised and produced their patrons’ needs. Equally problematic is Nott’s invocation of psychological dispositions, such as the need for escapism, to account for the popular appeal of dancing. Most important, Nott’s argument that the dance halls were intrinsically ‘democratic’ is not fully convincing, not least because similar offerings could be found in Nazi Germany. Clearly, affordable prices, communal spaces and popular appeal do not necessarily go hand in hand with liberal parliamentarism. It seems that ‘democracy’ is not an adequate term to describe the social relations in popular culture in interwar Britain or elsewhere.
Going to the Palais is most convincing (and in that regard it truly is a great book) when it turns to the interactions on the dance floor. In the chapters on romance and intimacy as well as women in the dance hall, Nott shows how dancing in the respectable environs of the ‘palais’ facilitated heterosexual courtship, thus making romantic love a realistic aspiration for ‘ordinary’ people. Demonstrating how dancing and the dance halls allowed working-class men and women to engage in polite courtship, which often preceded romantic relationships and marriage, Nott is in effect explaining the appeal and social function of mass culture with its accessibility, reliable conventions and the increasing respectability of its entertainment. The ‘palais’ offered working-class people the prospect of rewarding heterosexual interaction, while reducing the fear of condescension. Dance halls were ‘grand’ and, at the same time, welcoming and easy to navigate for those with small means. If these observations can be generalised across other realms such as broadcasting, cinema, advertising and tourism, then the main social significance of mass culture may be neither its compatibility with a political system nor its expression of a common mentality, but its offering to ‘ordinary’ people a sense of achievement and a taste of luxury, while at the same time holding the risk of public embarrassment at a minimum. This would confirm Nott’s argument that working-class people were the primary beneficiaries of mass culture. However, their gain was not so much that their concerns and way of life were now prominently featured or acknowledged. Instead, the rewards of mass culture were largely private and personal. This may explain why mass culture was often fondly remembered by those who were young in the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s, regardless of the political regime under which they consumed it.
The stabilisation of conventions and identities in mass culture most probably helped to ease the participation of ‘ordinary’ people. At the same time, it delineated a sharp perimeter, excluding those who did not fit the white, heterosexual images that mass media popularised to normative effect. The very conventionality that opened up mass culture to the majority produced boundaries which kept out those who were perceived as different, affecting both producers and consumers.
This point is brought out by studies that approach popular culture from a queer perspective and contrast the jumble of turn-of-the-century vaudeville and cinema with the more ordered mass culture after 1930. One of these works is Allison McCracken’s Real Men Don’t Sing, which traces the establishment of a heterosexual binary in popular music by focusing on the careers of singers Rudy Vallée and Bing Crosby. Known as ‘crooners’, they both owed their fame and notoriety to their intimate vocal delivery, a way of singing that was markedly distinct from the declamatory style employed on the vaudeville stage. McCracken shows that crooning began well before the era of recording and broadcasting, but the practice became popular in the 1920s with the advent of radio, electric recording, microphones, loudspeakers, amplification systems and sound film. Vallée, the jazz band leader who doubled as singer and saxophone player, rose to prominence in 1928 and became the first star to be ‘made’ by radio. McCracken describes Vallée’s public persona as that of a middle-class collegiate who was polite to women and loved his mother, an image that won him fans of both sexes, largely irrespective of class and age. As Vallée’s popularity increased, journalists, moral reformers and professional singers began to campaign against him and other crooners, framing their style of singing as ‘effeminate’. By the early 1930s, this campaign was so successful that crooning was seen as appealing exclusively to young women, and the manliness of singers like Vallée was questioned. Radio and film, which had initially featured crooners to capitalise on their popularity, wished to avoid being associated with homosexuality. Not wanting to give up on popular male singers entirely, they reframed the crooner as a man whose virility was unquestioned. Enter Crosby, who had the asset of a deep voice, a feature that was highlighted with the introduction of new microphones that boosted lower frequencies. Furthermore, Crosby cultivated the public image of the hard-drinking, rugged playboy, using it to distance himself from the first generation of ‘lightweight’ crooners. Crosby’s ‘straight’ image was strengthened by the down-home songs he was given to record as well as by tough film roles.
The demise of the Vallée style and its substitution with that of Crosby had profound and lasting consequences for gender relations in popular culture, as McCracken concludes. Vocal pitch came to indicate sexual identity, and crooning is now so consistently associated with female fandom that it is hard to imagine that it once had universal appeal. McCracken shows how this tectonic shift in gender relations happened in a five-year period around 1930, convincingly detailing the technological and institutional changes within the entertainment industry that led to this transformation.
Histories of labour in mass culture
Among those factors behind the change that McCracken describes was the self-positioning of singers and sound engineers. Striving for respectability, these professionals had an interest in distancing themselves from the crooning style of Vallée once it was deemed sexually ambiguous; they thus contributed to making Crosby the new model for male pop singers. Extrapolating from the crooner case, the shift of the centre of popular cultural production from the vaudeville stage to sound and film studios devalued the ability to capture the attention of a live audience, which had been the foremost talent of leading variety performers. Instead, it required a skill set compatible with the production of a recorded culture. As a consequence, many of the showmen who thrived on the openness of the live setting and excelled at improvisation felt misplaced in front of the microphone and in a setting that sought and rewarded exactness, preparation and specialisation. The rise of mass culture brought with it a drive for professionalisation in the cultural industries. The implications for the social composition of the creative workforce, as well as for the content produced, were huge and deserve to be explored further by historians of popular culture and of labour.
As mentioned in the first instalment of this review, on sociological perspectives, social scientists in the last twenty years have paid increasing attention to the topic of creative labour. Regarding it as the harbinger of the future of work, they are far less interested in its past. At best, their historical horizon reaches back to the 1960s, and the empirical base on which their occasional historical argument rests is slim. There is little historical research on work in the cultural industries that takes a longer, twentieth-century perspective. Such work could build on studies that approach the topic from a trade union perspective and are thus able to utilise the archival material that these organisations generated. James Kraft’s pioneering book, From Stage to Studio, traces the transformation of the musical labour market under the impact of sound film in the United States. Most recently, popular music researchers John Williamson and Martin Cloonan published a history of the British Musicians’ Union in the twentieth century, shedding light on both musicians’ working lives and their position in the music industries. Their study draws on sources from employers such as the BBC and the Theatrical Managers’ Association as well as the archives of the Musicians’ Union, which were unearthed and deposited at the University of Stirling, thanks to the efforts of popular music scholars. There are also studies that frame creative activity as labour in order to challenge existing genre narratives. Sherrie Tucker’s Swing Shift, for instance, counters the white-male dominated history of swing by highlighting the large presence of all-women bands in the 1940s. She shows that women, both black and white, did not just owe their employment to the absence of drafted male players, but also often had had a career as musicians before the war and adapted to wartime conditions while navigating sexist and racist expectations. The almost complete absence of women from standard accounts of jazz and swing contrasts with their presence in vaudeville histories and suggests that the rise of mass culture produced exclusionary effects. Still other research derives its agenda from popular music studies and seeks to illuminate the origins of phenomena that are generally looked at from a more recent, short-term perspective. For example, Susan Schmidt Horning’s Chasing Sound adds a history of commercial sound recording from its beginnings to the establishment of multi-track recording in the 1960s to a body of literature on studio work written by sociologists, ethnomusicologists and popular music scholars and focused primarily on sound recording since the 1960s. Horning also describes how the making of sound engineering as a profession spanning art, craft and technology favoured white men and their cultural preferences as industry standards, thus further underlining exclusionary tendencies in mass culture.
This brief glance at these examples suggests that research on creative work is largely conducted outside of historiography. For historians, engagement with this topic would open up a new field of research, both for those with an interest in the history of popular culture and for labour historians. Insights into the creation of content as paid work (rather than as cultural response, symbolic expression or artistic statement) would contribute to our understanding of cultural change and processes of social inclusion and exclusion. It would also stimulate new thinking about work more fundamentally, beyond the traditional paradigm of industrial society that continues to influence the resurgent labour historiography.
3. The ‘Mainstream’ and Its Discontents: Youth-, Sub- and Countercultures, 1955–1980
One of the major features of ‘pop’ in the period from the mid-1950s to at least the 1980s is its close association with youth. This does not mean that commercial culture before that time had not served as a site and a resource for young people seeking to socialise, as a number of studies argue. Nor is this to say that mass culture disappeared with the ascendance of youth cultures. What mainly happened was that popular culture aimed at teens and people in their twenties became separated and distinct from the entertainment aimed at families and older generations. So-called ‘mainstream’ culture largely moved indoors, as it found a new homestead in television, while a continuously differentiating and increasingly oppositional youth culture conquered public spaces and captured headlines. Most of the historiography of the popular culture of this period is concerned with this generational separation and its socio-political implications. This has led to a number of interpretations of youth-, sub- and countercultures in society.
The cultural Americanisation of Europe
The history of post-war youth culture in Europe has often been studied with respect to its American origins and transatlantic transfer. For Britain, Adrian Horn’s study on the engagement of British teenagers with American culture focuses on music but also on fashion and venues, such as milk bars occupied by youth, and it offers a useful summary of historiographical arguments. For the (West) German experience, pertinent books by Kaspar Maase and Uta Poiger look at the impact of American youth culture, most importantly rock ‘n’ roll, on 1950s German society in general and on young people in particular. Comparing the two books, Maase’s is more interested in youth’s experience of American culture, whereas Poiger’s focuses primarily on public debates about pop-cultural Americanisation among politicians, journalists and social scientists, which she reads with a view to discovering underlying values. Both authors stress that young Germans appropriated American culture in their own way and to their own ends, and argue that, by doing so, youth challenged the dominant political culture in the Federal Republic to become more liberal and tolerant.
In this way, Maase, Poiger and others who study the cultural Americanisation of post-war Europe make a two-fold argument about cultural transfer and political transformation that requires some disentanglement. I will first focus on the transfer aspect of the argument and will come to the political implications later on. By highlighting the agency of West German consumers of culture and pointing to the particular local circumstances of cultural appropriation, Maase and Poiger refute the thesis that Europeans were overwhelmed or manipulated by all-powerful American media. Though there are subsequent interpretations that tell the story of Europe’s cultural Americanisation as the advance of an ‘irresistible empire’, the view that American imports took on new meanings when appropriated by consumers in Europe has become the consensus in historiographical research.
An attempt to push the study of transatlantic cultural transfers beyond the debate between ‘cultural imperialism’ and ‘appropriation’ can be found in Made in Europe. This collection presents examples of twentieth-century popular culture produced (or branded) in the Old World, such as Parisian fashion, British advertising and Italian coffee, that proved to be highly successful at home and sometimes in the United States too. The volume does two things: First, it sheds light on the role of European intermediaries in the bi-directional transatlantic transfer of culture. And second, it identifies a particularly European mode of ‘pop’ production that prized creativity and lent itself to conspicuous consumption better than did the kind of Fordist mass culture at which American producers excelled. This European mode of production came to the fore on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1960s, as ‘pop’ came to be regarded as aesthetically valuable and a means to mark social distinction. In addition, it proved compatible with a new global production regime based on a complementary relationship between small, semi-dependent producers and huge, multinational and multi-divisional distribution companies.
Value change and the ‘cultural revolution’ of a ‘long’ 1960s
The connection between ‘pop’ and political culture that features prominently in the books by Maase, Poiger and others is also at the centre of Detlef Siegfried’s Time Is on My Side. This study traces the development of youth culture in West Germany from 1958 to 1973 (the ‘long’ 1960s) and contends that consumption and political mobilisation (thought of as exclusive opposites in Critical Theory), complemented each other in the counterculture of the period. Siegfried identifies a tension between, on the one hand, young people using commercial culture to create new expressions, and on the other, marketers who subsequently embrace these innovations. He argues that this dialectic epitomised the fundamental transformation of attitudes toward greater individual freedom, anti-authoritarianism and tolerance that was happening in the consumer society of post-war West Germany. Siegfried is not alone in calling these events, which took place in similar ways in other countries at about the same time, a ‘cultural revolution’. To explain the apparent success of this ‘revolution’, he relies on political scientist Ronald Inglehart’s thesis of a shift to post-materialist values in advanced industrial societies. According to Inglehart, post-war affluence created a situation in which traditional values linked to family, religion, social milieu or the nation lost influence, while at the same time, the wide range of consumer goods and media offerings allowed for cultural experiments that went beyond the mere satisfaction of material needs. Young people, who were tied down to a lesser extent than grown-ups by family and work obligations and whose numbers had risen due to the ‘baby boom’ after 1945, proved to be the most eager explorers of the possibilities of affluence. Striving for self-actualisation through consumption, so the argument goes, they formed an avant-garde that was followed by older generations also trying to find their way in the new consumer society.
Time Is on My Side covers much previously uncharted territory and will remain the starting point for any historian working on West German youth and ‘pop’ culture for some time. To get beyond what Siegfried has achieved, however, it is necessary to identify the limits of his impressively broad and detailed study. With respect to the question of why ‘pop’ changed and how it mattered, two points may be highlighted, the first one concerning the production of ‘pop’, the second one being connected to the social relations that the consumption of popular culture facilitated. To begin with the point on the production of culture, the perception of a top/down opposition between profit-oriented marketers and grassroots creativity, which allegedly drove countercultural innovation and social change, is problematic. It ascribes the potential of creative innovation one-sidedly to the counterculture, fading out other actors, ideas and developments that also shaped the production of popular culture and, in the case at hand, arguably to a greater extent. The top/down distinction not only takes the countercultural self-understanding at face value, but it also proves difficult to align with some of the evidence that Siegfried himself presents. The producers and facilitators of ‘pop’ in 1960s Germany were often either too old or too remote from the ‘scene’ to be counted as part of the rebellious generation. And if they actually hailed from the ‘baby boomer’ cohort, they and their ideas played a relatively marginal role in the creative industries, particularly in comparison with their British counterparts. Overall, the trajectories of men like Manfred Weißleder, Siegfried E. Loch and Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser hardly reveal the alleged circle between the ‘underground’ and the music industry in the rather clear way that the dialectical model of idiosyncratic appropriation and subsequent absorption suggests. Apparently, the opposition between commerce and creativity simplifies the far more heterogeneous motivations and complex relations among protagonists, who spanned boundaries between different levels of cultural production that were far from clear-cut. To understand the transformation that ‘pop’ underwent in the 1960s, it is necessary to look at the changing relationship between counterculture and ‘culture industry’. Assuming that the ‘mainstream’ was simply the product of a profit-driven, all-powerful industry and that the ‘counterculture’ was an uncompromised, authentic expression of a marginal group does not facilitate this. Recent studies that approach the subject from the so-called ‘mainstream’ may show a way forward. I will come back to them in a moment.
The other, second, point where the empirical findings of Time Is on My Side evade the book’s conceptual framework concerns social distinctions in the realm of popular culture. Subscribing to Inglehart’s model, Siegfried highlights generational difference as the main socio-political cleavage. Yet he is also very aware that the more ‘progressive’ genres of music were embraced by better-educated men to bolster their status claims, whereas young women were often kept on the sidelines of the counterculture. Ultimately, however, these class and gender divisions are eclipsed in Inglehart’s narrative, and so they do not feature prominently enough to throw into question the book’s overall story of a youth-led emancipation from the ‘stuffiness’ of mass society. The contention that inequalities of class and gender were blurred in 1960s ‘pop’ culture, a view shared by many historians of that period, certainly suits the concept of a generational value shift, but some of the empirical evidence urges us to not subscribe to this interpretation too readily. In any case, Inglehart’s model and similar approaches that focus on generation are not conducive to bringing distinctions of class, gender and race into the foreground.
Class, race and gender in 1960s popular culture
The conventional account of 1960s ‘pop’ culture as a youth rebellion undermining boundaries of class, race and gender has been disputed for some time now by popular music scholars. Perhaps the most forceful challenge has been Elijah Wald’s How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll, a revisionist history of American popular music in the twentieth century. Celebrating 1950s rock ‘n’ roll as socially open, Wald considers the losses that came with the meteoric rise of ‘serious’ rock in the second half of the 1960s, spearheaded by the Beatles as they moved away from the frenzy of ‘Beatlemania’ to focus on the production of ever more elaborate studio albums. He shows how rock ‘n’ roll had temporarily suspended distinctions of class, race and gender by giving girls, blacks and working-class kids opportunities to excel on stages and on dance floors, and he argues that this genre was rendered a mere fad by the intellectualisation of rock. When popular music bifurcated into the cerebral and the commercial, the ‘serious’ territory fell almost exclusively into the hands of white male ‘sonic auteurs’ and their mostly male, better-educated disciples, who castigated ‘commercialism’ or romanticised pristine blues as rock’s ‘authentic’ roots. That left black musicians to either link rock music with its black origins (blues legend Muddy Waters accompanying the Rolling Stones on stage, for instance) or to perform music that emanated from their bodies rather than their minds (as exemplified by soul singer James Brown). In effect, black musicians were excluded from the ongoing development of this particular stream of popular music. African-American girl groups that had been so successful around 1960 were also pushed to the margins, illustrating how, in the rock era, social outsiders who had managed to get a toehold in the business were being ousted by insiders opting out. Thus the ‘poptimism’ of exuberant, joyful rock ‘n’ roll through which the dancing and singing (black) girls had briefly changed the world was crushed by the seriousness of almost exclusively white, male rock music. According to Wald, rock reaffirmed rather than blurred boundaries of class, race and gender. He describes the countercultural revolution as a musical counter-revolution, led by the privileged followers of rock as the new ‘high’ culture. This interpretation challenges not only conventional accounts of the role of popular culture in society, but also dates the turning point to around 1965, cutting the ‘long’ 1960s in half. Finally, as he notes the parallels between the rise of rock to the heights of culture with a capital ‘C’ and the domestication of jazz in ‘symphonic syncopation’ in the 1920s, Wald also demonstrates the value of a longer-term, twentieth-century perspective.
Wald focuses primarily on musicians, but his Bourdieusian argument that music serves as a resource for ‘position-taking’ in a social field can be easily applied to listeners as well. For instance, Simon Frith, in his empirical investigation of music use among teenagers in the Northern English town Keighley in the early 1970s, notes that a clique of boys who devotedly sat around the record player to listen intently to ‘progressive’ rock albums aggressively claimed superiority over the often female fans of other genres. He argues that their quasi-academic engagement with ‘heady’ music helped them advance socially from their lower middle-class upbringing and pursue middle-class careers. This suggests that popular culture, which became ‘serious’ in the 1960s, did not so much blur class boundaries as help some young men to cross them into the middle class, leaving behind their less sophisticated upbringing. Furthermore, it implies that this middle class was not simply growing in size but that it was also developing new conventions and criteria for affiliation. The role of popular culture in the redrawing of social distinctions in a changing society deserves further exploration with respect not only to class, but also to the intersection of class with race and gender.
Interest in the role of class in post-war popular culture is also at the heart of a recent initiative by British historians who in 2010 formed the Interdisciplinary Network for the Study of Subcultures, Popular Music and Change. An early monograph resulting from this work is Keith Gildart’s Images of England through Popular Music, which uses rock ‘n’ roll, beat, glam rock and punk as lenses through which to study working-class youth’s experience of social change from the mid-1950s to the second half of the 1970s. Following closely the ‘Birmingham’ Cultural Studies approach, the book takes music as an entry point for gaining insight into the ‘structure of feeling’ of young working-class men and women. Like the ‘Birmingham scholars’, Gildart is primarily interested in the function of youth culture as a form of resistance, describing it variously as ‘a particular type of radicalism’, an ‘oppositional soundscape’ and a ‘site of transgression’. Criticising the thesis of a ‘consensus’ in post-1945 affluent Britain, he argues that ‘popular music (…) represents an underexplored facet of the resilience of class in the post-war period.’ He evidences this relationship with snapshots of musicians and genres as well as close readings of songs. The latter, he claims, emerged from working-class environments and therefore resonated with youth trying to reconcile persisting inequalities with social change.
Subscribing to Cultural Studies’ anthropological concept of culture, Gildart short-circuits the production and reception of popular music. On the production side, he characterises artists such as John Lennon, Pete Townshend and David Bowie as ‘organic intellectuals’, privileged to be able to voice working-class experiences and concerns. On the reception side, he reduces the listeners’ engagement with music to a kind of remedy for class-specific psychological needs, to which he claims to be privy. In effect, class consciousness and popular music merely correspond, leaving very little room for the agency of performers or fans, their ability to use music to particular ends, such as leaving a working-class upbringing behind (which is precisely what Lennon, Townshend and Bowie did) or the drawing of new social boundaries. By essentialising class and treating music as the mere ‘soundtrack’ of class experience, Gildart accounts for neither the intrinsic dynamic of popular music’s change nor the way class became reconfigured in the realm of culture after the 1960s. Stressing the importance of social inequality in the history of popular culture is highly welcome. But pursuing its study in much the same way that Cultural Studies scholars did in the 1970s, while also largely ignoring the critique that concepts such as ‘subculture’, ‘experience’ and ‘class consciousness’ underwent, does not seem the most fruitful way to pursue this important issue. Wald’s approach, which accounts for the inherent dynamics of music production and conceives of music reception as the use of cultural capital, seems more promising.
‘Mainstream’ in the era of counterculture
It is safe to say that the historiography of post-war popular culture has concentrated on the rebellious and the spectacular. Interested in ‘pop’s’ transformative potential, historians have analysed self-conscious countercultures or those marginalised cultures that provoked ‘moral panics’. In contrast, the content that was attacked as ‘mainstream’ by the discontents of mass culture has attracted much less scholarly attention. We know far less about, say, easy listening than rock music. And when phenomena such as German ‘Schlager’, ‘Heimatfilme’ or disco music have actually been studied, they have often been dismissed with a broad brush as socially conservative, aesthetically backward, even politically dangerous, or wrenched into a narrative that starts with the culture’s origins as pristine subculture and ends with its commercial absorption and sell-out to the undiscriminating masses. In this way, the idea of the ‘mainstream’ serves mainly as a contrastive backdrop for stories about marginalised cultures striving for emancipation against economic and political pressures to conform.
In the current pop-cultural landscape, however, critics, fans and scholars have become less certain about the distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ popular culture. In turn, this has begun to have an effect on research. Disciplines that specialise in the study of ‘pop’ are increasingly prone to re-appraise the ‘mainstream’ and analyse it on its own terms. One way to get beyond the ‘rebellious’ culture framework is to take a step back and focus on the fundamental technological changes that the production of ‘pop’ underwent in the 1950s. Albin Zak III, for instance, studies the transformation in post-war popular music as records became the newly dominant medium, thus shedding light on the great variety of styles based on an emerging sensibility for the conditions of creating music with sound recording technology. By showing that rock ‘n’ roll was but one of these genres, he contextualises it in the media change that separates the first half of the twentieth century, when the music industry had still been centred around song-writing and -publishing, from the second, when sound recording moved centre-stage and the music business shifted ‘from print to plastic’ (Russell Sanjek).
Another approach to the ‘mainstream’ is to follow the lead of studies from the 1990s—for example, Sarah Thornton’s Club Cultures and Thomas Frank’s Conquest of Cool—that questioned as ideological the opposition of subcultures and the “mainstream”. Frank’s book is more than a polemic against the smooth commodification of countercultural attitudes into marketing slogans. It is an empirical study of modernising trends since the 1950s within the creative industries, where many practitioners had begun turning against mass culture before the ‘68ers’ took to the streets. As Frank demonstrates, the critique of conformity was already common coin by 1960, and orientations within the creative industries had already begun to change. Rather than instigating cultural change, ‘youth rebellion’ allowed the ‘revolutionaries’ in the business of fashion and advertising to say to their peers, ‘“See, I told you so”’. Apart from helping to fulfil the professional aspirations of designers, the release of creativity meant that the consumer goods industries could speed up fashion cycles and increase turnover. Instead of a political transformation brought about by the baby-boom generation, the ‘cultural revolution’ of the 1960s, in Frank’s view, was a period of change leading to a new phase in the history of capitalism. In line with more recent writing on the ‘new spirit of capitalism’, he regards the new pre-eminence of creativity and the increasing differentiation within popular culture and among its audiences since the 1960s as, first and foremost, the beginning of the present era of neo-liberalism.
A more optimistic reading of popular culture’s role in society is offered by two more recent studies on popular music, both of which start from a critique of the narrative that pits an authentic underground against an alienating ‘mainstream’. Alice Echol’s Hot Stuff takes disco as a lens to explore the change in American culture in the 1970s. Rehabilitating both the music and the much-maligned decade, she shows that disco, not least because of its conspicuous non-seriousness and artificiality, enabled contemporaries to cross social boundaries and perform marginal identities. African Americans, gays and women were at an advantage in a culture that prized sophistication over sincerity and dancing over discourse. Borrowing Sarah Thornton’s concept of ‘subcultural capital’, Echols acknowledges as well that social exclusion was practised at the doors and on the floors of disco dance venues. On the whole, however, disco proved to be more inclusive than rock. Tellingly, it was the fans of the latter genre who assembled at a Chicago baseball stadium to burn disco records at the infamous Disco Demolition Night of 1979 and declare disco to be dead.
Echol’s portrayal of ‘mainstream’ music as relatively inclusive is confirmed forcefully in Eric Weisbard’s Top 40 Democracy. This study of post-war American popular music approaches its subject from the perspective of advertiser-sponsored radio and its programme formats such as MOR (middle of the road) and AC (adult contemporary), devised to match musical styles with listener demographics. Weisbard contrasts the ‘commerce-first pragmatism’ and ‘weak boundaries’ of radio formats with the strict borders of musical genres, most importantly rock. The distinction between format and genre informs case studies on the long career of the highly versatile Isley Brothers, the country singer Dolly Parton, the record company A&M and its eclectic portfolio of ‘easy listening’ music, Elton John’s enormous success in US Top 40 radio and his eventual coming-out as a gay pop star, and Cleveland radio station WMMS, which packaged rock for blue-collar workers. In this way, Weisbard approaches the history of popular music from the black, female, adult, homosexual and working-class margins that were condemned as ‘mainstream’ by rock music, the serious genre whose proselytisers despised commerce and formatting. Like Echols, he shows how Top 40 performers and record producers struggled with rock’s discursive dominance. He claims that format radio, ‘the province of social outsiders looking to become symbolic insiders’, gave them a platform and enabled them to ‘cross over’ and reach new audiences. Countering the common perception of Top 40 as narrow and stifling, he claims that radio formats actually allowed for greater variety than ‘freeform’ rock stations.
Studies like Top 40 Democracy make apparent that the opposition between the powerful, corporate ‘mainstream’ and the countercultural underdog is an ideological construct that needs to be unpacked. If anything, rock music was the most successful genre, both commercially and discursively, during much of the period of Weisbard’s study, which empowered it to bully other styles into the position of aesthetic irrelevance, if not political dangerousness. Consequently, Weisbard speaks of ‘rival mainstreams’ and studies how they jostled for position in a changing media ecology. Focusing on this rivalry, Weisbard detects a recurring pattern. ‘Every attempt to oppose a format mainstream, by renouncing capitalism or compromise, registers entitlement and privilege: middle-class, male, white, heterosexual, northern, hipster, genre, or some other form.’ This is true not just of American popular music; this mechanism lies at the heart of the social differentiation within the realm of culture since the invention of ‘high’ culture in the nineteenth century.
Placing Top 40 in a showbiz tradition dating back to vaudeville, Weisbard argues—as does Wald—for an alternative, longer-term history of twentieth-century popular music. In such a history, the rock era, with its stress on records and ‘authenticity’, becomes discernible as a relatively brief phase during which a movement of self-declared secessionists formed a ‘rival mainstream’ inside a much broader stream of eclectic, versatile and performative entertainment that originated in the late nineteenth century. Both Weisbard and Wald show the extent to which musical youth, sub- and countercultures were part of twentieth-century commercial culture and thus need to be studied in that context. Granted, Weisbard’s book could be considered part of a specialist literature, too narrowly focused to interest most historians. However, both Weisbard’s and Wald’s concern with narrative makes their books valuable reading for historians, who may become aware of the extent to which their discipline has perpetuated the grand narratives of symbolic resistance and value change.
4. Stylistic Diversity and Economic Concentration: Popular Culture since ca. 1980
In the five to ten years around 1980, popular culture underwent its latest major transformation. The most obvious changes were the rapid differentiation of the popular repertoire into an ever-growing number of styles and the ongoing fragmentation of the audience into ever more specialist scenes and lifestyle tribes. These developments gained further momentum after 2000 due to the rise of the Internet and concomitant changes in mass media, from broadcasting to cinema. The increasing diversity of symbolic content and identities not only coincides with the unprecedented worldwide appeal of just a handful of superstars and blockbusters, an apparent contradiction. But it is also paralleled by a powerful and ongoing trend of concentration within the cultural industries, as the distribution and exploitation of commercial culture becomes controlled by a shrinking number of multi-divisional, multinational companies that have extended their reach globally. This compatibility of cultural heterogeneity and economic concentration poses further questions about the conceptual distinction between ‘independent’ and ‘major’ production, and, by extension, between ‘subculture’ and ‘mainstream’ that informs, as has been shown, much historical research.
Moreover, with respect to geography, an increasingly decentralised system of cultural production urges historians to reconsider the perspective from which they have so far studied cultural transfers. Rather than conceiving of the transnational movement of repertoires as a relationship between competing national cultures and employing terms such as ‘cultural imperialism’ and ‘creative appropriation’, historians might instead think of the present movement of culture as a multidirectional transfer of symbols as well as money and take into account the global trade of ideas and division of labour when they study the production and proliferation of ‘pop’.
Another major trait of current popular culture is the increasingly self-referential nature of ‘pop’. Popular culture knowingly cites itself. There is now an insurmountable array of biographies, memories, encyclopaedias, documentaries, exhibitions and genre histories created by producers, fans and critics, published by specialist firms, among them Omnibus Press and Soundcheck Books (in Britain) and Hannibal and Edel (in Germany), but frequently brought out by larger trade publishers from Faber & Faber to Suhrkamp. This burgeoning interest in the history of ‘pop’ within the field itself is an intriguing development per se. Additionally, it generates valuable sources for professional historians, while also challenging them with competing interpretations. Just as with practitioners in neighbouring disciplines, historians of popular culture need to concern themselves with these forms of storytelling. This includes taking into account the fact that stories written by journalists and stakeholders in the cultural industries inform to a growing extent what historic actors themselves have been thinking and doing.
The end of ‘pop’s’ history?
Historians have hardly begun to research the latest phase in the history of ‘pop’, yet some critics and scholars with a professional stake in popular culture have already spoken their verdict on the period. Among the more influential voices in the discussion about the present state of ‘pop’ are Diedrich Diederichsen and Simon Reynolds, both of whom started out as popular music journalists in the 1980s and were centrally involved in their field’s professionalisation. Both share the view that, since the time they became music writers, ‘pop’ has fallen into a crisis, losing its critical sting (Diederichsen) and its aesthetic innovativeness (Reynolds).
Diederichsen’s assessment is based on his distinction between ‘pop’ and ‘popular’ music. Whereas he defines the latter as the formulaic product of ‘the culture industry’, ‘pop music’ inspires the listener to explore the reality beyond the song or track, leading him to meaningful individuality and even resistance. This process of discovery cannot be planned, says Diederichsen, but is instigated by the grain of a singer’s voice or a particular sound effect and completed by the open-minded, inquisitive listener. Just as Adorno did with works of avant-garde art, Diederichsen attributes to ‘pop music’ the power to evoke epiphanies that make recipients see through the threadbare legitimisation of rational, capitalist society.
Reynolds’s diagnosis in Retromania resembles Diederichsen’s in several ways. Regarding the crisis of ‘pop’, his main contention is that contemporary popular music is caught up in ever shorter cycles of revivals in which the past is sampled and remixed without artistic vision or political urgency. This distinguishes the current ‘retromania’ from earlier revivals, which turned to historical sounds in order to formulate a critique of a deficient present.
Both Reynolds and Diederichsen look back to the ‘very long’ 1960s, stretching from Elvis Presley to punk (with Reynolds giving a nod to rave culture as the last truly critical revival), as the ‘heroic years’, when ‘pop’ music still sparked political critique and aesthetic innovation. A major ingredient that they seem to miss from subsequent music is ‘innocence’. Naivety had enabled performers and their fans to try new and radical things, whereas the greater availability of information about ‘pop’ since the 1980s, as well as the greater social proximity of the creators to the critics of popular music (as mentioned above) have made both production and consumption increasingly self-reflexive. Both authors dislike irony, the hallmark of intellectual sophistication and a style which Diederichsen deployed in the 1980s. Holding on to the notion of authenticity, both Reynolds and Diederichsen subscribe to the idea that great culture emerges from crisis, conflict and deprivation. Speculating about where genuinely novel trends may come from as the ‘Anglo-American pop tradition is all innovated out’, Reynolds places his hopes in the ‘overdriven economic metabolisms of rising mega-nations like China and India (which; KN) will doubtless generate all manner of social rifts and cultural turbulence. Popular energies and desires will be stoked that will come into friction with existing political structures and social norms, producing sparks and possibly conflagrations. (…) Out of this may come some cool music’. Based on similar folkloristic assumptions, but looking further back in time, Diederichsen describes jazz as an authentic response of blacks to their humiliation and he ennobles it as a precursor and model for relevant ‘pop music’.
Finally, both authors identify capitalism as the main culprit causing the crisis of ‘pop’. Diederichsen, in no unclear words, states his disgust with a money-driven ‘culture industry’ churning out ‘Dreck’ (shlock). Reynolds sees parallels in popular music’s ‘shift from production to post-production’ and developments in the wider economy, suggesting that ‘(t)he world economy was brought down by derivatives and bad debt; music has been depleted of meaning through derivativeness and indebtedness.’ While he raises the pressing question about the ‘actual mechanics’ that link economy and culture, he stops short of following it up.
Über Pop-Musik and Retromania reveal—once again—both the limits of the narrative of ‘pop’ as resistance and the problems of notions like authenticity, progress and economic disinterestedness that are essential to this plot. Their authors prove that this conceptual framework, which leads them to announce the end of ‘pop’s’ history, is inadequate to study in depth the important issues of capitalism and self-referentiality. However, historians should be sceptical about ‘end of history’ claims. Such an announcement will, hopefully, be seen as a sign that the ‘heroic’ narrative of ‘pop’ has run its course and needs to be historicised.
Capitalism and the production of popular culture
Diederichsen and Reynolds are not the only ones to look at present-day ‘pop’ with respect to its relation to capitalism. Reading culture as a reflection of an ideological shift towards ‘neo-liberalism’, some authors confound cause and effect and dissolve agency into ‘larger’ and seemingly ‘more basic’—that is, anonymous—processes. Others zoom in on actors, practices and changing constraints in the culture industries to arrive at more complex explanations for why popular culture changed. In this way, they add to an understanding of the present state of capitalism as manifested in this particular social realm.
Examples of this latter approach often focus on rights and stress their central importance to the way culture is created and distributed under the present regime. While the creative sector was previously studied as manufacturing, more recent work has begun to look at it as an agglomeration of rights industries. In this view, the music business, for instance, is less concerned with recording and the fabrication and sale of plastic discs than with the control and exploitation of copyrights, through, for example, the licensing of a song for use in a television show, advertising jingle or mobile ringtone. Scholars picked up on trends in the creative sector itself, whose practitioners, since the 1980s, have intensified their lobbying for greater protection of their ‘intellectual property’, both at home and abroad. At the same time, the manufacturers of cultural goods—which could be copied and shared more easily than before—earned less and less money. (In music, this trend was halted only temporarily by the launch of the Compact Disc (CD).) One implication of this research is that the history of contemporary popular culture becomes more clearly visible as a history of a ‘long’ twentieth century that began with legal reforms like the Berne Convention (1886) and the American copyright reform of 1891. Another consequence is that relations within the realm of culture production are looked at differently. The older perception that certain expressions are supressed or distorted by ‘commerce’ gives way to questions about fairness. As a result of the multiplication of channels and outlets, access to a public has widened to the extent that we now speak of ‘content holes’ that need to be filled. Since diverse and critical culture is rarely constrained by censorship, at least in the Western world, it seems inadequate to merely celebrate this culture’s proliferation. Instead, it is necessary to ask who owns this diverse content and benefits from the potential riches.
The issue of fairness is highly pertinent in the context of creative work, where the entry barriers to the industries have been lowered, demand is more concentrated and the line between labour and capital is difficult to draw. An insightful study on this topic is Matt Stahl’s Unfree Masters, which looks at both the representations and the political economy of recording artists’ work in contemporary America. In contrast to the many studies that treat creative work as different from other forms of labour, Stahl approaches the work of recording artists as a limit case of ‘normal’ employment in liberal societies. His main focus is on the means by which employers exert control over artists and appropriate the product of their creativity. This leads him to intellectual property and contract laws as the primary institutions defining ownership of cultural goods and separating labour from capital. In an historical account, Stahl traces how American entertainment firms in the 1980s lobbied state and federal governments to replace nineteenth-century legislation, which had granted artists the right to terminate their employment contracts after seven years, with new laws that effectively tied them to their companies for unlimited time. So-called ‘option contracts’ enabled companies to unilaterally demand and reject product from ‘their’ artists, making it virtually impossible for them to leave the firm. Stahl explains the industry’s motive by pointing to structural changes in the late 1970s, when companies came to rely on a few superstars whom they fought to keep on their roster by all legal means. Stahl is particularly interested in the arguments of the legislative debate and their wider implications. In his view, recording artists who fought legislation that resulted from and favoured entertainment companies made a reasonable argument when they compared their contractual situation to that of indentured slavery. However, they failed to counter effectively the liberal premise that contractual relations are acceptable as long as an artist has consented voluntarily to the agreement. This argument trumped the artists’ complaint that their ‘freedom’ had effectively led them into contractual captivity. With this discussion, Stahl not only sheds light on fairness issues in the culture industries at the turn of the twenty-first century, but also reflects on the nature of capitalist work more generally.
Aesthetic cosmopolitanism and the cultural omnivore
The lobbying of North-American and European culture industries for greater protection of their intangible assets, including everything from music to computer software, was often aimed at curbing piracy. But although its actual impact on the practice of copying and sharing was limited, to say the least, lobbying certainly helped to establish a legal framework for the global trade of ideas at a moment when foreign markets became increasingly important to content-producing firms in the West. Pressing for stricter legislation forced countries in the developing world to establish Western legal and economic institutions, such as copyright laws, enforcement agencies and systems to collect licensing royalties.
Similar processes of global institutionalisation can be observed on the level of technology and aesthetic classifications as well, which is the topic of sociologist and popular music scholar Motti Regev’s influential book on ‘pop-rock’ as ‘aesthetic cosmopolitanism’. Regev suggests this term to account for the fact that, since the late twentieth century, ‘the cultural uniqueness of each nation or ethnicity cannot but be understood as a unit within one complex entity’. He describes the current state of world popular music as one in which content-creators, critics and consumers around the globe share both a set of technologies of sonic expression, encompassing amplification, sound recording and electric and electronic instruments, as well as the aesthetic criteria crystallised in the rock-pop canon. These technologies of expression began in the West and proliferated around the globe as local artists, music industry personnel, critics and listeners embraced them to negotiate outside cultural influence as well as to gain status in their respective domestic contexts. Their attitudes towards pop-rock differed from each other. Whereas consumers and critics open to Western ‘pop-rock’ usually preferred the imported sounds, local musicians found themselves torn between the pressure to adopt ‘pop-rock’s’ expressive technologies to signify that they were up to date and the threat that domestic fans and journalists, who were beginning to value the original and disregard the copy, would dismiss them as mere imitators. As a consequence, local musicians began to employ pop-rock technologies in ways that produced sounds distinct both from domestic ‘pop’ and the highly valued imports; West German ‘Krautrockers’ offer one example. In turn, this peripheral music resonated with critics and consumers in the centres of the global pop world, who relished the fact that discoveries of ‘strange’ pop-rock sounds from abroad bolstered their status. As a result, pop-rock music became institutionalised globally, acting as a frame of reference for the creation, evaluation and reception of popular music worldwide and alleviating its movement between the increasingly difficult-to-distinguish categories of centre and periphery.
Regev’s rough historical sketch of the global institutionalisation of pop-rock music as a technology of expression begins around 1960 and ends in the 1990s. Taking into consideration the interplay between different stakeholder groups within their geographical contexts at both the centre and the periphery of ‘pop’, and linking these two arenas transnationally by tracing their mutual dependency, Regev’s model suggests an understanding of pop-cultural globalisation that points beyond the dominant concepts of ‘cultural imperialism’ and ‘hybridisation’. It conceives of pop-rock music as a set of institutions that account for the parallel development of cultural convergence and stylistic differentiation, the latter of which is, to this day, often treated in the terms of a banal nationalism (as in music from the Northern countries being particularly eerie).
Knowledge is identified by Regev as a major factor in ‘pop’s’ development. To begin with, critics played a key role as cultural brokers in the respective adoption of sounds and values in both centre and periphery. The professionalisation of pop-music journalism in the 1980s is singled out as a particularly important step in the rise of aesthetic cosmopolitanism. To add another stage to Regev’s history, one could argue that, once the process was complete and pop-rock aesthetics were permeated with sounds from around the world, critics may have run out of ‘exotic’ records to discover. This may be an explanation for the current ennui and vague hope for ‘something different from China or India’.
For Regev, knowledge is also centrally important when it comes to the more or less fanatical listeners of music. He suggests distinguishing between degrees of engagement with an ‘aesthetic culture’ or genre, depending on the amount of discursive and experiential knowledge listeners command. Observing that the gap in information has diminished as, due to the growth of music journalism and tape technology since the 1980s, knowledge has been more easily obtained, Regev turns to the repercussions of the deployment of popular music as a marker of social distinction. Sociologists have duly noted a shift in taste preferences from ‘snobbism’ to ‘omnivorousness’ among people of higher socio-economic status. Whereas the educated and wealthy had once been more likely to express an exclusive liking for one genre of ‘art music’ (classic, jazz, progressive rock), they have, since the 1980s, been prone to state proudly that their tastes are eclectic. As much as the commitment to rock music since the second half of the 1960s may be studied in the context of the formation of a new middle class, as suggested above, the more recent trend among culture consumers to develop broader, more diverse tastes (as well as ironic ways to engage with ‘pop’) suggests that yet another shift in social differentiation may be playing out in the realm of popular culture. This is currently being researched by sociologists with a focus on the present. Historians could use their findings as a starting point for longer-term studies, enquiring how the development of taste and distinction in popular culture led to the present state.
Looking back at some forty years of historical research on popular culture in general and on music in particular, it becomes apparent that the field has been maturing and the major part of the twentieth century charted. Historians in the United States and Britain have had a head start in studying the topic, not only because of the greater prominence of ‘pop’ in those countries, but also because of the trajectories of social history that favoured the study of popular entertainment as an important medium for social relations. This becomes apparent when one looks at the German case, where social history was pursued mainly as the (political) history of society. After a late start, German historiography has been catching up. Substantial work has been done, and, although it is notable that leading proponents of the subject have made (or presently pursue) their careers in neighbouring disciplines or found their academic homes abroad, popular culture is an area of study that is now at least acknowledged among German historians.
National differences prevail, however, and they are not limited to the extent of research or the disciplinary establishment of the topic. They are also manifest in the choice of perspective. The present review has argued that the study of popular culture in Germany has retained a strong political bent. Although there were good reasons to take this approach and it certainly furthered the acceptance of the ‘trivial’ subject within the discipline, the work on popular culture in the United States and Britain reveals that questions about ‘pop’s’ role in political culture are not the only relevant ones to ask. With that in mind, this reviewer hopes for more work that looks at popular culture with a view to the history of the cultural industries and creative labour as well as class, gender and race relations. Such research may look to American and British studies for orientation, and by taking into account the transnational dimension of ‘pop’, it may be in a good position to venture beyond the national focus that characterises so much Anglo-American research on the subject. As a phenomenon that travelled relatively easily and through different channels, popular culture is a subject whose study is bound to add substantially to transnational and global history.
Another observation of this review is that the historiography is, to a remarkable extent, compartmentalised into the ‘long’ turn of the century, the period of the World Wars and the three decades from the 1950s, each period often further segmented into decades. This article has made the case for a longer-term perspective as well as a for more explicit debate about periodisation, arguing that turning points in the history of popular culture often did not coincide with the caesura of political history. It contends that a twentieth-century scope, starting in the last one or two decades of the 1800s, may help to generate new questions and perspectives and can clarify the particularities of popular culture at different times. This review also notes that there is space for a comprehensive history of popular culture in its twentieth-century entirety, one that applies higher scientific standards and aspires to a higher level of reflexion than do the popular books that presently and unsatisfactorily line the shelves.
This higher level of reflexion could be reached (and this is a reminder that the present article is titled ‘Part II’ for a reason) when historians engage with research in neighbouring disciplines. Looking beyond historiography and including studies in sociology (and popular music studies, itself a hybrid with sociological genes), the present review has pointed to a number of perspectives and subjects that historians may find worthwhile to explore.
 Neither qualitative nor populist, this definition of popular culture avoids the ‘high’ v. ‘low’ and ‘elite’ v. ‘mass’ oppositions which inform other concepts, as these distinctions have been blurred and partially reversed in the course of the twentieth century. Classical concerts and art exhibitions can be ‘pop’ events if they have been made accessible to people with restricted economic and cultural capital, and commercial culture that failed at the box office may still be considered ‘popular’. The term ‘commercial’ does not dispute the existence of do-it-yourself culture, but stresses that the latter came to be inspired by, engaged with and dependent on ‘pop’ produced for the market. ‘Commercial’ is meant here to distinguish popular culture from culture funded by governments or philanthropists.
 The most recent publication of this project is Daniel Morat et al., Weltstadtvergnügen: Berlin 1880-1930, Göttingen 2016.
 Alexa Geisthövel / Bodo Mrozek (eds.), Popgeschichte: Band 1: Konzepte und Methoden, Bielefeld 2014; Idem / Jürgen Danyel (eds.), Popgeschichte: Band 2: Zeithistorische Fallstudien 1958-1988, Bielefeld 2014.
 Klaus Nathaus, Why ‘Pop’ Changed and How It Mattered (part I): Sociological Perspectives on Twentieth-Century Popular Culture in the West, in: Soziopolis, https://soziopolis.de/beobachten/kultur/artikel/why-pop-changed-and-how-it-mattered-part-i/.
 Edward P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class, London 2013 .
 For a discussion of this historiography, see Peter Bailey, Leisure, Culture and the Historian: Reviewing the First Generation of Leisure Historiography in Britain, in: Leisure Studies 8, 2 (1989), pp. 107–127.
 Gareth Stedman Jones, Working-Class Culture and Working-Class Politics in London, 1870-1900: Notes on the Remaking of a Working Class, in: Journal of Social History 7 (1974), p. 499.
 Ross McKibbin, Why was there no Marxism in Great Britain?, in: English Historical Review 99 (1984), pp. 297–331.
 Examples include Peter Bailey, Leisure and Class in Victorian England: Rational Recreation and the Contest for Control, 1830-1885, London 1978; James Walvin, Leisure and Society, 1830-1950, London 1978; Ross McKibbin, Working-Class Gambling in Britain, 1880-1939, in: Past and Present 82 (1979), pp. 147–178; John K. Walton / James Walvin (eds.), Leisure in Britain, 1780-1939, Manchester 1983; Dave Russell, Popular Music in England, 1840-1914: A Social History, Manchester 1987.
 Social histories of working-class leisure in Imperial Germany include Dagmar Kift (ed.), Kirmes – Kneipe – Kino: Arbeiterkultur im Ruhrgebiet zwischen Kommerz und Kontrolle (1850-1914), Paderborn 1992; Elisabeth Kosok, Arbeiterfreizeit und Arbeiterkultur im Ruhrgebiet: Eine Untersuchung ihrer Erscheinungsformen und Wandlungsprozesse, 1850-1914, PhD thesis, Bochum 1989; Lynn Abrams, Workers’ Culture in Imperial Germany: Leisure and Recreation in the Rhineland and Westphalia, London 1992; Gisela Framke (ed.), 8 Stunden sind kein Tag: Arbeit und Vergnügen in Dortmund 1870 bis 1939, Heidelberg 1992.
 The closest that Hans-Ulrich Wehler’s voluminous Deutsche Gesellschaftsgeschichte (Bd. 3: Von der ‘Deutschen Doppelrevolution’ bis zum Beginn des Ersten Weltkrieges, 1849-1914, München 1995) gets to discussing popular culture is on a single page on light fiction (pp. 1234f.). The three-volume Cambridge Social History of Britain, to mention just one example from British historiography, devotes one of its six chapters on ‘people and their environment’ to ‘leisure’ (H. Cunningham, Leisure, in: F.M.L. Thompson (ed.), The Cambridge Social History of Britain 1750-1950, Vol. 2: People and their Environment, Cambridge 1990, pp. 279–340). For the belated reception of Thompson’s ‘Making‘ in Germany, see Thomas Lindenberger, From Structuralism to Culturalism: The Protracted German Reception of 'The Making of the English Working Class' and Its Actuality Reassessed from a Post-Cold War Perspective, in: International Review of Social History 61, 1 (2016), pp. 11–34.
 Lawrence Levine, The Folklore of Industrial Society: Popular Culture and Its Audiences, in: American Historical Review 97, 5 (1992), pp. 1369–1399.
 Kaspar Maase, Grenzenloses Vergnügen: Der Aufstieg der Massenkultur 1850-1970, Frankfurt 2007 .
 For this, see Idem (ed.), Die Schönheiten des Populären: Ästhetische Erfahrung der Gegenwart, Frankfurt 2008.
 Idem / Wolfgang Kaschuba (eds.), Schund und Schönheit: Populäre Kultur um 1900, Köln 2001; Kaspar Maase, Massenkunst und Volkserziehung: Die Regulierung von Film und Kino im deutschen Kaiserreich, in: Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 41 (2001), pp. 39–78.
 Idem, Popular Culture, in: Matthew Jefferies (ed.), The Ashgate Research Compendium to Imperial Germany, Farnham 2015, pp. 209–224.
 Idem, Was macht Populärkultur politisch?, Wiesbaden 2010.
 For a recent example, see Kerstin Lange, Tango in Paris und Berlin: Eine transnationale Geschichte der Metropolenkultur um 1900, Göttingen 2015.
 Peter Jelavich, Berlin Cabaret, Cambridge, MA 1993.
 Karl Rohe, Politische Kultur und ihre Analyse: Probleme und Perspektiven der politischen Kulturforschung, in: Historische Zeitschrift 250, 2 (1990), pp. 321–346.
 Jelavich, Berlin Cabaret, p. 86.
 Tobias Becker / Anna Littmann / Johanna Niedbalski (eds.), Die tausend Freuden der Metropole: Vergnügungskultur um 1900, Bielefeld 2011; Daniel Morat et al., Weltstadtvergnügen. For the latter volume, see my review at http://www.hsozkult.de/publicationreview/id/rezbuecher-25445 (17.07.2018).
 Tobias Becker, Inszenierte Moderne: Populäres Theater in Berlin und London, 1880-1930, Oldenburg 2014.
 Len Platt / Tobias Becker / David Linton (eds.), Popular Musical Theatre in London and Berlin, 1890 to 1939, Cambridge 2014. See also Marlis Schweitzer, Transatlantic Broadway: The Infrastructural Politics of Global Performance, Basingstoke 2015. Schweitzer focuses on ‘non-human actors’, such as ocean liners, telegraphs, telegrams and typewriters, and assesses their impact on the production of popular theatre in the early twentieth century. The book is based on an excellent summary of the ‘theatre wars’ in 1900s America and demonstrates how actor-network theory can add to our understanding of popular culture during the period.
 See especially Paul Nolte’s concluding chapter in Daniel Morat et al., Weltstadtvergnügen, where he describes popular entertainment as a ‘middlebrow culture’ that ‘almost represented a “leveled middle-class society” avant la lettre’ (p. 236). The term ‘nivellierte Mittelstandsgesellschaft’ was coined in 1953 by sociologist Helmut Schelsky.
 Peter Bailey, Popular Culture and Performance in the Victorian City, Cambridge 1998.
 Idem (ed.), Music Hall: The Business of Pleasure, Milton Keynes 1986.
 Note here that the English verb ‘to negotiate’ has the second meaning of ‘to manoeuvre’, which the German word ‘aushandeln’ (ubiquitous in cultural histories of popular culture) lacks. While ‘aushandeln’ implies a kind of rational dialogue that involves value statements and is aimed at consensus or compromise, the English term allows for a great deal of incoherence among, and disjunction between, the ‘negotiators’. The linguistic difference suggests that the inconsistency of culture is lost when it becomes a German ‘Verhandlungssache’.
 Kathy Peiss, Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York, Philadelphia 1986. Peiss’s work has subsequently been updated and pursued further into the twentieth century by Elizabeth Alice Clement, Love for Sale: Courting, Treating, and Prostitution in New York City, 1900-1945, Chapel Hill 2006.
 Randy McBee, Dance Hall Days: Intimacy and Leisure among Working-Class Immigrants in the United States, New York 2000, p. 143.
 Chad Heap, Slumming: Sexual and Racial Encounters in American Nightlife, 1885-1940, Chicago 2009, p. 3.
 Lewis Erenberg, Steppin’ Out: New York Nightlife and the Transformation of American Culture, 1890-1930, Chicago 1981.
 David Suisman, Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music, Cambridge, MA 2009, p. 15.
 For the problems of finding sources to write a history of the recording business in Germany, see Stefan Gauß, Nadel, Rille, Trichter: Kulturgeschichte des Phonographen und des Grammophons in Deutschland (1900-1940), Köln 2009.
 Eric Lott, Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class, New York 1993; David Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class, revised edition, London 1999, ch. 6 on minstrelsy.
 David Gilbert, The Product of our Souls: Ragtime, Race, and the Birth of the Manhattan Music Marketplace, Chapel Hill 2015. Elijah Wald, Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues, New York 2004, takes a similar perspective, treating the now famous blues artist as a working musician.
 This was, by the way, not entirely dissimilar to the position of Jews in the entertainment business in Germany, as Peter Jelavich argues. See Idem, Wie ‘jüdisch’ war das Theater im Berlin der Jahrhundertwende?, in: Tobias Becker et al. (eds.), Die tausend Freuden der Metropole, pp. 87–104. On Jewish presence in commercial entertainment, see also Marline Otte, Jewish Identities in German Popular Entertainment, 1890-1933, New York 2006.
 Karl Hagstrom Miller, Segregating Sound: Inventing Folk and Pop Music in the Age of Jim Crow, Durham 2010. For the business of popular ‘roots’ records, see also Barry Mazor, Ralph Peer and the Making of Roots Music, Chicago 2015.
 Rick Altman, Silent Film Sound, New York 2004; Julie Brown / Annette Davison (eds.), The Sounds of the Silents in Britain, New York 2012; Claus Tieber / Anna K. Windisch (eds.), The Sounds of Silent Films: New Perspectives on History, Theory and Practice, Basingstoke 2014.
 Sven Oliver Müller / Jürgen Osterhammel, Geschichtswissenschaft und Musik, in: Geschichte und Gesellschaft 38 (2012), pp. 5–20.
 For the British music halls, see the work by Peter Bailey, referenced above; for American vaudeville, see Robert Snyder, Voice of the City: Vaudeville and Popular Culture in New York, Chicago 2000, and Arthur Frank Wertheim, Vaudeville Wars: How the Keith-Albee and Orpheum Circuits Controlled the Big-Time and Its Performers, New York 2006. For Germany, where the industry was far less concentrated, see Wolfgang Janssen, Das Varieté: Die glanzvolle Geschichte einer unterhaltenden Kunst, Berlin 1990.
 Important work includes Wolfgang Mühl-Benninghaus, Das Ringen um den Tonfilm: Strategien der Elektro- und Filmindustrie in den 20er und 30er Jahren, Düsseldorf 1999; Gerben Bakker, Entertainment Industrialised: The Emergence of the International Film Industry, Cambridge 2011; Michele Hilmes, Radio Voices: American Broadcasting, 1922-1952, Minneapolis 1997. For the transformation of Tin Pan Alley and its integration into the film industry, see Katherine Spring, Saying it with Songs: Popular Music and the Coming of Sound to Hollywood Cinema, New York 2013.
 The popular music business in Germany during that period, for instance, is still very under-researched.
 Corey Ross, Media and the Making of Modern Germany: Mass Communications, Society, and Politics from the Empire to the Third Reich, Oxford 2008.
 Ibid., p. 340. For the argument that consumption was a unifying force, see also Pamela E. Swett, Selling under the Swastika: Advertising and Commercial Culture in Nazi Germany, Stanford 2014.
 See, for instance, Patrick Merziger, Nationalsozialistische Satire und ‘Deutscher Humor’: Politische Bedeutung und Öffentlichkeit populärer Unterhaltung, 1931-1945, Stuttgart 2010.
 Stefan Schwarzkopf, The Consumer as ‘Voter,’ ‘Judge,’ and ‘Jury’: Historical Origins and Political Consequences of a Marketing Myth, in: Journal of Makromarketing 31, 1 (2011), pp. 8–18.
 Susan Ohmer, George Gallup in Hollywood, New York 2006.
 Philip M. Napoli, Audience Evolution: New Technologies and the Transformation of Media Audiences, New York 2010 (on the ‘institutionally effective’ audience); Richard Caves, Creative Industries: Contracts between Art and Commerce, Cambridge, MA 2002 (the ‘nobody knows property’). For a more extensive discussion of this point, see Nathaus, Why Pop Changed (Part I).
 Lutz Raphael, Die Verwissenschaftlichung des Sozialen als methodische und konzeptionelle Herausforderung für eine Sozialgeschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts, in: Geschichte und Gesellschaft 22 (1996), pp. 165–193; Anja Kruke, Demoskopie in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Meinungsforschung, Parteien und Medien 1949-1980, Düsseldorf 2007; Sarah Igo, The Averaged American: Surveys, Citizens, and the Making of a Mass Public, Cambridge, MA 2007.
 D. L. Le Mahieu, A Culture for Democracy: Mass Communication and the Cultivated Mind in Britain Between the Wars, Oxford 1988.
 James J. Nott, Music for the People: Popular Music and Dance in Interwar Britain, Oxford 2002, p. 235.
 Idem, Going to the Palais: A Social and Cultural History of Dancing and Dance Halls in Britain, 1918-1960, Oxford 2015.
 Knud Wolffram, Tanzdielen und Vergnügungspaläste: Berliner Nachtleben in den dreißiger und vierziger Jahren, von der Friedrichstraße bis Berlin W., vom Moka Efti bis zum Delphi, Berlin 1992.
 Allison McCracken, Real Men Don’t Sing: Crooning in American Culture, Durham 2015. See also Laura Horak, Girls Will be Boys: Cross-Dressed Women, Lesbians, and American Cinema, 1908-1934, New Brunswick 2016. Increasing hostility towards homosexuals beginning in the early 1930s is also registered in George Chauncey, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940, New York 1994, and Matt Houlbrook, Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis, 1918-1957, Chicago 2005. The exclusion of homosexuals had a parallel in the marginalisation (or, as in Germany, persecution) of racial minorities. For the separation of US dance music along the colour line, see, for instance, Lewis A. Erenberg, Swingin’ the Dream: Big Band Jazz and the Rebirth of American Culture, Chicago 1998; for jazz in Germany, see Michael H. Kater, Different Drummers: Jazz in the Culture of Nazi Germany, New York 1992. The fate of persecuted musicians and members of the music trade in Germany has been traced by the contributors to Claudia Maurer Zenck / Peter Petersen / Sophie Fetthauer (eds.), Lexikon verfolgter Musiker und Musikerinnen der NS-Zeit, Hamburg 2005 (https://www.lexm.uni-hamburg.de/content/index.xml).
 See, for instance, the respective chapters in Ulrich Bröckling, Das unternehmerische Selbst: Soziologie einer Subjektivierungsform, Frankfurt 2007; Andreas Reckwitz, Die Erfindung der Kreativität: Zum Prozess gesellschaftlicher Ästhetisierung, Berlin 2012.
 James P. Kraft, Stage to Studio: Musicians and the Sound Revolution, 1890-1950, Baltimore 1996. Michael James Roberts, Tell Tchaikovsky the News: Rock ‘n’ Roll, the Labour Question, and the Musicians’ Union, 1942-1968, Durham 2014, does not add substantially to this. For a comparative perspective, see Angèle David-Guillou, Early Musicians' Unions in Britain, France, and the United States: On the Possibilities and Impossibilities of Transnational Militant Transfers in an International Industry, in: Labour History Review 74, 3 (2009), pp. 288–304.
 John Williamson, Martin Cloonan, Players’ Work Time: A History of the British Musicians’ Union, 1893-2013, Manchester 2016. See also Simon Frith et al., The History of Live Music in Britain, Vol. 1: 1950-1967: From Dance Hall to the 100 Club, Farnham 2013.
 Sherrie Tucker, Swing Shift: ‘All-Girl’ Bands of the 1940s, Durham 2000.
 For an excellent study on the recording studio scene in 1960s London, see Gordon Thompson, Please Please Me: Sixties Pop, Inside Out, Oxford 2008.
 Susan Schmidt Horning, Chasing Sound: Technology, Culture and the Art of Studio Recording from Edison to the LP, Baltimore 2013.
 However, we can look forward to Martin Rempe’s ‘Habilitationsschrift’ on musicians in Germany from the late nineteenth century to ca. 1960.
 For an overview of labour historiography see Kim Christian Priemel, Heaps of Work: The Ways of Labour History, in: H-Soz-Kult, 23.01.2014, https://www.hsozkult.de/literaturereview/id/forschungsberichte-1223 (19.07.2018).
 David Fowler, The First Teenagers: The Lifestyle of Young Wage-Earners in Interwar Britain, London 1995; Melanie Tebbutt, Making Youth: A History of Youth in Modern Britain, London 2016; Jon Savage, Teenage: The Creation of Youth, 1875-1945, London 2007.
 Adrian Horn, Jukebox Britain: Americanisation and Youth Culture, Manchester: Manchester University Press 2009. For youth venues, see also Joe Moran, Milk Bars, Starbucks and the Uses of Literacy, in: Cultural Studies 20, 6 (2006), pp. 552–573; Klaus Nathaus, ‘All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go’? Spaces and Conventions of Youth in 1950s Britain, in: Geschichte und Gesellschaft 41, 1 (2015), pp. 40–70.
 Kaspar Maase, BRAVO Amerika: Erkundungen zur Jugendkultur der Bundesrepublik in den fünfziger Jahren, Hamburg 1992; Uta G. Poiger, Jazz, Rock, and Rebels: Cold War Politics and American Culture in a Divided Germany, Berkeley 2000.
 Jeremy Tunstall, The Media are American: Anglo-American Media in the World, London 1977; George Ritzer, McDonaldization, in: Dale Southerton (ed.), Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture, vol. 3, Thousand Oaks 2011, pp. 924–927.
 Victoria De Grazia, Irresistible Empire: America’s Advance Through 20th Century Europe, Cambridge, MA 2005.
 Most recently Dietmar Hüser (ed.), Populärkultur transnational: Lesen, Hören, Sehen, Erleben im Europa der langen 1960er Jahre, Bielefeld 2017, and Michael Fischer / Christopher Jost (eds.), Amerika-Euphorie – Amerika-Hysterie: Populäre Musik made in USA, in der Wahrnehmung der Deutschen 1914-2018, Münster 2017. For an instructive review of literature on the related issue of ‘Afro-Americanophilia’, see Moritz Ege / Andrew Wright Hurley, Survey Essay 2: Periodizing and Historicizing German Afro-Americanophilia: From Counterculture to Post-Soul (1968-2005), in: Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies 12, 2 (2015), n.p.
 Klaus Nathaus (ed.), Made in Europe: The Production of Popular Culture in the Twentieth Century, Abingdon 2015.
 For this part, see also idem, Die Musik der weißen Männer: Zur Kritik des popgeschichtlichen Emanzipationsnarrativs, in: Mittelweg 36 25, 4/5 (2016), pp. 81–97.
 Matthias Fifka, Rockmusik in den 50er und 60er Jahren: Von der jugendlichen Rebellion zum Protest einer Generation, Baden-Baden 2007; Sebastian Kurme, Halbstarke: Jugendprotest in den 1950ern in Deutschland und den USA, Frankfurt 2006; Thomas Grotum, Die Halbstarken: Zur Geschichte einer Jugendkultur der 50er Jahre, Frankfurt 1994.
 Detlef Siegfried, Time Is on My Side: Konsum und Politik in der westdeutschen Jugendkultur der 60er Jahre, Göttingen 2006, 2., durchgesehene Auflage 2008.
 Arthur Marwick, The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy, and the United States, c. 1958-c.1974, Oxford 1998. Books with a similar thrust are Michael J. Kramer, The Republic of Rock: Music and Citizenship in the Sixties Counterculture, New York 2013, and David Simonelli, Working Class Heroes: Rock Music and British Society in the 1960s and 1970s, Lanham 2013.
 This over-estimation of creativity rooted in the counterculture also informs the recent study by Alexander Simmeth, Krautrock transnational: Die Neuerfindung der Popmusik in der BRD, 1968-1978, Bielefeld 2016, which credits ‘Krautrock‘ with ‘the re-invention of pop music’, while not mentioning the impact of German dance music on both the domestic music business and the international ‘pop’ repertoire. For a study of ‘Krautrock’ that tries to link this rock genre to other genres of music in Germany, see Ulrich Adelt, Krautrock: German Music in the Seventies, Ann Arbor, MI 2016.
 See, for instance, Marwick, The Sixties; Timothy Scott Brown, West Germany and the Global Sixties: The Anti-Authoritarian Revolt, 1962-1978, Cambridge 2013. Sven Reichardt, Authentizität und Gemeinschaft: Linksalternatives Leben in den siebziger und frühen achtziger Jahren, Frankfurt 2014, prolongs the narrative of emancipation and social levelling for the ‘alternative milieu’ into the 1970s.
 Elijah Wald, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music, New York 2009.
 Simon Frith, Sound Effects: Youth, Leisure and the Politics of Rock, London 1983, p. 211. Gender and education have recently been confirmed as the major predicators of ‘progressive rock’ appreciation in Martin Johnes, Consuming Popular Music: Individualism, Politics and Progressive Rock, in: Cultural and Social History 15, 1 (2018), pp. 115–134.
 For a sketch, see Klaus Nathaus, Das popmusikalische Selbst zwischen Öffentlichkeit und Privatsphäre: Zur Rolle ästhetischer Erfahrung in der Formierung einer neuen Mittelschicht, 1955-1980, in: Dominik Schrage / Holger Schwetter / Anne-Kathrin Hoklas (eds.), Zeiten des Aufbruchs? Populäre Musik als Medium des gesellschaftlichen Wandels seit den 1960er Jahren, Berlin (forthcoming 2018).
 Jon Garland / Keith Gildart / Anna Gouth-Yates et al., Introduction: Youth Culture, Popular Music and the End of ‘Consensus’ in Post-War Britain, in: Contemporary British History 26, 3 (2012), pp. 265–271; The Subcultures Network (eds.), Fight Back: Punk, Politics and Resistance, Manchester 2015.
 Keith Gildart, Images of England through Popular Music: Class, Youth and Rock ‘n’ Roll, 1955-1976, London 2013, p. 2.
 Mark Terkessidis, Die Eingeborenen von Schizonesien: Der Schlager als deutscheste aller Popkulturen, in: Idem / Tom Holert (eds.), Mainstream der Minderheiten, Berlin 1996, pp. 115–138. For German ‘Heimatfilme’, see Sabine Hake, German national cinema, London 2002, p. 111. For a recent example of a strong condemnation of standard pop-music fare as ‘shlock’ (‘Dreck’), see Diedrich Diederichsen, Über Pop-Musik, Köln 2014.
 This narrative informs, for instance, the otherwise excellent study on disco music by Tim Lawrence, Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-1979, Durham 2003. Julio Mendívil, Ein musikalisches Stück Heimat: Ethnologische Beobachtungen zum deutschen Schlager, Bielefeld 2008, manages to project the ‘popular resistance’ narrative on ‘Schlager’ music by labelling it a ‘”rebellion of conservatives”’ against the impositions of neo-liberalism.
 This view, which is held firmly by many practitioners of popular culture since the 1960s, also informs much of the interview-based historiography of more recent music genres such as hip-hop. See, for instance, Jeff Chang, Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, London 2007; Tricia Rose, The Hip Hop Wars: What We Talk about when We Talk about Hip Hop – and why It Matters, New York 2008.
 A collection of case studies in popular music is Sarah Baker / Andy Bennett / Jodie Taylor (eds.), Redefining Mainstream Popular Music, New York 2013. An approach to German ‘Schlagerfilms’ that steers clear of their political-aesthetic dismissal is Daniela Schulz, Wenn die Musik spielt…: Der deutsche Schlagerfilm der 1950er bis 1970er Jahre, Bielefeld 2012.
 Albin Zak III, I Don’t Sound Like Nobody: Remaking Music in 1950s America, Ann Arbor, MI 2010.
 Sarah Thornton, Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital, Cambridge 1995. I discuss this book in detail in Nathaus, Why Pop Changed (Part I).
 Thomas Frank, The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism, Chicago 1997, p. 108.
 Luc Boltanski / Eve Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism, London 2005; Alexander Sedlmaier / Stephan Malinowski, ‘1968’ as a Catalyst of Consumer Society, in: Cultural and Social History 8, 2 (2011), pp. 255–274.
 A study that takes up Frank’s interpretation and engages it with the discussion about the ‘new spirit of capitalism’ is Timothy D. Taylor’s book on music in twentieth-century advertising, The Sounds of Capitalism: Advertising, Music, and the Conquest of Culture, Chicago 2012. The final chapter of that book connects developments in the production of culture with changes in class relations, using Bourdieu’s concept of the ‘new petite bourgeoisie’.
 Alice Echols, Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture, New York 2010.
 Eric Weisbard, Top 40 Democracy: The Rival Mainstreams of American Music, Chicago 2014.
 Ibid., p. 20.
 Lawrence Levine, Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America, Cambridge, MA 1990. Another case in point would be the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC), which may owe its capacity to express marginal identities to its lack of aesthetic seriousness. For a recent study of the history of the ESC, see Dean Vuletic, Postwar Europe and the Eurovision Song Contest, London 2018.
 An early study of the complementary relationship between ‘majors’ and ‘indies’ in the music business is Keith Negus, Music Genres and Corporate Cultures, London 1999.
 Recent examples include Bob Stanley, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop, London 2013; Peter Doggett, Electric Shock: From the Gramophone to the iPod – 125 Years of Pop Music, London 2015; Jürgen Teipel, Verschwende Deine Jugend: Ein Doku-Roman über den deutschen Punk und New-Wave, Frankfurt 2012.
 Pop-Nostalgia is currently being researched by Tobias Becker (London).
 Diederichsen, Über Pop-Musik.
 Nadja Geer, Sophistication: Zwischen Denkstil und Pose, Göttingen 2012.
 Simon Reynolds, Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past, New York 2011, p. 396.
 Diederichsen, Über Pop-Musik, pp. 194–206.
 Reynolds, Retromania, p. 420.
 Bröckling, Unternehmerisches Selbst; Reckwitz, Erfindung der Kreativität; Boltanski / Chiapello, New Spirit of Capitalism. See also the introduction to Timothy D. Taylor, Music and Capitalism: A History of the Present, Chicago, IL 2016, pp. 1–15. The book becomes more nuanced and concrete in the empirical chapters.
 Simon Frith / Lee Marshall (eds.), Music and Copyright, second edition, Edinburgh 2004; Alex Sayf Cummings, Democracy of Sound: Music Piracy and the Remaking of American Copyright in the Twentieth Century, New York 2013. See also Monika Dommann, Autoren und Apparate: Die Geschichte des Copyrights im Medienwandel, Frankfurt 2014.
 This has even motivated authors of popular books on ‘pop’ to go back before the record era. See, for instance, Simon Napier-Bell, Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Day: The Business of Popular Music, London 2014.
 Matt Stahl, Unfree Masters: Recording Artists and the Politics of Work, Durham, NC 2013.
 Motti Regev, Pop-Rock Music: Aesthetic Cosmopolitanism in Late Modernity, Cambridge 2013, p. 3.
 Ibid., pp. 105–120.
 Richard A. Peterson / Roger M. Kern, Changing Highbrow Taste: From Snob to Omnivore, in: American Sociological Review 61, 5 (1996), pp. 900–907. For an instructive discussion of the omnivore thesis, with further references and a call for historical studies, see Irmak Karademir Hazır / Alan Warde, The Cultural Omnivore Thesis: Methodological Aspects of the Debate, in: Laurie Hanquinet / Mike Savage (eds.), Routledge International Handbook of the Sociology of Art and Culture, London 2016, pp. 77–89.
 Examples are discussed in Frédéric Döhl / Klaus Nathaus, Annäherungen an einen flüchtigen Gegenstand: Neue Literatur zur Geschichte der Musik aus Journalistik, Historiographie und Musikwissenschaft, in: Neue Politische Literatur 62, 3 (2017), pp. 473–495.
 I am much obliged to Martin Rempe for critical comments and to Rebecca Lowen for thorough proofreading. Mistakes, omissions and occasional bluntness are, of course, my own shortcomings.
Abrams, Lynn, Workers' culture in imperial Germany. Leisure and recreation in the Rhineland and Westphalia, London 1992.
Adelt, Ulrich, Krautrock. German music in the seventies, Ann Arbor 2016.
Altman, Rick, Silent film sound, New York, NY 2004.
Bailey, Peter, Leisure and class in Victorian England. Rational recreation and the contest for control, 1830 - 1885, London 1978.
Bailey, Peter, Music Hall. The Business of Pleasure, Milton Keynes 1986.
Bailey, Peter, Leisure, culture and the historian: reviewing the first generation of leisure historiography in Britain, in: Leisure Studies 8, 2 (1989), S. 107–127.
Bailey, Peter, Popular culture and performance in the Victorian city, Cambridge 1998.
Baker, Sarah / Bennett, Andy / Taylor, Jodie (Hrsg.), Redefining mainstream popular music, New York 2013.
Bakker, Gerben, Entertainment industrialised. The emergence of the international film industry, 1890-1940, Cambridge 2011.
Becker, Tobias, Inszenierte Moderne. Populäres Theater in Berlin und London, 1880-1930, München 2014.
Becker, Tobias / Littmann, Anna / Niedbalski, Johanna (Hrsg.), Die tausend Freuden der Metropole. Vergnügungskultur um 1900, Bielefeld 2011.
Boltanski, Luc / Chiapello, Ève, The new spirit of capitalism, London 2005.
Bröckling, Ulrich, Das unternehmerische Selbst. Soziologie einer Subjektivierungsform, Frankfurt am Main 2007.
Brown, Julie / Davison, Annette (Hrsg.), The sounds of the silents in Britain, New York, NY 2013.
Brown, Timothy Scott, West Germany and the global sixties. The anti-authoritarian revolt, 1962-1978, Cambridge 2013.
Caves, Richard E., Creative industries. Contracts between art and commerce. Pbk. ed., Cambridge 2002.
Chang, Jeff / Herc, Kool, Can't stop, won't stop. A history of the hip-hop generation, London 2007.
Chauncey, George, Gay New York. Gender, urban culture, and the making of the gay male world, 1890-1940, New York 1994.
Clement, Elizabeth Alice, Love for sale. Courting, treating, and prostitution in New York City, 1900-1945, Chapel Hill 2006.
Cummings, Alex Sayf, Democracy of sound. Music piracy and the remaking of American copyright in the twentieth century, New York 2013.
Cunningham, H., Leisure and culture, in: Thompson, F. M. L. (Hrsg.), People and their environment, Cambridge 1990, S. 279–340.
David-Guillou, Angèle, Early Musicians' Unions in Britain, France, and the United States. On the Possibilities and Impossibilities of Transnational Militant Transfers in an International Industry, in: Labour History Review 74, 3 (2009), S. 288–304.
Diederichsen, Diedrich, Über Pop-Musik. 1. Aufl., Köln 2014.
Doggett, Peter, Electric shock. From the gramophone to the iPhone - 125 years of pop music, London 2015.
Döhl, Frédéric / Nathaus, Klaus, Annäherungen an einen flüchtigen Gegenstand. Neue Literatur zur Geschichte der Musik aus Journalistik, Historiographie und Musikwissenschaft, in: Neue Politische Literatur 62, 3 (2017), S. 473–495.
Dommann, Monika, Autoren und Apparate. Die Geschichte des Copyrights im Medienwandel, Frankfurt am Main 2014.
Echols, Alice, Hot stuff. Disco and the remaking of American culture, New York 2010.
Ege, Moritz / Hurley, Andrew, Survey Essay 2. Periodizing and Historicizing German Afro-Americanophilia. From Counterculture to Post-soul (1968-2005), in: PORTAL 12, 2 (2015).
Erenberg, Lewis A., Steppin' out. New York nightlife and the transformation of American culture, 1890-1930, Westport 1981.
Erenberg, Lewis A., Swingin' the dream. Big band jazz and the rebirth of American culture, Chicago 1998.
Fifka, Matthias S., Rockmusik in den 50er und 60er Jahren. Von der jugendlichen Rebellion zum Protest einer Generation, Baden-Baden 2007.
Fischer, Michael / Jost, Christofer (Hrsg.), Amerika-Euphorie – Amerika-Hysterie. Populäre Musik "made in USA" in der Wahrnehmung der Deutschen 1914-2014 : zum 100-jährigen Bestehen des Deutschen Volksliedarchivs und zur Gründung des Zentrums für Populäre Kultur und Musik, Münster 2017.
Fowler, David, The first teenagers. The lifestyle of young wage-earners in interwar Britain, London 1995.
Framke, Gisela, 8 Stunden sind kein Tag. Arbeit und Vergnügen in Dortmund 1870 bis 1939, Heidelberg 1992.
Frank, Thomas, The conquest of cool. Business culture, counterculture, and the rise of hip consumerism, Chicago 1997.
Frith, Simon, Sound effects. Youth, leisure, and the politics of rock, London 1983.
Frith, Simon u.a., The History of Live Music in Britain, Volume I. From Dance Hall to the 100 Club, Farnham 2013.
Frith, Simon / Lee, Marshall (Hrsg.), Music and copyright. 2. Aufl., Edinburgh 2004.
Garland, Jon u.a., Youth Culture, Popular Music and the End of ‘Consensus’ in Post-War Britain, in: Contemporary British History 26, 3 (2012), S. 265–271.
Gauß, Stefan, Nadel, Rille, Trichter. Kulturgeschichte des Phonographen und des Grammophons in Deutschland (1900-1940), Köln 2009.
Geer, Nadja, Sophistication. Zwischen Denkstil und Pose, Göttingen 2012.
Geisthövel, Alexa / Mrozek, Bodo (Hrsg.), Popgeschichte. Band 1: Konzepte und Methoden, Bielefeld 2014.
Gilbert, David, The product of our souls. Ragtime, race, and the birth of the Manhattan musical marketplace, Chapel Hill 2015.
Gildart, Keith, Images of England Through Popular Music. Class, Youth and Rock 'n' Roll, 1955-1976, Basingstoke 2013.
Grazia, Victoria de, Irresistible empire. America's advance through twentieth-century Europe, Cambridge, Mass. 2006.
Grotum, Thomas, Die Halbstarken. Zur Geschichte einer Jugendkultur der 50er Jahre, Frankfurt am Main 1994.
Hake, Sabine, German national cinema, London 2001.
Hanquinet, Laurie / Savage, Michael (Hrsg.), Routledge international handbook of the sociology of art and culture, London 2016.
Hazır, Irmak Karademir / Warde, Alan, The Cultural Omnivore Thesis. Methodological Aspects of the Debate, in: Hanquinet, Laurie / Savage, Michael (Hrsg.), Routledge international handbook of the sociology of art and culture,London, New York 2016, S. 77–89.
Heap, Chad, Slumming. Sexual and Racial Encounters in American Nightlife, 1885-1940, Chicago 2009.
Hilmes, Michele, Radio voices. American broadcasting, 1922-1952, Minneapolis 1997.
Horak, Laura, Girls will be boys. Cross-dressed women, lesbians, and American cinema, 1908-1934, New Brunswick, NJ 2016.
Horn, Adrian, Juke box Britain. Americanisation and youth culture, 1945 - 60, Manchester 2009.
Houlbrook, Matt, Queer London. Perils and pleasures in the sexual metropolis, 1918-1957, Chicago 2005.
Hüser, Dietmar (Hrsg.), Populärkultur transnational. Lesen, Hören, Sehen, Erleben im Europa der langen 1960er Jahre, Bielefeld 2017.
Igo, Sarah, The averaged American. Surveys, citizens, and the making of a mass public, Cambridge 2007.
Jansen, Wolfgang, Das Varieté. Die glanzvolle Geschichte einer unterhaltenden Kunst, Berlin 1990.
Jelavich, Peter, Berlin cabaret, Cambridge, Mass. 1993.
Jelavich, Peter, Wie ‘jüdisch’ war das Theater im Berlin der Jahrhundertwende?, in: Becker, Tobias / Littmann, Anna / Niedbalski, Johanna (Hrsg.), Die tausend Freuden der Metropole. Vergnügungskultur um 1900, Bielefeld 2011, S. 87–104.
Johnes, Martin, Consuming Popular Music: Individualism, Politics and Progressive Rock, in: Cultural and Social History 15, 1 (2018), S. 115–134.
Jones, Gareth Stedman, Working-Class Culture and Working-Class Politics in London, 1870-1900. Notes on the Remaking of a Working Class, in: Journal of Social History 7, 4 (1974), S. 460–508.
Kater, Michael H., Different drummers. Jazz in the culture of Nazi Germany, New York 1992.
Kift, Dagmar (Hrsg.), Kirmes - Kneipe - Kino. Arbeiterkultur im Ruhrgebiet zwischen Kommerz und Kontrolle (1850-1914), Paderborn 1992.
Kosok, Lisa, Arbeiterfreizeit und Arbeiterkultur im Ruhrgebiet. Eine Untersuchung ihrer Erscheinungsformen und Wandlungsprozesse; 1850-1914, Bochum 1989.
Kraft, James P., Stage to Studio. Musicians and the Sound Revolution, 1890-1950, Baltimore 1996.
Kramer, Michael J., The republic of rock. Music and citizenship in the sixties counterculture, New York 2013.
Kruke, Anja, Demoskopie in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Meinungsforschung, Parteien und Medien 1949-1990, Düsseldorf 2007.
Kurme, Sebastian, Halbstarke. Jugendprotest in den 1950er Jahren in Deutschland und den USA, Frankfurt am Main 2006.
Lange, Kerstin, Tango in Paris und Berlin. Eine transnationale Geschichte der Metropolenkultur um 1900, Göttingen 2015.
Lawrence, Tim, Love saves the day. A history of American dance music culture, 1970-1979, Durham 2003.
LeMahieu, D. L., A culture for democracy. Mass communication and the cultivated mind in Britain between the wars, Oxford 1988.
Levine, Lawrence W., Highbrow, lowbrow. The emergence of cultural hierarchy in America, Cambridge, Mass. 1990.
Levine, Lawrence W., The Folklore of Industrial Society. Popular Culture and Its Audiences, in: The American Historical Review 97, 5 (1992), S. 1369–1399.
Lindenberger, Thomas, From Structuralism to Culturalism. Working Class and its Actuality Reassessed from a Post-Cold War Perspective, in: International Review of Social History 61, 1 (2016), S. 11–34.
Lott, Eric, Love and theft. Blackface minstrelsy and the American working class, New York 1993.
Maase, Kaspar, BRAVO Amerika. Erkundungen zur Jugendkultur der Bundesrepublik in den fünfziger Jahren, Hamburg 1992.
Maase, Kaspar, Massenkunst und Volkserziehung. Die Regulierung von Film und Kino im deutschen Kaiserreich, in: Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 41 (2001), S. 39–78.
Maase, Kaspar, Grenzenloses Vergnügen. Der Aufstieg der Massenkultur 1850-1970. 4. Aufl., Frankfurt am Main 2007.
Maase, Kaspar, Die Schönheiten des Populären. Ästhetische Erfahrung der Gegenwart, Frankfurt am Main 2008.
Maase, Kaspar, Was macht Populärkultur politisch?, Wiesbaden 2010.
Maase, Kaspar, Popular Culture, in: Jefferies, Matthew (Hrsg.), The Ashgate research companion to Imperial Germany, Burlington 2015, S. 209–224.
Maase, Kaspar / Kaschuba, Wolfgang (Hrsg.), Schund und Schönheit. Populäre Kultur um 1900, Köln 2001.
Marwick, Arthur, The Sixties. Cultural revolution in Britain, France, Italy, and the United States, c. 1958–c. 1974, Oxford 1998.
Mazor, Barry, Ralph Peer and the making of popular roots music, Chicago 2015.
McBee, Randy D., Dance hall days. Intimacy and leisure among working-class immigrants in the United States, New York 2000.
McCracken, Allison, Real men don't sing. Crooning in American culture, Durham 2015.
McKibbin, Ross, Working-Class Gambling in Britain, 1880–1939, in: Past and Present 82, 1 (1979), S. 147–178.
Mendívil, Julio, Ein musikalisches Stück Heimat. Ethnologische Beobachtungen zum deutschen Schlager, Bielefeld 2008.
Merziger, Patrick, Nationalsozialistische Satire und "Deutscher Humor". Politische Bedeutung und Öffentlichkeit populärer Unterhaltung, 1931-1945, Stuttgart 2010.
Miller, Karl Hagstrom, Segregating sound. Inventing folk and pop music in the age of Jim Crow, Durham 2010.
Moran, Joe, Milk Bars, Starbucks and the Uses of Literacy, in: Cultural Studies 20, 6 (2006), S. 552–573.
Morat, Daniel u.a., Weltstadtvergnügen. Berlin 1880–1930, Göttingen 2016.
Mrozek, Bodo, Popgeschichte. Version 1.0, in: Docupedia-Zeitgeschichte, 06.05.2010, http://docupedia.de/zg/Popgeschichte.
Mrozek, Bodo / Geisthövel, Alexa / Danyel, Jürgen (Hrsg.), Popgeschichte. Band 2: Zeithistorische Fallstudien 1958-1988, Bielefeld 2014.
Mühl-Benninghaus, Wolfgang, Das Ringen um den Tonfilm. Strategien der Elektro- und der Filmindustrie in den 20er und 30er Jahren, Düsseldorf 1999.
Müller, Sven Oliver / Osterhammel, Jürgen, Geschichtswissenschaft und Musik, in: Geschichte und Gesellschaft 38, 1 (2012), S. 5–21.
Napier-Bell, Simon, Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay. The Business of Popular Music, London 2015.
Napoli, Philip M., Audience evolution. New technologies and the transformation of media audiences, New York 2011.
Nathaus, Klaus, »All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go«?, in: Geschichte und Gesellschaft 41, 1 (2015), S. 40–70.
Nathaus, Klaus, Die Musik der weißen Männer. Zur Kritik des popgeschichtlichen Emanzipationsnarrativs, in: Mittelweg 36 25, 4/5 (2016), S. 81–97.
Nathaus, Klaus (Hrsg.), Made in Europe. The production of popular culture in the twentieth-century, London 2016.
Nathaus, Klaus, Das popmusikalische Selbst zwischen Öffentlichkeit und Privatsphäre. Zur Rolle ästhetischer Erfahrung in der Formierung einer neuen Mittelschicht, 1955-1980, in: Schrage, Dominik / Schwetter, Holger / Hoklas, Anne-Kathrin (Hrsg.), Zeiten des Aufbruchs? Populäre Musik als Medium des gesellschaftlichen Wandels seit den 1960er Jahren, Berlin 2018 [Im Druck].
Negus, Keith, Music Genres and Corporate Cultures, London 1999.
The Subcultures Network, Fight back. Punk, politics and resistance, Oxford 2015.
Nott, James J., Music for the people. Popular music and dance in interwar Britain, Oxford 2002.
Nott, James J., Going to the palais. A social and cultural history of dancing and dance halls in Britain, 1918-1960, Oxford 2015.
Ohmer, Susan, George Gallup in Hollywood, New York 2006.
Otte, Marline, Jewish identities in German popular entertainment. 1890-1933, Cambridge 2006.
Peiss, Kathy, Cheap amusements. Working women and leisure in turn-of-the-century New York, Philadelphia 1986.
Peterson, Richard A. / Kern, Roger M., Changing Highbrow Taste. From Snob to Omnivore, in: American Sociological Review 61, 5 (1996), S. 900–907.
Peterson, Richard A. / White, Howard G., The Simplex Located in Art Worlds, in: Urban Life 7, 4 (1979), S. 411–439.
Platt, Len / Becker, Tobias / Linton, David (Hrsg.), Popular musical theatre in London and Berlin. 1890-1939, Cambridge 2014.
Poiger, Uta G., Jazz, rock, and rebels. Cold War politics and American culture in a divided Germany, Berkeley 2000.
Priemel, Kim Christian, Heaps of Work. The Ways of Labour History, in: H-Soz-Kult, 23.01.2014, https://www.hsozkult.de/literaturereview/id/forschungsberichte-1223.
Raphael, Lutz, Die Verwissenschaftlichung des Sozialen als methodische und konzeptionelle Herausforderung für eine Sozialgeschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts, in: Geschichte und Gesellschaft 22 (1996), S. 165–193.
Reckwitz, Andreas, Die Erfindung der Kreativität. Zum Prozess gesellschaftlicher Ästhetisierung, Berlin 2012.
Regev, Motti, Pop-rock music. Aesthetic cosmopolitanism in late modernity, Oxford 2013.
Reichardt, Sven, Authentizität und Gemeinschaft. Linksalternatives Leben in den siebziger und frühen achtziger Jahren, Berlin 2014.
Reynolds, Simon, Retromania. Pop culture's addiction to its own past, New York 2011.
Ritzer, George, McDonaldization, in: Southerton, Dale (Hrsg.), Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture, Thousand Oaks 2011, S. 924–927.
Roberts, Michael J., Tell Tchaikovsky the news. Rock 'n' roll, the labor question, and the musicians' union, 1942-1968, Durham 2014.
Roediger, David R., The wages of whiteness. Race and the making of the American working class, London 1999.
Rohe, Karl, Politische Kultur und ihre Analyse. Probleme und Perspektiven der politischen Kulturforschung, in: Historische Zeitschrift 250, 2 (1990), S. 321–346.
Rose, Tricia, The hip hop wars. What we talk about when we talk about hip hop – and why it matters, New York 2008.
Ross, Corey, Media and the making of modern Germany. Mass communications, society, and politics from the Empire to the Third Reich, Oxford 2008.
Russell, Dave, Popular music in England, 1840-1914. A social history, Montreal 1987.
Savage, Jon, Teenage. The creation of youth culture : 1875-1945, London 2007.
Schmidt Horning, Susan, Chasing sound. Technology, culture, and the art of studio recording from Edison to the LP, Baltimore 2013.
Schulz, Daniela, Wenn die Musik spielt... Der deutsche Schlagerfilm der 1950er bis 1970er Jahre, Bielefeld 2012.
Schwarzkopf, Stefan, The consumer as "voter", "judge" and "jury". Historical origins and political consequences of a marketing myth, in: Journal of Macromarketing 31, 1 (2011), S. 8–18.
Schweitzer, Marlis, Transatlantic Broadway. The Infrastructural Politics of Global Performance, Basingstoke 2015.
Sedlmaier, Alexander / Malinowski, Stephan, ‘1968’ – A Catalyst of Consumer Society, in: Cultural and Social History 8, 2 (2011), S. 255–274.
Siegfried, Detlef, Time Is on My Side. Konsum und Politik in der westdeutschen Jugendkultur der 60er Jahre, Göttingen 2006, 2., durchgesehene Auflage 2008.
Simmeth, Alexander, Krautrock transnational. Die Neuerfindung der Popmusik in der BRD, 1968-1978, Bielefeld 2016.
Simonelli, David, Working class heroes. Rock music and British society in the 1960s and 1970s, Lanham 2013.
Snyder, Robert W., The voice of the city. Vaudeville and popular culture in New York, Chicago 2000.
Spring, Katherine, Saying it with songs. Popular music and the coming of sound to Hollywood cinema, New York 2013.
Stahl, Matt, Unfree Masters. Recording Artists and the Politics of Work, Durham 2012.
Stanley, Bob, Yeah Yeah Yeah. The story of modern pop, London 2013.
Suisman, David, Selling sounds. The commercial revolution in American music, Cambridge, Mass. 2009.
Swett, Pamela E., Selling under the swastika. Advertising and commercial culture in Nazi Germany, Stanford, Calif. 2014.
Taylor, Timothy D., The sounds of capitalism. Advertising, music, and the conquest of culture, Chicago 2012.
Taylor, Timothy D., Music and capitalism. A history of the present, Chicago 2016.
Tebbutt, Melanie, Making Youth. A History of Youth in Modern Britain, Oxford 2016.
Teipel, Jürgen, Verschwende Deine Jugend. Ein Doku-Roman über den deutschen Punk und New Wave, Berlin 2012.
Terkessidis, Mark, Die Eingeborenen von Schizonesien. Der Schlager als deutscheste aller Popkulturen, in: Holert, Tom / Terkessidis, Mark (Hrsg.), Mainstream der Minderheiten. Pop in der Kontrollgesellschaft, Berlin 1996.
Thompson, Edward P., The making of the English working class, London 2013 .
Thompson, Gordon, Please Please Me. Sixties British pop, inside out, New York 2008.
Thornton, Sarah, Club cultures. Music, media and subcultural capital, Cambridge 1995.
Tieber, Claus / Windisch, Anna Katharina (Hrsg.), The Sounds of Silent Films. New Perspectives on History, Theory and Practice, Basingstoke 2014.
Tucker, Sherrie, Swing shift. "All-girl" bands of the 1940s, Durham, NC 2000.
Tunstall, Jeremy, The media are American. Anglo-American media in the world, London 1977.
Vuletic, Dean, Postwar Europe and the Eurovision Song Contest, London 2018.
Wald, Elijah, Escaping the delta. Robert Johnson and the invention of the blues, New York 2004.
Wald, Elijah, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll. An Alternative History of American Popular Music, Oxford 2009.
Walton, John K. / Walvin, James (Hrsg.), Leisure in Britain 1780-1939, Manchester 1983.
Walvin, James, Leisure and society, 1830-1950, London 1978.
Wehler, Hans-Ulrich, Deutsche Gesellschaftsgeschichte, Bd. 3: Von der "Deutschen Doppelrevolution" bis zum Beginn des Ersten Weltkrieges, 1849-1914, München 1995.
Weisbard, Eric, Top 40 Democracy. The Rival Mainstreams of American Music, Chicago 2014.
Wertheim, Arthur Frank, Vaudeville wars. How the Keith-Albee and Orpheum circuits controlled the big-time and its performers, New York 2006.
Williamson, John / Cloonan, Martin (Hrsg.), Players' work time. A history of the British Musicians' Union, 1893-2013, Manchester 2016.
Wolffram, Knud, Tanzdielen und Vergnügungspaläste. Berliner Nachtleben in den dreissiger und vierziger Jahren ; von der Friedrichstrasse bis Berlin W, vom Moka Efti bis zum Delphi, Berlin 1992.
Zak III, Albin, I don't sound like nobody. Remaking music in 1950s America, Ann Arbor 2010.
Zenck, Claudia Maurer / Petersen, Peter / Fetthauer, Sophie, Lexikon verfolgter Musiker und Musikerinnen der NS-Zeit, Hamburg 2005ff, https://www.lexm.uni-hamburg.de/content/index.xml.