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date: 23 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the role of the recording industry in framing and fueling the development of country music from the 1920s to the present. It primarily examines the way that artists, producers, and record companies developed and manipulated the tenacious debate between “tradition” and “crossover” that continues to structure the music as art, commodity, and cultural symbol. The notion of country authenticity is a function of the attempt to establish country as a distinct and sellable genre. While the recording industry (particularly in Nashville) often gets cast as the villain in debates over country “authenticity,” this chapter suggests that a historical examination of this relationship reveals a more complicated story that has marked the careers of artists from Jimmie Rodgers to Taylor Swift. Swift’s notable work with social media, viral videos, and other components of the media landscape facing recording artists in the 2000s is the latest iteration of a much longer story for country artists, audiences, and record labels.

Keywords: country music, recording industry, crossover, country authenticity, Nashville, outlaw country

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