Music Research


Most of my research from 2003-2013 focused on the sociological dynamics of music. I have proposed a sociological theory of genre, and argued in favor of its value, over and above musicological notions of genre. I work within a sub-field focused on organizational and institutional features of the creation of culture, or, the production of culture. A third sub-set of my work focuses on the dynamics of authenticity within music communities. Finally, my Ph.D. research focused on rap music.

The Sociology of Genre

I demonstrate, using several examples, why sociologists should avoid using musicological genres in their analyses.


With co-author Richard A. Peterson, I argue that political music made outside the U.S. falls into one of two categories: protest music and government propaganda. We look at music made in China, Chile, Serbia, and Nigeria to make the argument.


Nashville’s signature “Fan Fair Festival” moved downtown, changed its program, and a generation of (female) “New Country” fans resulted.


With co-author Richard A. Peterson, I present a sociological theory of genre, based on a study of 60 different styles of 20th century American pop music.

Listen to an audio interview with both authors, on Vanderbilt Media’s page.

Reprinted in Wray, Matt. 2013. Cultural Sociology: An Introduction. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. Pp. 239-267.

The Production of Culture

Two bibliographic overviews of the history of the “production of culture perspective” within cultural sociology.

The first, co-authored with Vaughn Schmutz, covers “Cultural Production and Circulation” and was published in Oxford Bibliographies in Sociology.


The second, sole-authored, is entitled “Culture, Production of: Prospects for the Twenty-First Century.” It was published in the International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. 2nd Edition.


Nashville’s signature “Fan Fair Festival” moved downtown, changed its program, and a generation of (female) “New Country” fans resulted.


Authenticity is a pretty weak analytical construct; instead of thinking of it as an attribute, we should think of it as a performance--one that has consequences only after a community is threatened.

From indie to rap to South Texas Polka, why communities fight to define authenticity in pop music.

More on authenticity in Jenn Lena’s interview with Pitch podcast: Episode 4, “Backtracking.” Online at SoundCloud, iTunes. On NPR affiliates and WNYC. (2014)

Rap Music

With co-author Mark Pachucki we ask: Why do some rappers get famous, while others make great, innovative music and struggle to pay the bills?

Read more about it in my blog post on OrgTheory.


An in-depth look at rap group dead prez’s video “Hell Yeah!”, to show the ways in which rap artists contest dominant images of race and class.

Reprinted in Neal, Mark Anthony and Murray Forman (eds.). 2011. That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. 2nd Edition. New York: Routledge.


It turns out that, even after the major labels took over the rap music market, rappers still found a way to speak back to power, authentically.

Reprinted in Lune, Howard, Enrique S. Pumar and Ross Koppel (eds.). 2009. Perspectives in Social Research Methods and Analysis: A Reader for Sociology. Sage.


A quantitative analysis of patterns of samples used in rap music.


The bizarre use of a rap parody of Saddam Hussein, in an anti-Arab psyops campaign.