Notes 2 – Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital – Sarah Thornton


2 – Authenticities from Record Hops to Raves (and the History of Disc Culture)


The Authentication of a Mass Media


Music is perceived as authentic when it has credibility and comes across as genuine. The experience of musical authenticity is perceived as a cure for alienation (offers feeling of community) and dissimulation (extends a sense of the really “real’).


Between the mid-fifties and mid-eighties “liveness” dominated notions of authenticity and its main site was the live gig. Interestingly “liveness” as a musical value coincided with the decline of performance as the dominant medium of music and the prototype for recording. The demand for live gigs was arguably roused by the proliferation of recordings.


The formation of new authenticities specific to recorded entertainment were dependent on changed in the production and consumption of music. Originally records reproduced and sounded like performances. As popular music was increasingly took place in the recording studio, records came to carry sounds and music that did not originate or refer to actual performances. In the 1960s, magnetic tape technology, producers edited music into “records of ideal, not real, events” (Frith, 1987a, 65). In the 1970s and 1980s, synthesisers and samplers meant that sounds were recorded from the start, so the record shifted from being a secondary or derivative form to a primary, original one.


Records gained their own authenticities as they became originals. Degrees of “aura” came to be attributed to new, exclusive and rare records. Similar to the mystification of art objects, records could plausibly be authentic and archetypal. This inversion of original and copy cannot be fully explained as “commodity fetishism” although it does explain the obsessive vinyl junkies and “completists”.  


However, records were not subsumed into popular culture as the public’s acceptance was slow, selective and generational. Changes in the way music was consumed was essential to the development of new authenticities of the disc. The authentic “live” experience was considered superior to dsc reproduction. Records gradual enculturation was signalled by the changing names of the places where people gathered to dance to discs, such as record hops, disc sessions and discotheques. The technological enculturation of the disc leads to authentication when a music form is deemed essential to subculture. Once technology is absorbed into culture, new concepts of authenticity are possible. The microphone offered a new form of authenticity as the singer exploited the intimacy that this technology offered, “moving the focus from the song to the singer” (Frith, 1986: 270). Similarly with the electric guitar has become fully integrated with rock culture, records have become the authentic musical instrument of club and rave culture.


Contemporary dance cultures are authenticated by the interaction between the DJ and the crowd. “Liveness” moved from the stage to the dancefloor, venerating the atmosphere as both DJ and dancers share the spotlight. Raves have become unique happenings similar to rock festivals.


Subcultural authenticities are often inflected by issues of nation, race and ethnicity. Black British disc cultures reflect the strength of community away from the night club, affirming politicised black identity. So there are two kinds of authenticity at play. The first involves issues of originality and aura and the second is about being natural to the community or organic /to the subculture. These two kinds of authenticity can be related to two kinds of culture. The first draws upon culture as art and the second in an anthropological sense as a way of life. With live music, artistic and subcultural authenticities collide at the point of authorship. Artistic authenticity is anchored by the performing author as the unique origin of the sound while subcultural authenticity is grounded in the performer representing the community. Whereas disc cultures separate these two authenticities. The crowd make the record a “living” culture and the DJ bridge the gap as professional collectors and players of “originals” as well as “working the crowd”, but they do not embody authenticity like live music performers. Both live and disc authenticities emphasise the cultural importance of being genuine and both seek to elevate their cultures above mass culture, media and commerce.


Technological enculturation is a relatively new issue. The integration of media and information technologies has four overlapping stages. According to Silverstone, Hirsch and Morley in their essay Consuming Technologies, the four phases are; appropriation (by ownership), objectification (within the decorative space of the home), incorporation (into the temporal structure of everyday lives), and conversion (into topics of conversation and cultural bonds) (Silverstone et al. 1992). However this model domesticates music consumption but can be analogous to the enculturation of music in the public sphere. Recorded music is as much a feature of pubs, shops, lifts and karaoke bars as it is in a private home.


Industrial Forces, Musician Resistance and “Live” Ideology


Records moved from the private to the public sphere, enculturated into the public sphere. They replace performance in the times and places with the youngest patrons and lowest budgets. This gradual colonisation of public spaces was opposed by the Musician’s Union who wanted to eradicate the practice. It was appeased by receiving performance rights but still campaigned with propaganda about the superiority and authenticity of live music. Recorded music performs the function that live bands used to do for social and cultural events.


Thomas Edison recommended that his phonograph be used as a “talking machine” to facilitate dictation, record phone messages, books for the blind etc (cf. Read and Welch, 1976). Little thought was given to its entertainment value. By the turn of the 20th Century dance crazes stimulated the recording business, producing records for use in the private sphere, for practicing dance steps and parties. Coin-operated phonographs or “juke boxes” introduced these recording into the public sphere.


During the twenties, radio was the main source of music, most of which was broadcast live. Dance band playing for an audience of ballroom dancers while simultaneously broadcasting to people’s homes. Record companies saw radio as competition and withheld promoting their records on the radio. In July 1927, the BBC broadcast the first programme devoted to records which had a positive impact on sales. They began actively pursuing airplay and buying plays on commercial radio stations. Radio became central to the process of record selling and star-making but it unseated the primacy of the family piano rather than challenging the dancehall.


Before the “talkies”, many of Britain’s musicians were employed accompanying silent films. Yet the success of The Jazz Singer in 1927, the same year as the BBc’s first record show, saw many musicians lose their jobs. Movies became a vehicle for promoting records and by the late fifties the album charts were full of film soundtracks. The majority of these were family entertainment and despite the success of Blackboard Jungle and its closing track “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets, rock’n’roll was mainly recorded on 45s which was predominantly bought by youth. By the sixties, both Elvis Presley and the Beatles albums were marketed as “original soundtracks” as these movies were vehicles for the artist’s music. Simon and Garfunkel’s soundtrack for The Graduate in 1968 marked a turning point in the popularity of the album format amongst youth.


In the 1930s, the record companies began to sue for public performances of their product. The 1911 Copyright Act only protected from unauthorised “copying” as opposed to “playing”. The companies began to attach labels to their records stating that they should not be publicly performed and set up Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) to license the performance of records where it authorised the use of records in exchange for a licence fee.


From 1946, the PPL began licensing establishments on the condition that “records not be used in substitution of a band or orchestra or in circumstances where it would be reasonable to claim that a band or orchestra should be employed” Musician’s Union Conference Report, 1949). In 1951, Danceland Records released ballroom numbers to circumvent existing copyright laws. They advertised their records for use in ballrooms, hotels and theatres, urging the proprietors of these to join the fight against PPL licencing. In 1956, a new copyright act re-enacted the rights given to the record companies, defining the sound recordings as distinct from copyright of musical works and reiterated the three acts which require a PPL licence, making copies of records, playing them in public and broadcasting them. This permitted the use of records “at any premises where persons reside or sleep” as long as no admission price was charged within non-profit clubs and charitable, religious or educational societies.


Many dance clubs exploited these loopholes. The Whiskey-a-Gogo club in London claimed exemption on the grounds that it was the headquarters of an international students association. Other small clubs dodged PPL licences in a variety of ways. The Saddle Room in London hired a trio of musicians which never actually performed. During the fifties the Musician’s Union (MU) began a propaganda campaign attacking the aesthetic quality of records and draw on notions of “live” music as worthy of appreciation. Liveness was the truth of music whereas records were the false prophets. The ideology of “liveness” was the MU’s strategy to combat the menace of recorded music. In 1963 the MU adopted the slogan “Keep Music Live” to convince the community of the human value of live music.


Jean Baudrillard noted that culture was dying on the altar of techniques of production, the creation of images that no longer reflects but generates the real. The MU’s stance was that technology was destroying music itself (The Musician, 1963). The MU’s promotion of live music was hampered by their members musical taste and their anti-mass culture rhetoric, not understanding why teenagers preferred dancing to rock-n-roll over listening to “good jazz” (Musician’s Union Report, 1959). This protectionist attitude and the promotion of certain types of music over others reinforced the association of certain music genres (rock-n-roll and later soul) with records. Rock music eventually adopted the ideology of live music and was at its most strident in its reaction to disco music as epitomising the death of music culture.


In Britain, discos and disco music (or soul, funk, jazz fusion) had a huge straight white working class following, unlike the USA which strongly identified with gay, black and Hispanic minorities. Anti-disco sentiments echoed an elitist attitude to mindless masses and generational conflict. In the 1950s the public use of discs was facilitated by the introduction of vinyl 33 and 45 rpm records which probably aided the proliferation of lunchtime record hops. In the 1960s most disc sessions took place earlier in the week, whether in discotheques or live venues, while featuring live bands at the weekend. By the 1970s, records began to dominate the “prime time” of Friday and Saturday nights. Live music had become the interval between record sets. By the mid 1980s, live music was relegated to the beginning of the week as DJs and discs became the main attraction at the weekends.


Records first gained a foothold in locations with low budgets, such as youth clubs and community centres. Records eventually moved to commercial venues, such as small basements and coffee houses. The leisure chains eventually converted their ballrooms into discotheques in the 1970 and 80s. The investment in discotheque technology and the presence of the disco top forty chart signaled the durable presence of the disco. In March 1978 Time Out began publishing a weekly listing of discotheques on the back of the phenomenal sales of Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album. Interesting to note that the film premiered in Cannes but not at the film festival, but at MIDEM, the annual international record industry convention in January 1978. When disco music went out of fashion, pubs and dancehalls continued to be converted.


Developing alongside were extended versions of mobile discos. Records became the source of music for big events. “Raves” grew out of semi-legal warehouse parties which drew their inspiration from Afro-Caribbean “sound systems” which had been around since the 1970s. These flexible incarnations explored new kinds of environments contributing to a novel “atmosphere”. This repositioned live music as few musicians today make a living from playing at dances. Live music is only profitable under certain conditions and dance venues are no longer one of them. The threatened closure of live music venues has provoked concern about the decline of live music. This marginalisation is best demonstrated by the fact that in many British towns in the 1990s, live venues are operated by local councils or student unions. University student unions supported around 800 venues around Britain and students make up the bulk of live music audiences. Record companies subsidise tours for emerging acts as a means to build a fan base. This sector would not exist if it were not for the large audiences generated by records, and videos. The bulk of the revenue for the band come from sales of merchandise and acts now sign merchandising agreements at the same time as they sign a record deal. Those aspiring to a record contract would usually have to pay to be heard at a live music venue where the band would have to purchase tickets for their gig to sell on to friends.


In 1988, the Monopolies and Merger Commission recommended that PPL withdraw its musician employment requirement as this was deemed pointless for two reasons. First, sounds conveyed on records could not be reproduced by a live band. Second, “audiences prefer recorded sound” (Monopolies and Merger Commission, 1988: 41). However the ideal of the traditional performing rock group still prevails in many record companies who see authentic live performance as a key selling point. Changes in the ideological status of discs were dependent on the following key factors. First, records increase their allure by their connection to new types of occasion, social spaces and new social groups, increasing subcultural authenticity of discs. Second, records adapted to their public use to suit discotheques and to satisfy the demand of a professional club disc jockey. Finally, the studio rather than the stage has become the key space for the origination of music, so certain genres began to acquire an aura.


“Real” Events and Altered Spaces


New kinds of environment recast records as something uniquely its own. By using new labels, interior designs and spectacles, disc dance became distinctive. Transformed from an occurrence to an occasion. Before record hops, the use of records was not mentioned in advertising and was seen by the MU to be creating the impression that a live band would be performing. Also the dance crowd had no idea that they were dancing to records. This may be evidence of the ability of records to “simulate” or “mask the absence” of performance (Baudrillard, 1983a: 11). However it was noted that the music was subordinate to the social event and the audience didn’t give the music much attention.


Record hops gave the activity a distinct identity and identified with youth. This young group were looking to find a space they could call their own, who had the least prejudice regarding record’s presumed inferiority. These hops came to symbolise the new youth culture, “teenagers”, and records had become integral to youth. Later disc dances targeted smaller demographic segments and shades of taste, referred by Reyner Banham in New Society in 1966, as “vinyl deviationa”. The main social function of records of  distributing culture but was superseded by radio. The gramophone became the dissident medium for deviant sound to disaffected cultural minorities who were not satisfied by the constant “wallpaper” of radio broadcasts (New Society, 1966).


In the early 1960s, dancing to discs became fashionable within the latest cultural space, the “discotheque”. Translated from French as “record library”, these new cultural events began to influence their surroundings, defining themselves against the architecture of 19th century dancehalls. Discotheques continually renovated to appeal to the ever-changing youth market, from late 1960s psychedelia, through 1970s mirrorball “discos”, to post-modern 1980s “clubs”. Late eighties “raves” to dance events away from these traditional venues to warehouses and remote rural areas. The regeneration of these spaces were also to emphasis the classless of youth culture. The old ballrooms projected aristocratic fantasies and there was also a hierarchical distinction between the common dancehall and the elite nightclub. These new spaces were meant to be both classless but superior to the institution that preceded them.


Raves were particularly encompassed with notions of utopian egalitarianism. Everybody was welcome from all walks of life united under the hypnotic beat. Paradoxically only those “in the know” could hear and locate the party. This kind of utopianism, argues Barbara Bradley, ignores the subordinate position of women at most levels of rave culture who have to prove themselves twice over if they want to DJ, produce or organise these events (Bradley, 1993). These are supposed to be “sexless” events but are not necessarily sexually progressive.


The loss of spectacle of performing musicians was compensated by eye-catching interiors and lighting. Lighting in particular has become an elaborate accompaniment to the music and also to make better the spectacle of the crowd. The use of computer-generated fractals, film loops and slide projectors can act as visual equivalents of the music. The disco presents the symbolic potential of electric light, signalling nocturnal gatherings.


The complete sensory experience of the club or rave is intensified with the use of alcohol and/or drugs. These institutions developed into a total environment to offer ritual catharsis, divorced from the work world outside. Door restrictions divide the outside from the inside, long corridors and stairways create transitional labyrinths. Raves add pilgrimage and the quest for the location extends the ritualistic passage from the humdrum to “Wonderland”.


Disc Jockeys and Social Sound


The enhanced acoustic atmosphere is essential to the altered space of the discotheque for the accomodation of discs, where DJs have a key role presenting and re-establishing authenticities and directing the energies of the dancefloor.


Juke-box manufacturers started to produce extended-play records for their dance-orientated juke-boxes. Seeburg’s “Little LP” had three tracks per side, with music in the lead-in and lead-out grooves. The practice of dancing to discs was affecting the design of the record’s format. However record companies were slow to react until the influence of disco music and shrinking radio playlists aroused promotion department to look for alternative strategies to promote their music. In the 1970s, DJs were mixing seven-inch copies of the same record for prolong play. Some recorded their mixes onto tape to play in clubs. Eventually these tapes were pressed onto vinyl as extended remixes. Record labels began to create a special vinyl product which contained stripped-down instrumental breaks to facilitate seamless mixing from one track into another. This helps to sustain the momentum on the dancefloor, contributing to the other-worldly atmosphere with the constant rhythm lulling you into another state. The rave culture ritualised this into the “trance dance”.


Twelve-inch discs were made specifically for DJs where invention and improvisation rely on the human touch. The DJ becomes the guarantor of subcultural authenticity and plays a key role in the enculturation of discs for dancing. By orchestrating the event and anchoring the music in a particular place, representing and responding to the crowd. Progressive enculturation of record entertainment reflect the changing occupational status of the DJ. In the 1940s, Djs were initially regarded as a public address engineers who ran the local radio shop, supplying recorded music. By the 1950s, playing records was considered so unskilled that most though it best to play the records themselves. However by the 1970s, the DJ came to be regarded as experts about dance music and its markets. They were bought into the studio as remixers and producers, it is now quite rare to find a dance musician who had not spent time as a DJ.


Supplying records is a vital function of the DJ. They are heavy record buyers and a constantly updated record collection is as essential as the equipment. A reputation for owning a comprehensive collection of specific genres is a main selling point. A advert for Blackpool Mecca’s soul night identified the DJs as having “…records that nobody else has” (Black Music January 1974). The DJ’s status established by owning an exclusive record collection resulting in DJs becoming more of a cultural elite.


The origin of the term “disc jockey” is disputed. To ‘jockey” implies some form of trickey or artifice, deceiving the listener into believing that what they were hearing was a live performance. Interestingly in the mid-1960s, the American Whiskey-a-Gogo chain employed women who acted as both DJs and gogo dancers. These were the original “dance-DJs” who did dance routines between changing records. However this was the exception as usually there would be a “personality DJ”, usually a radio broadcaster, who would fill the gaps between records with informal chatter. They may even broadcast a regular show from a particular club.

Angela Carter noted in New Society magazine in 1968 that a DJ “is in a position of power. He can moud taste. Maybe he could do more. You’ve got all these kids looking up to you and you are in a position of authority” (Carter 1968). DJs started to be perceived as tastemakers and “moulders of musical opinion in a very similar – and far more direct – way to the music journalist” (Melody Maker, 15 November 1975). However it was as mixers, instead of personalities, where DJs performed as “turntable musicians”, performing elaborate mixes and creating new music in the process of mixing. Records and samples became the raw material of their performance and composition. These can be bought by dance fans and serve as documentation of the DJ’s performance.


By the late 1980s, DJs reacted negatively to the rise of CDs in a similar fashion to the threat of discs to musician’s livelihood. The DJ’s tactile repertoire was faced with technology that they could not see or touch, and their vast record collections threatened to become obsolete. The sound of vinyl was seen by mix DJs as warm, real and full of integrity, whereas CDs were cold, clinical and inhuman. The language used is similar to the way live music was polarised from recorded music. By the early 1990s many clubs installed CD mixers with DJs adjusting to the new technology and the possibilities of its purer sound.


Despite evolving a performative aspect, the DJ was not yet a performer. However in recent years, from the mid-1990s, the “cult of the DJ” has lead to the practice of facing the DJ while dancing as if attending a ‘live” performance. Regardless of this later development, the dancing crowd is the enduring spectacle as watching and being seen are key pleasures of clubs. The interaction of the DJ and the crowd and the atmosphere that created, is what authenticates club cultures. The DJ orchestrates this “living” communal experience, responding to the crowd through their choice of records, building up the tension and excitement. DJs are artists in the construction of musical experience. Dance cultures revolve around records and disc culture is a distinct high-tech folk culture, and records in the hands of a mixing DJ are literally “social sounds”.


The Authenticities of Dance Genres      


  1. Authenticity is dependant on the assimilation and legitimisation of records by a subculture and is the ultimate end of enculturation.
  2. Also, the distance between the production and consumption of records is relevant to the cultural value bestowed upon it. Revived rare records gain prestige.
  3. The record’s production environment adds to its authenticity.

The ideological vagaries of music genres, such as bodily “soul” and/or technology, plays a main role in how they are perceived as genuine. British jazz appreciation societies, a.k.a. “rhythm clubs” marked a shift in cultural values as records became the pivot around which a collective culture revolved. Although these fans collected and fetishised records, they valued these discs as “records” of a unique jazz performance. It was not until rock’n’roll that records started to serve as the “original” and the development of rock’n’roll was dependant on records. Radio was the main medium for rock’n’roll then television took over as the mass medium in the 1950s. Radio went local and the audiences segmented. The black audience was was a new target market and the stations’ broadcasts crossed neighbourhood boundaries. This introduced black music to white youngsters.


Records were preferred to performance where their specific qualities were exploited. The ability of records to travel in space and time led to disc cultures revolving around rare, imports and new releases afforded them credibilities independent of performance. Authenticity shifted to an interest in the degrees of exclusivity found in these rare recordings. Although occasionally a unique, only one copy, figured in disc cultures. One example is the reggae sound systems where exclusive “dub plates” were made exclusively for the sound system. Since the 1950s, disc sessions attracted audiences by playing the latest releases. Nowadays, dance sounds are often danced to before their commercial release, often on import or limited edition “white labels”.


Records foster interest in the archival as well as the novel, expediting cultural revival. One prime example was “Northern Soul”, a predominantly working-class and white, the venues located mainly in the North of England. This archival dance culture promoted obscure, forgotten and unsuccessful soul records form the1960s. The appeal was not so much nostalgia but rarity. The unavailability of these records to the dancers and the intentional anonymity of the DJs record collection meant that these events were an opportunity to hear sounds they couldn’t hear anywhere else (Black Music January 1975). These records display many characteristics of works of art, an elaborate ritual displaying cult value. The devotion of the scene bordered on the religious. The venues were temples. The congregation dances to reach a transcendental state, the service conducted by the high priest DJ.


The ideologies of music genres played a crucial role in the authentication of recorded music and discotheques. However, rock music pivots around the ideal of the live performance, despite most of the listeners knowing by primarily its recorded form and has been often played in discotheques. “Dance music” does not have an exclusive claim on dancing. Rock audiences are usually physically responsive by head banging, pogoing and moshing. Although these responses often fail to be categorised as dancing as the gaze of the dancers is focussed elsewhere, not the performance.


Dance music genres often announce it in their names. For example, “Disco” from discotheque, “house” from the Warehouse in Chicago, “garage” from the Paradise Garage in New York. The ideological categories of black and white music define the main axes of authenticity within dance music. “Black’ dance music is said to maintain a rhetoric of body and soul, regardless of sampling and digital technologies. Whereas “white” or “European” dance music is about minimising the human element and futurist celebration. However, these categories often have little to do with the colour of the people making the records, they are discourses about the value of dance music. Both have their authenticities and both have been the forefront of studio experimentation. The truth of dance music is often found in the revelation of technology to create new sounds instead of imitating “natural” sounds.


The “black” tradition still maintains a key interest in vocals and “funky” instrumentation. For white youth, black authenticity is anchored in the perceived emotional honesty of the performance, rooted in the body and soul of the performer. The “white” dance tradition explores the possibilities of the instrumental over the caporeal. When vocals are used they tend to be heavily manipulated to sound almost non-human. Although these sounds were first used by black DJs in Chicago, the sound became associated with white club culture in Britain. Few black clubbers perceived acid house as black music.


Both black and white dance music are primarily producers’ rather than performers’ media. The authentic sources for black music are the singers or rappers, whereas the white tradition embraces “faceless” anonymity. This denial of image seems to allude to art discourses which celebrate the autonomy of music and plays with branding strategies, as opposed to the persona of the artiste. Their credibility is measured by their author’s invisibility. Album covers correspond with this aural abstraction by sporting computer-generated, non-figurative imagery.


Provenance is also a factor regarding these versions of authenticity despite both bearing witness to trans-Atlantic influences. Black dance music tends to be rooted in local urban scenes, whereas white dance music claims to be a global an nationless. The trajectory of the genre “Techno” which began as black music ended up as white reveals this cultural logic. This dance music from Detroit was to be featured on a compilation album, Techno: The Dance Sound of Detroit, to be launched in the UK by Virgin Records. The A&R and marketing departments discussed with the DJs and producers what to call the music being produced in Detroit at that time. They eventually decided on the name ‘techno” as it gave the music a distinct identity, having its roots in subcultural Detroit. Despite the British press hailing “techno” as the sound of that city, the genre did not take off as few singles from that album. The term “techno” was later appropriated to describe “acid house”. Overexposure, tabloid defamation and the overt drug references compelled record companies in the UK to rename the genre. The shift from the first to the second kind of techno, from a black to white sound, shifted the discourses on the place of origin. Techno was later seen as musical Esperanto and no longer rooted to a particular city.


The Response of the “Live” Gig


Records rather than performances were increasingly perceived as offering the best sound, decreasing engagements for live music. Faced with the threat of recordings, performers embraced new technologies and reinvented performance as “live music”.


Since the 1960s, records have increasingly dictated the nature of performance. First, people came to know a band’s music through listening to their records and the band’s live performances were checked against the memories of those recordings. Second, the changes in production and the use of multi-track recording became the preconditions for the development of the concept album. Rock records could be musical events in themselves and the album rather than the single was the format to be elevated. Why?

  1. The duration of an album was similar to a band’s set and allowed for exploration
  2. Rock bands can enoble themselves by association to classical music, which the LP was the original configuration.
  3. Album consumers had the appropriate demographic, mainly white, male and adult (rather than teenagers)


Of course these experimental recordings presented further challenges to music performance. The Beatles were the first band to perform in arenas and stadiums but gave up gigging after they were effectively drowned out by the screaming fans. However, the main reason for giving up was that performing live impeded their creativity. Playing the same set, with the same songs, using the same instruments was frustrating their creative development.


In the 1970s, rock groups like Pink Floyd developed spectacular live performances to accompany their studio experiments. Today audiences come to expect a spectacle akin to or better than the one they have experienced by watching music videos. The flavour of these videos are re-enacted with dance routines projected onto giant video screens. Also, these screens offer “live” close ups of the performers so the audience can enjoy the intimacies that they are accustomed to seeing on the television. This not only enlarges the spectacle it also intensifies the presence of the personalities.


“Live” music’s spontaneity elevates the performance to a unique event, although sometimes this enactment is limited to a well-rehearsed deviation from the original record track, for example a guitar or drum solo. Sometime the deviation is more dramatic. Smashing up the instruments on stage has been a perennial crowd pleaser since the 1960s. The Who borrowed the idea from the artworld’s “happenings” which fetishised the impermanence of performance. Audiences are likely to enjoy behavioral as well as musical spontaneity. Punk band found the essence of performance in all the mistakes and brazen displays of musical incompetence.


During the 1980s, many shows began to use recorded music and sound effects to bring the performance closer to the original recording. Surprisingly this didn’t seen to threaten the “liveness” of these performances, unless of course the star was lip-synching. Live lead vocals act confirms the star’s presence and sincerity. Despite all the instrumentation supplied on backing tapes, a live vocal performance is a convincing origin of the sound.


Dance acts have felt the pressure as record labels see touring as a means to promote the artist’s identity. These new kinds of performance delivered recorded music different from that already available on the released record. Underlining the event as a “happening” by re-enacting the music making process, taking the studio onto the stage and mixing it live. Sometimes mixing the tracks completely differently in the studio and then spontaneously running samples and effects during the performance. Some acts included rappers, live keyboards and creative visuals.  


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