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Empire of Dirt
The Aesthetics and Rituals of British Indie Music
Wendy Fonarow


2006 • 336 pp. 28 illus. 6 x 9"

$27.95 Paperback, 978-0-8195-6811-3
$75.00 Hardcover, 978-0-8195-6810-6

$21.99 Ebook, 978-0-8195-7443-5

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

(Hardcover is un-jacketed.
Cover illustration is for paperback edition only)

“What's best about Empire of Dirt is that Fonarow's equally a thinker's thinker and a fan's fan. … And Fonarow's analysis of a typical indie concert is one of the most brilliant things anyone has written about the live music experience.”—Seattle Weekly

Inside the culture of an artistically influential music community

Britain is widely considered the cradle of independent music culture. Bands like Radiohead and Belle and Sebastian, which epitomize indie music's sounds and attitudes, have spawned worldwide fanbases. This in-depth study of the British independent music scene explores how the behavior of fans, artists, and music industry professionals produce a community with a specific aesthetic based on moral values. Author Wendy Fonarow, a scholar with years of experience in the various sectors of the indie music scene, examines the indie music “gig” as a ritual in which all participants are actively involved. This ritual allows participants to play with cultural norms regarding appropriate behavior, especially in the domains of sex and creativity. Her investigation uncovers the motivations of audience members when they first enter the community and how their positions change over time so that the gig functions for most members as a rite of passage. Empire of Dirt sheds new light on music, gender roles, emotion, subjectivity, embodiment, and authenticity.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

"(T)he book turns out to be great fun, with excellent and recognizable analyses of the three different audience zones, the semiotics of where you put your backstage pass, the different rhetorical strategies used by people trying to get past the guestlist doorman, and the gender-stereotype-inverting role of groupies, or 'ritual practitioners.'"—The Guardian

“This book taught me a lot about the business I thought I knew inside out. I loved the ‘audience zones’ and ‘trickster’ sections, and I’m looking forward to the next book–on lead singer syndrome!” —Peter Hook, bass player, Joy Division and New Order

“A brilliantly provocative book with rigorous research and lucid analysis. It also provides a witty insight into the machinations of the British music industry, and the behavior of musicians and their fans. Essential.”Lucy O'Brien, author of She Bop

Author Photo

Wendy Fonarow is a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California Los Angeles. She has worked for music labels including Domino, Reprise, and MCA, and is an active participant in the indie music community.

Tue, 15 May 2018 12:58:29 -0500