The Production of Popular Music as a Confidence Game: The Case of the Chicago Blues

October 29, 2004 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Harris School of Public Policy Studies, Room 140c

David Grazian, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania

View David Grazian's paper: "The Production of Popular Music as a Confidence Game: The Case of the Chicago Blues"

In this article, Grazian argues that the production of live music shares many formal properties with that of confidence games: specifically, (1) a set of structural relationships in which operators, ropers, insiders, accomplices and marks are enmeshed, (2) the deployment of carefully planned strategies of deception, and (3) a pattern of success owed in part to the moral and financial motivations of insiders, the willingness of the state to assist in the enterprise, and the desire among victims to be swayed by the production. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in some of Chicago’s most popular blues clubs, Grazian examines these three components of live music production qua confidence game. He also briefly discusses how one group of participants—local blues musicians—reacts to their own performances as musicians/confidence artists. Finally, the paper concludes by exploring the broader implications this case suggests regarding other types of live music production.

ABOUT DAVID GRAZIAN: David Grazian is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, and the author of Blue Chicago: The Search for Authenticity in Urban Blues Clubs (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003). He received his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago in 2000. His research and teaching interests include the study of mass media and popular culture, urban sociology, symbolic interaction, and ethnographic methods. His current research examines the production and consumption of urban nightlife in Philadelphia.


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