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Book Review: Cowboys And Indies: The Epic History of the Record Industry

by Dean Budnick on June 13, 2014

Gareth Murphy’s Cowboys And Indies: The Epic History of the Record Industry comes just as billed. The book starts off in the 19th century with the scramble for technological innovation and the accompanying patent rights to a device capable of capturing and reproducing sound. Following the invention of the “talking-machine,” the challenge turns to how to best realize its commercial prospects. Murphy’s chronicle extends into the 21st century, tracking the efforts of self-described “record men.” The danger in such an undertaking is that it could have come off as too dry or academic. However, while Murphy’s book is certainly informative, it is also breezy and flush with anecdotes, placing a particular focus on the major musical trends and the executives who founded and ran the celebrated record labels. Some may find that Cowboys And Indies focuses a bit too much on the former rather than the latter and strikes a balance that favors the execs rather than the feet on the ground. Nonetheless, this is a rich and rewarding tale, a survey course on the history of recorded music.

Authors: Dean Budnick
Artist: Gareth Murphy
Label: Thomas Dunne Books