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Selling the nightingale : P.T. Barnum, Jenny Lind, and the management of the American crowd

Steve Waksman (Department of Music, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, USA)

Arts Marketing: An International Journal

ISSN: 2044-2084

Article publication date: 21 October 2011

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to interpret the 1850 debut American performances of Swedish concert singer Jenny Lind as an emblematic moment in the history of live music promotion.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper studies the manner in which Lind's earliest concerts and the singer herself were marketed through analysis of contemporary newspaper and magazine reports and advertisements.

Findings

Lind's concerts were important for the way they demonstrate the complex balance of “high” and “low” cultural forces at a transitional moment in US cultural history, and for the way in which her manager, P.T. Barnum, used various mechanisms to manage the potential disorder posed by her immense audiences.

Research limitations/implications

The paper addresses only the first few concerts of Lind's nearly two‐year American tour in detail, but uses those concerts as a case study for understanding the degree to which the business of nineteenth‐century concert promotion had to balance the pursuit of profit with the demands of crowd control.

Social implications

Lind's example demonstrates how a complex range of class interests needed to be balanced in order for her to reach something approaching a “mass audience,” in modern parlance.

Originality/value

The paper provides a historical perspective on issues that continue to have relevance for the promotion of large‐scale commercial events, and addresses critical questions about the nature of the collective experience provided through live music performance.

Keywords

Citation

Waksman, S. (2011), "Selling the nightingale : P.T. Barnum, Jenny Lind, and the management of the American crowd", Arts Marketing: An International Journal, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 108-120. https://doi.org/10.1108/20442081111180331

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited