The business of authenticity: a false relation?

Nick Wilson (King's College London, London, UK)

Arts Marketing: An International Journal

ISSN: 2044-2084

Publication date: 21 October 2011



The purpose of this research paper is to consider the aesthetic and commercial success of the “early music” or “historically informed performance” (HIP) movement during the 1970s and 1980s in the UK. Particular attention is given to the relationship between HIP performers and “the authenticity business” (i.e. the market‐driven commercial exploitation of this form of musical performance).


Through applying the metaphor of the “false relation” (a musical compositional device characteristic of the renaissance period), the paper explores the contradictory relationship between HIP and the market. The research is based on a detailed literature review relating to the emergence of the early music labour market, and interviews with 40 experts in the field (including HIP music directors, performers, agents, broadcasters, record company directors and instrument makers in the UK).


Far from being a mere backdrop to the ideologically driven practice of HIP, the paper demonstrates the close connection between market‐led entrepreneurial activity of some performers, and the subsequent success of early music performance. Particular attention is brought to the mediating role of authenticity discourse in bridging the art‐commerce divide and marketing early music successfully.


The paper offers a novel perspective from which to understand the artistic and commercial development of this cultural movement. It is suggested that the emphasis on the mediating role of authenticity discourse; and the closeness of the relationship between performance ideology and market‐based practices warrants further research across artistic and cultural movements more broadly.



Wilson, N. (2011), "The business of authenticity: a false relation?", Arts Marketing: An International Journal, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 159-170.

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