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Cowboys and Indies: The Epic History of the Record Industry
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Cowboys and Indies: The Epic History of the Record Industry

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  140 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
Cowboys and Indies is nothing less than the first definitive history of the recording industry on both sides of the Atlantic.

From the invention of the earliest known sound-recording device in 1850s Paris to the CD crash and digital boom today, author and industry insider Gareth Murphy takes readers on an immensely entertaining and encyclopedic ride through the many catacly
Hardcover, 382 pages
Published June 17th 2014 by Thomas Dunne Books
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May 27, 2016 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book which tells the stories of the recording industry from the very beginning and takes us through to the present and, indeed, the future of the music industry. The story begins in Paris in 1853 with the idea for the first sound-recording device. Eventually, research led to the graphophone, which was marketed as a dictating machine. However, when Columbia began recording cylinders, it soon became clear that the talking machines future lay not in local government offices, but in entert ...more
Tom Donaghey
May 11, 2014 Tom Donaghey rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, music
In his first book, Irish writer Gareth Murphy has tried to do the impossible and almost succeeded. COWBOYS AND INDIES tries to tell the entire story of the recording industry, from the inventions of A. G. Bell and T. Edison, through the onset of a thousand small companies selling recordings and through into today’s major labels, and for a book that comes in at 400 pages, does a remarkable job.
There is a lot of information here about the early days of sound recording, and how important litigati
Joshua May
Jun 03, 2014 Joshua May rated it really liked it
Gareth Murphy's poetic telling of the magnificent history of the record industry is a gem waiting to be discovered by historians and summer beach readers alike. A work of art in it's own right, Cowboys and Indies preserves the emotion and splendor in the events of it's telling with effortless prose. If you are on the fence about this one, don't be. Murphy circles the wagons of truth, while still managing to excite and delight with a compelling narrative of some overlooked warriors of industry.
Michael Ritchie
Jul 16, 2014 Michael Ritchie rated it it was ok
Uninspiring, underresearched book about the record industry. For the most part, the author only includes material about people and companies that have already had books written about them (Columbia, Elektra, Island, Warner, Asylum) and virtually ignores other major labels like RCA, Decca/MCA,and even Reprise which was started by Frank Sinatra and included Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa and Neil Young on its roster). Granted, I've read a few book about the music industry, but the only new material in ...more
Dec 10, 2014 Gordon rated it really liked it
pretty good overview of the recorded music industry from a us/uk/european perspective. covered most of the bases, although the last chapters lost some momentum trying to cover the newer indie labels: Sub>Pop, 4AD, Beggar's okay but what about Epitaph, Dischord, Merge and Touch & Go?

i do love reading about the "record men" of the 60s and 70s and there's plenty of sordid stories here. when you retrace the steps, you realize it's not enough to be good, you have to be damned lucky.
John Raso
Nov 23, 2014 John Raso rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music
There are several other books that overlap the companies and stories here, but the author is well aware of this and stays away from going into too much detail. As a result, this is an excellent companion piece to Hit Men and spends much more time and depth on the areas not covered by that excellent book. In particular, there is detailed history of the competitive businesses that developed the record player (or "Talking Machine" as they were originally marketed) . These were the companies that be ...more
May 11, 2014 sculptcha rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who like music or enjoy music trivia
Shelves: first-reads
For what it is, this book is packed full of interesting music and recording related tidbits and little-known facts that will probably surprise a lot of readers like myself who love music but do not particularly pay attention to the seedy underbelly of the The Record Industry. It's accessible, well written, and entertaining throughout.

It was very interesting to read that the industry had experienced and almost fatal blow once, and recovered stronger than ever, which means there is hope for the cu
Peter Gladue
Jun 11, 2014 Peter Gladue rated it really liked it
As a person who worked in Music Retail for most of his life, I found this book to be a very complete historical roadmap of the Record Industry. To understand the present state of Music industry we must follow and try to understand the past. There are Heroes and Villains, some are known and some are unknown. Each chapter breaths a life on their own, almost like a short-story collection. I have read the book from start to finish, but now I leave it nearby my bed, to spot up the book anywhere to re ...more
Jul 03, 2014 Scottfoley rated it liked it
An author could fill a multi-volume set with a detailed history of the record industry. Short of that, author Gareth Murphy has done an admirable job of highlighting just the key moments, from the very development of recorded sound to today's issues with downloading and digital file sharing. It's a very reasonable length for readers looking for a quick overview, and it won't leave you feeling you've missed out on anything. One of the best books of its kind.
Jun 19, 2014 Neil rated it liked it
A somewhat choppy but entertaining overview of the history of the music-selling business. Starts with Alexander Graham Bell and ends with the current homogenization of dozens of former influential indies by the international conglomorates that swallowed them up. The industry has always seen boom and bust times. Makes you wonder if there'll be another boom.
Apr 29, 2014 Violet rated it liked it
**Received Goodreads giveaway copy**
This is an interesting, in depth look at the record industry. Definitely would recommend it to anyone interested in the record industry and its dramatic past. It sometimes gets a bit too inside baseball, but still has some really interesting facts and tidbits for even a casual reader.
Jul 26, 2016 Brett rated it it was amazing
An insightful look at the recording industry from its inception through (almost) present-day. From Thomas Edison to David Geffen and beyond, meet the rogues, swindlers, and ne'er-do-wells who've offered us recorded music for over a century.
Steven Pofcher
Nov 30, 2014 Steven Pofcher rated it it was amazing
Interesting overview of the invention of the record and the record industry
Tony Perry
Apr 19, 2015 Tony Perry rated it really liked it
Jan 23, 2017 Richard rated it did not like it
Interesting but waffling
C. Michael
Aug 13, 2014 C. Michael rated it liked it
Cowboys and Indies: The Epic History of the Record Industry
Gareth Murphy
400 Pages
ISBN: # 978-1250043375
Thomas Dunn Books

"Revelations: I suppose you've come to see the future? If you wish to believe today's self-proclaimed experts, imagine a system of mobile devices through which music flows as a kind of utility, financed by a subscription similar to public television in Europe. Tomorrow's listeners will, they say, consume music like water..."

Songs stored and played as computer files
Jul 26, 2014 bfred rated it it was ok
On a cursory level, this is an enjoyable history of the invention and evolution of the record business. As an introduction to the major players and trends, it is adequate, and at times, insightful. However, as the book went on, it became clear that, conscious or not, Mr. Murphy seems to be advancing an anglophile agenda here.

From reading this book, one would get the impression that every major musical trend and business advancement in the second half of the 20th Century was the result of white B
Sep 12, 2016 April rated it really liked it
This book was chock full of information about the record industry. It starts off with Edison and the patents for the first phonograph machine and takes you through the entire music industry up to present day.

What I found most interesting were the record company executives who were in charge of what music would be produced and how many huge bands almost missed out due to being rejected numerous times - The Beatles, The Doors, and The Rolling Stones to name a few. The author also talks about the
Steele Dimmock
Aug 23, 2014 Steele Dimmock rated it did not like it
This is a hodge-podge collection of mini biographies. Focusing on behind the scenes players in the industry rather than the machinations of the music industry. The good information in this book is buried deep inside mountains of blather.
To save you the read, the author does highlight the apathy felt by the consumer towards the industry before the dawn of the MP3. Consumers were tired of buying a full CD for 1 good song. So artists lamentations about losing control of the album as their artist co
Brilliant in places; hilarious elsewhere, choppy mostly. Damned interesting. But the flaw is that it's two different works stapled together: the first, a history of phonograph and radio TECHNOLOGY; the second, a history of record companies, recording artists and agents. I'm nerdy enough to enjoy the first part (which in some ways reminded me of "The Victorian Internet"), and was in the business enough to enjoy the second. But think few would enjoy both. And one would need flow-chart diagrams to ...more
Jun 29, 2014 Steve rated it liked it
A quick overview of the record industry from the first records to the present. From the early format battles, to the impact of radio and the Great Depression to the rise of CD's to iTunes, this book looks at the record companies themselves. For me the pre 60's stuff was interesting but the post 60's stories were great, and the record executives stories were, in some cases, just as wild as the artists. While an entire book could be written on some of the personalities in this book, it was a great ...more
Aaron Cassese
Jul 12, 2014 Aaron Cassese rated it it was ok
This book was much more about the record executives than about the artists themselves. I think I would've found this much more interesting had Murphy delved into the history of the musicians more so than the the A&R guys. The book also seemed to gloss over big chucks of what seems to me very important eras in music history i.e. Motown, grunge, and the doo wop of the 60s among others. Perhaps Murphy set out purposefully to focus almost exclusively on the inner machinations of the industry and ...more
Jan 19, 2015 Roger rated it really liked it
As someone who played at the periphery of rock music during the formative 60s and 70s, I found this book fascinating. I even liked the beginning, which set up how record companies worked, the business model and the fascinating players. I love how technology invaded the space many times over the years. But of course, I really enjoyed the period I knew and loved, and the author filled me in on some details that had eluded me over the years. Yes, it was quite general. And the title was a bit mislea ...more
Juan Pablo
Jan 16, 2015 Juan Pablo rated it liked it
Unlike the title suggests, it's not as epic as it makes it seem. Despite its lack of epic-ness I still recommend reading this book about the music Industry spanning from the time of Talking Machines to the mp3's cutting into the majors sales figures. It's a fairly fast read, and a great introduction to the record men of the music industry. It's a good primer before delving into other books about music, the industry, or biographies of the people who were part of it such as the producers and music ...more
Monika Iszard
This book is a Goodreads First Reads Win---I really enjoyed this book. This author covers a lot of aspects of the recording industry from the beginning (alexander graham bell) to the present. It was informative and I think that it conveyed a really good perspective on the music industry, its up and downs, turnarounds--I would recommend this book to anyone that would like to see inside the music industry.
J Bradley
Feb 16, 2016 J Bradley rated it liked it
Music history of the major and independent record labels. There have historically been boom and bust periods; the 21st century music era isn't unique. While not the best writing, and told with a UK slant, it's still a worthwhile read to put the music business in perspective. It's all about finding hits.
Jun 21, 2014 Nancy rated it it was ok
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.
There was a lot of information in this, almost too much. Seemed the author was trying to stuff everything he knows into the pages and it felt like I was reading the ramblings of someone with ADD.
Edward Sullivan
Not at all definitive and more a collection of stories than a cohesive narrative but it is quite interesting and entertaining. It seems terribly self-serving that all the laudatory blurbs are from people admiringly profiled in the book.
victor harris
Jul 15, 2014 victor harris rated it it was ok
Some interesting individual story lines on Dylan, the Beatles, etc. but sorting through the clutter to keep the record companies and the personnel straight was a chore. Reads more like a reference work than a tight fluid narrative.
Andrew Keller
Apr 30, 2016 Andrew Keller rated it it was amazing
Most comprehensive account of the recorded music industry. Includes all of the major points from all of the other industry books I've ever read in one place.
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I was born in London in 1974, but before I could remember anything, we moved back to Dublin where my father became a promoter. In 1977, he organised Ireland's first outdoor stadium concert featuring Thin Lizzy and the Boomtown Rats. He ran gigs for Tom Waits, the Ramones, Ian Dury, Dr Feelgood, The Specials, the Clash and many others. He also managed arguably the most important ever traditional Ir ...more
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