Rock: Music, Culture, and Business is an introduction to the history of rock music that focuses on music from the mid-1940s to the current day and emphasizes the connections between music and culture. Using the distinctive approach successfully brought to bear in their previous book, American Popular Music, the authors provide a well-balanced look at both the music and the culture of the times.
As the text moves chronologically through the history of rock, it systematically discusses key elements—the music industry, ethnicity, instrumentation, gender, song structure—in each subgenre and historical era. Rock looks critically at the ways different groups—both mainstream and marginal—have interpreted the music/culture relationship to serve their own agendas. Exploring rock as an evolving relationship between music and culture makes apparent the organic connections between recent developments in the music industry and rock's earliest manifestations. Contemporary issues such as the influence of the Internet, the availability of low-cost home recording equipment, and the rise of the hip-hop aesthetic are not simply attached to the end of the story, but are used to provide a new perspective on rock from its earliest days. On a practical level, this approach also serves to make the earliest years of rock more accessible to contemporary readers.