Date of Award

Spring 5-5-2016

Degree Type



School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management

First Reader

John Grady

Second Reader

Armen Shaomian


When researching the country music industry, it is impossible to avoid certain words—authenticity, sincerity, tradition—as a country music consumer, I have personally noticed these themes appearing frequently. As a consumer, I have been confused by the images that I’ve observed in country music scholarship and journalism based on tradition or authenticity (or, more often, the lack thereof). There is serious reverence for certain people, places, and things in country music. The Grand Ole Opry, the “legends” of the industry, and Nashville itself are treated with the utmost respect because of the roles that they’ve played in the development of country music. I have personally witnessed certain artists either being praised or criticized because of the way they do or do not stick to the status quo that those legends created. I have noticed that artists are perceived among my peers differently based on whether their music fits with the traditional images of country music or leans more toward the stylings of pop music. What is confusing, then, is that sometimes the same artist or work can be argued both ways, and there’s often not a real conclusion made.

As a student, I find this interesting, and wanted to find out more about the ideas of traditionalism and authenticity in the country music industry. Because of this, I chose to research and discuss the idea further in this thesis. The purpose of this study is to explore the background of the country music industry that created this idea of authenticity and to determine the role it plays in the consumption of country music by the average fan.

Throughout my research I found that many scholars have written that authenticity is of the utmost importance for a country artist. I found several factors that have helped to build up the idea that authenticity is key. Those factors were: country music is nostalgic and seeks out a connection with the past, listening to country music is a spiritual experience, country artists are more accessible to their fans than other artists, and there is a certain life story that many country artists generally fit. Through the use of two country artists as main examples— George Strait and Garth Brooks—these artists represent both the traditional and the non-traditional, and I chose to study these artists in particular because of their impressive sales, chart, and award histories. This thesis explores the idea of authenticity and what true value it holds for consumers of country music.

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© 2016, Alyssa Johnson