Date of Award

May 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Jennifer A Jordan

Committee Members

Leonard Nevarez, Marcus Britton, Gordon Gauchat


consumption, culture, Music, record store, retail, segregation


Despite digitization, record stores remain an important third place for contemporary urban neighborhoods. As places of cultural consumption, they provide locals a source of music, knowledge, pleasure, distraction, and distinction. Where these places sit in the contemporary city has shifted over time though. This dissertation asks: how has the distribution of record stores changed over time and space when accounting for demographic, economic, and technological factors? Based on original datasets created from city directories and phone books, census-tract data, and record industry sales data, I find that predominantly black neighborhoods were once home to many more record stores than today. More specifically, the findings of an event history analysis suggest that the odds of failure for stores in non-predominantly white areas were significantly higher than for those in predominantly white ones in Milwaukee, Chicago, and Detroit during the 1980s. An analysis of store foundings and failures in Milwaukee County from 1970 -2010 suggests that periods of music format change coincide with downturns in the number of stores opening. For predominantly black areas, the number of foundings drops in the 1980s, during a period of transition away from vinyl and cassette, and towards the compact disc. During the transition from CD to the MP3 format, record store foundings throughout Milwaukee County shrank, leading to a drop in overall numbers. Studying third places of community consumption can be enhanced by accounting for this change over time and space. By focusing on stores, this analysis looks beyond gentrifying areas of urban cool without ignoring them. Studying the relationship between gentrification and cultural consumption remains important for criticizing the role of taste in reproducing spatial inequality. But my findings suggest that a study of urban change and cultural consumption must account for more than gentrification: it must confront racial segregation—a far more pernicious and widespread feature of cities in the United States.

Included in

Sociology Commons