Keeping it Country while Dancing with the Elite


  • Stian Vestby Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences (INN UNIVERSITY); Member of IASPM Norden Branch


Country music, festival audiences, class distinctions, cultural policy, quality judgements, musical gentrification


This article examines programme and audience development at the Norwegian Country Meeting after this festival achieved status as a Norwegian hub festival for country music in 2012. Building on ethnographic data, this article focuses on the effects cultural policies and authoritative criteria for aesthetic quality have had on a popular musical event. The results show how cultural policy may be operationalized based on the dominating preferences of the cultural elite. In this context ‘musical gentrification’ (Dyndahl et al. 2014), a structural phenomenon in which low culture is absorbed into the legitimate culture with inclusionary and exclusionary outcomes, becomes a central theoretical concept. The significance of the study is reflected in its descriptions of how cultural practices and policies relate to wider systems of power and socio-aesthetic inequality.

Author Biography

Stian Vestby, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences (INN UNIVERSITY); Member of IASPM Norden Branch

Associate Professor at the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, INN University



ACN – Arts Council Norway –

Vurdering av den Kunstneriske Måloppnåelsen til Knutepunktinstitusjonene Norsk Countrytreff, Notodden Blues Festival, Riddu Riđđu Festivála og Øyafestivalen [Assessment].

A Short Guide to Arts Council Norway. Accessed: 2 January 2019.

Angrosino, M. 2007. Doing Ethnographic and Observational Research. London: Sage.

Bourdieu, P. –

(2010). Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. London and New York: Routledge.

The Field of Cultural Production. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Brandstad, A. 2002. Kulturpolitikk og Populærmusikk. In J. Gripsrud Ed. Populærmusikken i Kulturpolitikken. Oslo: Norsk kulturråd: 259-292.

Ching, B. 2001. Wrong’s What I Do Best: Hard Country Music and Contemporary Culture. New York: Oxford University Press.

Dyndahl, P. et al. 2014. Cultural Omnivorousness and Musical Gentrification: An Outline of a Sociological Framework and its Applications for Music Education Research. Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education 13 (1): 40-69.årbergNielsen13_1.pdf Accessed: 2 January 2019.

Dyndahl, P. et al. 2016. The Academisation of Popular Music in Higher Music Education: The Case of Norway. Music Education Research: 1-17.

Fox, A. A. –

a. Real Country: Music and Language in Working-class Culture. Durham, N.C: Duke University Press.

b. White Trash Alchemies of the Abject Sublime. In C. Washburne and M. Derno Eds. Bad Music: The Music We Love to Hate. New York: Routledge: 39-61.

Frith, S. 2004. What is Bad Music? In C. Washburne and M. Derno Eds. Bad Music: The Music We Love to Hate. New York: Routledge: 15-39.

Geertz, C. 1973. Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture. In C. Geertz Ed. The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books: 3-30.

Glass, R. 1963. Introduction to London: Aspects of Change. London: Centre for Urban Studies and MacGibbon & Kee.

Halnon, K. B. and Cohen, S. 2006. Muscles, Motorcycles and Tattoos: Gentrification in a New Frontier. Journal of Consumer Culture 6 (1): 33-56.

Henningsen, E. 2015. Kulturpolitikkens Sedimentering: Kulturløftet som Kulturpolitisk Vekstperiode. Nordisk Kulturpolitisk Tidsskrift 18 (1): 28-40. Accessed: 6 January 2019.

Hovden, J. F. and Knapskog, K. 2014. Tastekeepers: Taste Structures, Power and Aesthetic-Political Positions in the Elites of the Norwegian Cultural Field. Nordisk Kulturpolitisk Tidskrift 17 (1): 54-75. Accessed: 18 January 2019.

Hubbs, N. 2014. Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Hylland, O. M. and Stavrum, H. 2018. 50 Years of Aesthetic Construction Work: The Music Policy of Arts Council Norway 1965-2015. In O. M. Hylland and E. Bjurström Eds. Aesthetics and Politics: A Nordic Perspective on How Cultural Policy Negotiates the Agency of Music and Arts. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan: 67-94.

Jarness, V. 2015. Modes of Consumption: From ’What’ to ’How’ in Cultural Stratification Research. Poetics 53: 65-79.

Karlsen, S. 2007. The Music Festival as an Arena for Learning: Festspel i Pite Älvdal and Matters of Identity. PhD. University of Technology, Luleå. Accessed: 18 January 2019.

Klafki, W. 1959(2001). Kategorial Dannelse: Bidrag til en Dannelsesteoretisk Fortolkning av Moderne Didaktikk. In E. L. Dale Ed. Om Utdanning: Klassiske Tekster. Oslo: Gyldendal Akademisk: 167-203.

Korsnes, O. et al. Eds. 2014. Elite og Klasse i et Egalitært Samfunn. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.

Kvalshaug, V. 2011. Countryfestival Må Snart Levere Kvalitet. Aftenposten, 5 September. Accessed: 9 January 2019.

Ljunggren, J. 2014. Finnes det en Norsk Kulturelite? In O. Korsnes et al. Eds. Elite og Klasse i et Egalitært Samfunn. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget: 193-210.

Malone, B. C. and Neal, J. R. 1968(2010). Country Music, U.S.A. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Mangset, P. –

Kulturliv og Forvaltning: Innføring i Kulturpolitikk. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.

Demokratisering av Kulturen? Om Sosial Ulikhet i Kulturbruk og -Deltakelse. Bø: Telemarksforsking.

Mann, G. 2008. Why Does Country Music Sound White? Race and the Voice of Nostalgia. Ethnic and Racial Studies 31 (1): 73-100.

Marcuse, P. 1985. Gentrification, Abandonment, and Displacement: Connections, Causes, and Policy Responses in New York City. Urban Law Annual; Journal of Urban and Contemporary Law 28: 195-240. Accessed: 6 January 2019.

Meisingset, K. 2013. Kulturbløffen. Oslo: Cappelen Damm.

Moore, A. 2002. Authenticity as Authentication. Popular Music 21 (2): 209-223.

Norwegian Ministry of Culture. 2011. Countryfestivalene Får Statsrådsbesøk. Accessed: 6 January 2019.

Norwegian Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs. 2008. Knutepunkt: Kriterium for Knutepunktstatus og Vurdering av Gjennomføring av Knutepunktoppdraget. Accessed: 6 January 2019.

OECD – Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. 2017. How’s Life? 2017: Measuring Well-being. Paris: OECD Publishing.

Peterson, R. A. –

(2004). The Dialectic of Hard-Core and Soft-Shell Country Music. Popular Music Analysis 3: 87-99.

Creating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Problems in Comparative Research: The Example of Omnivorousness. Poetics 33 (5): 257-282.

Peterson, R. A. and Kern, R. M. 1996. Changing Highbrow Taste: From Snob to Omnivore. American Sociological Review 61 (5): 900-907.

Solli, K. 2006. North of Nashville: Country Music, National Identity, and Class in Norway. PhD. University of Iowa, Iowa City.

Storey, J. 2003. Inventing Popular Culture: From Folklore to Globalization. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell.

Szerszynski, B. and Urry, J. 2002. Cultures of Cosmopolitanism. Sociological Review 50 (4): 461-481.

Tichi, C. 1994. High Lonesome: The American Culture of Country Music. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Vestby, S. 2017. Folkelige og Distingverte Fellesskap: Gentrifisering av Countrykultur i Norge – en Festivalstudie. PhD. Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Elverum. Accessed: 2 January 2019.

Zimmerman, L. 2018. Bluegrass Beyond Borders – Darling West’s Nordic Niche. Bluegrass Today, 19 April. Accessed: 9 January 2019.


Dolly Parton. 1971. “Coat of Many Colors”, Coat of Many Colors, CD, RCA, 4 October, USA.

Vassendgutane. 2005. “Granada”, Ungkar med Dobbelseng [Bachelor with Double Bed], CD, Bare Bra Musikk, 6 April, Norway.


Moldestad, S. 2014a. “Coat of Many Colors” Blågras 2014 [Online video]. Available from: Accessed: 14 January 2019.


Annlaug. 2015. Interviewed by Stian Vestby, Nordfjord, 5 March.

Bjørn. 2015. Interviewed by Stian Vestby, Nedre Eiker, 20 January.

Eirik. 2015. Interviewed by Stian Vestby, Bergen, 14 January.

Festival representative A. 2014. Interviewed by Stian Vestby, Nordfjord, 24 February.

Festival representative B. 2014. Interviewed by Stian Vestby, Nordfjord, 25 February.

Festival representative C. 2014. Interviewed by Stian Vestby, Nordfjord, 26 February.

Hilde. 2015. Interviewed by Stian Vestby, Nordhordland, 15 January.

Anniken Huitfeldt. 2014. Interviewed by Stian Vestby, Oslo, 10 November.

Kristian. 2015. Interviewed by Stian Vestby, Nordfjord, 7 March.

Other sources

Baugus, R. 2015. “Amazing Grace”, Blågras, 11 July.

Moldestad, S. 2014b. Concert Introduction, Blågras, 12 July.