This book is an in-depth look at contemporary American popular music and the kind of musicianship that is appropriate to it. Stith attempts to explain dynamics of rock musicians by studying how the skills, ideas, and human identities associated with this population manage to be created and transmitted in the context of industrialized culture. In addition, he is trying to examine how musicians begin to take on and are characterized by that identity. Stith is interested with this phenomenon because these people were not successful or had not received a record contract, yet their identities remained intact.
Stith gathered his data through six years of sporadic field study throughout Colorado, Illinois, Washington, California, Missouri, and southern France. He used both observational and interview methods in his study, however, it was participant observation that was used as a primary data-gathering technique. He presented himself as a musician and indicated in some form that he was interested in forming a group. At times he presented himself as a performer, other times as a role organizer, yet never hiding the fact that he was involved in social research. His secondary data-gathering technique was that he conducted several informal interviews with several members of these rock groups that he was associated with. These interviews were conducted during down-times, usually times where the group was hanging out, eating, traveling, etcetera. The size of the sample Stith studied and the ways in which the data-gathering techniques were administered differed from group to group, usually because his role within the population wasnt always constant. The interview questions that were asked were hardly ever uniform, they were administered differently to suit different individuals in specific situations.