In the early twenty-first century, the economic growth in live music and especially music festivals caused a sensation in the music industries, in pop aesthetics, and in the media. This birth of a new mass consumer culture of live music has further ramifications in cultural policy, tourism, and urban planning and even generated a literature of its own in popular music studies. This book pioneers a critical approach to the field, arguing that live music is the result of the commercial institutionalization of musical performance, a process that has occurred several times since the birth of consumer society in the eighteenth century, but that the scale and form of the current process is unprecedented. The book begins by examining the lack of critical thinking about live music cultural research and the similar lack of comprehensive explorations of the conceptual foundations for the social study of musical performance in modernity. This leads to the main tasks of (1) developing a systematic and critical framework of the field with a grounding in music sociology and (2) investigating this history through case studies of significant developments in the United States and Europe. The empirical investigations focus on the origins and development of two central institutions of popular music—the club and the festival. The investigations provide insights into the history of these institutions and further use the institutional perspective to provide new insights into the history of music, urban life, and media culture, pointing to fundamental changes in the human condition.