James Surowiecki in The New Yorker:
In the summer of 1924, a Kansas City band called the Coon-Sanders Original Nighthawk Orchestra did something unusual: it went on tour. Popular as live music was, bands in those days tended to serve as house orchestras or to play long stands in local clubs; there was hardly even a road to go on. But Jules Stein, a booking agent from Chicago, convinced the Nighthawk Orchestra that it could make more money by playing a different town every night. The tour, which lasted five weeks, was a smash. Soon, bands all over the country were hitting the road to play ballrooms and dance halls.
Stein’s original vision hasn’t changed much, despite some modifications over the years—parking lots, hair spray, the disposable lighter…