The breakthrough of rock 'n' roll was part of broader transformations in the American music industry, involving changes in music instruments, music recording technology, audiences, radio programming and music styles. These transformations will be analysed as sociotechnical transition, using the multi-level perspective. One characteristic of the case is interactions between multiple regimes: radio and recording. Another characteristic is the presence of strong cultural components, with rock 'n' roll as proxy. These characteristics lead to theoretical adjustments in the multi-level perspective. Further analysis also suggests a particular transition path of reconfiguration, in which multiple niche-innovations cumulatively transform the regime. © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.