To what extent is sociology able to offer a significant contribution to the study of musical works? I first review Adorno's attempt to decipher the very social substance of music. His systematic program advocates a deterministic, normative and antiempirical approach, which dead-ends. By contrast, his monographs (e.g. his essay on Mahler) stand on a quite different level, and some of their insights may suggest how to overcome the limits of his critical sociology. The sociological approach to music gains substance when works are seen as the output of a creative and interpretive process subject to high variability and then as intermediate goods that owe their long-lasting value to endless intervention and transformation.