This study aims to provide an in-depth understanding of the innovation system and the learning processes involved in a very specific cultural field: the production of early music. [Design/methodology/approach]: A single case study of the generic value chain in the music production industry describes and analyses the process and the actors involved in editing a new early music collection resulting from the collaboration between a record company and a public research organization. [Findings]: There is a need for new knowledge in the various stages of performance and publication of a new recording. The early music sector is a knowledge-intensive, science-driven sector that can be characterized as a system because the interactions among actors substantially influence final products. [Research limitations/implications]: The single case study represents a specific sector within the music industry. However, its conclusions can be applied to other fields in the cultural heritage sector. [Originality/value]: The literature on innovation in the cultural field primarily focuses on the relationship between art and information and communication technology (ICT). This paper is novel in analysing a case where scientific knowledge is key to new product development, and suggesting that we need to take account of the interactions among cultural heritage entities, universities and other knowledge production organizations. It concludes that these organizations should be involved institutionally in other aspects of the innovation process.