Of all the media businesses “disrupted” by emerging technology in recent years, the music industry was among the first and the most dramatically changed in the shortest period of time. But before we go there, let’s look back at the music industry about 100 years ago.
While phonographic recording was invented by Edison in 187, it was not until 1925 that a standardized format for “records” was introduced. This was the “78rpm” shellac disc. Up to this dvelopment recordings were played in various formats and at various speeds. With a standard every recording could now be played on every compatible device. The record industry was born
Up until then, the music industry consisted first of instrument manufacturers, from high ens makers like Steinway Piano, still in Queens, NY, to dozen of makers of affordable instrument in Chicago, making this city the largest center of instrument manufacture in the word. A few still exist.
Pretty much every household had at least one instrument and families at all income levels believed that musical instruction was a must for their children. And what did you need to learn and play them? Sheet music.
This was the second aspect of the music industry, the almost assembly line production of songs and the sheet music to go with it. This industry was centered on two blocks of west 28th street in Manhattan, a stretch of former brownstone homes turned into the center of music creation in the US. Called ‘Tin Pan Alley”, the way one made money in music was to create, copyright, and then sells sheet music
Buildings of Tin Pan Alley, 1910 (Links to an external site.)
The same buildings, 2011
Tin Pan Alley is the name given to the collection of New York City music publishers (Links to an external site.) and songwriters (Links to an external site.) who dominated the this street.
As you can no doubt assume, the invention of the standardized phonograph, created a new business. No longer did you have to play the song. You could now buy a recording of it. In 1928 the first coin operated Juke Box was invented. No longer did you have to hire a band to have music in any number of venues. In fact, it was your customers who paid to hear the music they wanted.
Before we continue with changes in the industry in the 20th century, check in again with your “senior” media advisers. What are their musical recollections from the past? What memories do they have from formats and media behaviors tha may have disappeared? From a business perspective, think about the relationship between radio, TV and the music business in the 20th century. No medium exists in isolation.
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