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History of Record Labels and the Music Industry: 1920s
by Alex Cosper


Introduction 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s


see also American Radio History


1920s

- Brunswick emerged as the most successful new independent label following the post-World War I boom of new record labels. In 1925 Brunswick became even bigger by acquiring the Aeolian Company and Vocalian Records.

- The industry standard became 78 rpm shellac records by 1925, although this format had been in existence since the late 1890s. Speeds had previously varied from 74 to 82 revolutions per minute.

- Columbia went into receivership in 1923 and its UK subsidiary was sold to Louis Sterling. Columbia acquired the OKeh Record Company in 1926.

- The Grand Ole Opry radio show, the first broadcast of its kind and the beginning of national radio syndication, debuted in 1925. The variety show orginated from Nashville and featured country musicians. It marked the rise of country music in America and influenced Canada to create its own country music scene.

- Western Electric, a subsidiary of AT&T, introduced the first electric condensor microphone, which replaced the process of singing into a big horn. This innovation greatly improved the quality of audio recordings.

- RCA (Radio Corporation of America), which manufactured radios, purchased Victor as the label became RCA Victor.

- Edison went out of business two days after the Stock Market Crash of October 1929. Although he was the architect of recording equipment, he was late on conforming to industry standards established by his competitors. One of his problems was that he didn't like jazz, which had become very popular in the twenties. He refused to issue jazz records, only to lose market share to the other two big players.

- Sir Edward Lewis, a British stockbroker, formed Decca Reocrds in 1929 after acquiring the Decca Gramophone Company.

- The most popular recording artist of the decade, according to music researcher Joel Whitburn, was Paul Whiteman & His Orchestra, in which future star Bing Crosby was a member. Whiteman was a bandleader who mixed jazz with symphonic sounds. He is sometimes referred to as the "King of Jazz," at least for his era. In 1924 he hired George Gershwin to compose the classic "Rhapsody In Blue," which was influenced by jazz and classical music. He also performed blues and Broadway music. His first big hit in 1920 called "Whispering" sold over two million units. Over a span of 30 years his orchestra enjoyed over 200 hits. The band started out on Victor then switched to Columbia in the late twenties.

Introduction 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s





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