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History of Record Labels and the Music Industry: 1940s
by Alex Cosper


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


see also American Radio History


1940s

- "In The Mood" by Glenn Miller became a huge hit in 1940. It is arguably the most popular big band song of all time, as the recording is now a classic for all ages events, especially weddings.

- In 1940 ASCAP songwriters went on strike for nine months due to disagreements with radio broadcasters over song royalties. As a result, ASCAP songs disappeared from the radio during the breakdown. It led to the formation of a competing performance rights organization called Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI).

- Billboard debuted its "Best-Selling Retail Records" charts in 1940, marking the first independent survey of record sales.

- The audio for the Disney animated film Fantasia marked the first massively popular stereo recording.

- The music industry began certifying million sellers as "gold records" starting in 1941 with Glenn Miller's hit "Chattanooga Choo Choo." The first million selling records appeared in the early 1900s, but this was the first certification.

- After being dropped by CBS, Decca US picked up Brunswick in 1942.

- Film studio MGM launched its record division in 1946 as MGM Records.

- London Records was established in 1947 as an American imprint of Decca's UK artists.

- Ampex introduced the reel to reel tape recorder on the market, which had previously been used by the military. Reel to reel became the standard for extended playing time and for master recordings. The initial investor who helped popularize these machines in the recording industry was Bing Crosby, who gave an Ampex deck to Les Paul, who experimented with it and came up with the concepts of over-dubbing and multi-track recording. Paul had been a key pioneer in the development of the solid body electric guitar earlier in the decade.

- Capitol Records became the first major label based on the west coast, as it was established in 1942 by singer Johnny Mercer and investor Buddy De Sylva. It started as Liberty but soon changed its name to Capitol. In 1947 Capitol signed a deal with Decca to issue its material in the UK for three years.

- Mercury Records was formed in 1947. Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abrahamson launched Atlantic Records in 1947. Other independent labels launched in the forties include Apollo (1943), Excelsior (1942), Jukebox (1944), Modern (1945), Imperial (1945), King (1943) and Chess (1947). Art Rupe changed the name of Jukebox to Specialty in 1946. Fantasy Records was started in San Francisco in 1949 by Max and Sol Weiss. Elektra Records was started by Jack Holzman in 1950. Aristocrat Records was founded in 1947 by Leonard and Phil Chess, who changed the name to Chess Records in 1950.

- In 1948 Columbia introduced its version of the 33 and 1/3 rpm 12" vinyl record while RCA introduced the 45 rpm 7" vinyl microgroove record.

- The top recording artist of the decade, according to music researcher Joel Whitburn, was Bing Crosby, who also recording the most popular hit of the decade, "White Christmas." The song was written by Irving Berlin, one of the most successful songwriters of all time. The record sold over 30 million singles and is considered to be the best selling single in history. From the early Great Depression years through the early 1950s Crosby recorded over 300 national hits. He also made several recordings with other popular artists such as the Andrews Sisters.

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





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