How Old Is The Music Industry?
Alex Cosper (7/14/13)

The modern music industry that we know in the 21st century has its roots with the invention of the phonograph in the 1880s. The first three record labels were Edison, Columbia and Victor, which ushered in many of the original concepts of the recording industry. Edison Records, founded by Thomas Edison, the first marketer of recorded music, went out of business in the 1920s. Victor merged with RCA, the maker of radio receivers and phonograph players. Prior to the invention of the phonograph, the main medium for selling music was sheet music, as many people owned pianos. The music box was a precursor to both record players and computers.

Outside of those inventions, live concerts that attracted paying customers emerged with classical composers of the 19th century Romantic period, such as Ludwig von Beethoven. But that era was a much different world than we know today. Concert entertainment grew with the Big Band era of the 1920s through the 1940s, followed by the rock and roll era beginning in the 1960s. Although Billboard began reporting on music sales in the 1890s, it wasn't until the early 1940s that they began publishing a regular weekly chart. By the late 1950s they began publishing the "Hot 100" singles chart.

Columbia issued the first long playing albums (LPs) on 33 and 1/3 rpm vinyl records in the late 1940s while RCA Victor began issuing 45 rpm vinyl records shortly afterward. The roots of multi-track recording that allowed producers to mix different tracks together began in the early 1950s and became more refined in the mid 1960s with the Beatles and the Beach Boys. By the early 1970s the Carpenters on A&M Records began using 24 track recording. This type of recording became the standard for the next few decades until digital recording became dominant in the 1990s.

The two key concerts that set the stage for elevating the concert industry into attracting big audiences were the Monterey Pop Festival of 1967 and Woodstock in 1969. Bill Graham was also an influential concert promoter in San Francisco at his club the Fillmore in the late 1960s. Taking the concert experience to a new level was George Harrison and Ravi Shankar with the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971.

The recording industry was driven by radio airplay since the 1920s. By the 2000s the internet paved the way for new platforms to develop that made it possible for independent musicians to sell music directly to fans. Many signed artists who wanted to break away from the old system began moving toward independent labels. Some of the established artists included Paul McCartney, The Eagles, John Mellencamp, Amie Mann and Radiohead.

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