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How Sound Recording Survived the Invention of Radio

Updated on October 19, 2014

Radio Stations Begin Broadcasting

When radio stations first began broadcasting recorded music on the air and making the tunes available to listeners at no charge, the recording industry began to suffer dramatically. Financially it was an unsustainable business headed towards extinction.

Radio stations were making music readily available to people all over the country, but the music and recording industries were not receiving any monetary compensation for these broadcasts. Sales of music records and phonographs which were booming at the time, began to plummet because of this. In order to keep the business alive and progressing, rules and copyrights had to be established and put in place. It took many years for this idea to take full effect, but it eventually saved the sound recording industry.

ASCAP is Formed, Copyright Fees Introduced

In 1914 the American Society of Composers, Authors , and Publishers (ASCAP) was founded and forced radio stations to pay a copyright fee to writers and publishers of the songs that were freely being broadcast on the radio, in order to reduce the affect of dramatically dropping sales in the sound recording business.

The Advent of radio was so huge that it created an entirely new industry. One with few limitations and great potential. Without the introduction of ASCAP which has set the standards for copyrights and earnings distribution on such a huge scale today, the recording trade may never have survived.


Jukeboxes Aid the Sound Recording Industry

As alcohol prohibition came to an end in the early 1930’s, the sound recording corporation caught another large break, as sales began to rise again. The main source of local entertainment and music distribution to many people became record playing Jukeboxes. These Jukeboxes quickly became a national necessity for any bar or entertainment venue across the US. The success of which can still be seen today as many Jukeboxes are still in use.

Although more modern and technologically advanced models have been designed and installed in many entertainment venues today, many collectors will tell you there's nothing like the original. Digital players and and touch screen selections are a far cry from the coin and button operated machines.

It is interesting how a simple trend can be set based on popularity and what’s “hot” at the time, and have such a large affect on a particular big business, such as the music industry far into the future. Just like these jukeboxes made such a difference for a period of time in the amount of success records and phonograph sales experienced.

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The Invention of Television Effects Radio

As the 1950’s came around, the recording industry was significantly boosted back up to a respectable and profitable status. During this time of course, came the debut of television, which undoubtedly had a large affect on several other major media and entertainment industries. In particular radio and recording. This is when the biggest change happened.

Radio stations were then forced to turn to the record industry to obtain a cheap source of music and entertainment to broadcast to the people, as TV made radios regular programs of comedy, crime dramas, and variety shows all of a sudden not so appealing. Now radio stations were paying the required copyright fees put in effect by ASCAP, and finally record sales began to rise every time they were played on the air.

It is very understandable that along with the dawn of the Television set, many consumers seeking entertainment would prefer to have a picture along with the sound. Another contributing factor was one’s social status in society, people want what's new and improved, modern technology. Everyone wanted a TV. It wasn't long before a majority of households owned one.

I like the saying, “If you build it, they will come”. If planned and executed correctly, a new device or media platform being produced can direct huge masses of people into one particular direction and create huge success. The trick is to figure out the most appealing product to be introduced into the market, combined with the right timing, and people will jump on that product at an incredible rate.


Sound Recording Technology Today

Think of the iPhone. Globally there is not a more advanced or financially successful cell phone that exists. Every time a new model is released, the success only grows. It is at an exponential growth currently. Today, we can all listen to the radio, watch TV, or download the latest Jukebox app for free. On our iPhone.

It is a very tough industry, but if you’re cut out for the work and have the brains to gauge what people are looking for, it can be an amazingly successful business. The amount of change that has happened and the inventions introduced over the past 100 years is monumental. Let's see what the next 100 years brings.

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