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July 24, 2010

Edison and Tom Anderson were blind and dumb

The combination of two technologies: music published in a standardised notation and the development of the piano during the middle of the 19th century drove the growth of New York's Tin Pan Alley. Suddenly, a market had developed for selling printed copies of popular songs to people who owned the technology to perform them at home and an industry was born.

Thomas Alva Edison created the phonograph to be a business machine. Entrepreneur that he was, he saw it as a machine that could replace stenographers and improve the efficiency of business record-keeping and communication.

Edison had some success selling the phonograph to businesses but cats like Emperor Alexander III of Russia, Tchaikovsky and Rubenstein encouraged him to make the recordings last longer and to make the sound quality better so that it could reasonably record musical performances.

Combining music with recording and playback technology turned the phonograph into a household object, generating a huge market for wax cylinders and the machines on which to play them.

To a lesser extent, commercial radio's popularity was also driven by the realisation that music recordings made far more interesting listening than endless spoken words. In the USA, the Golden Age of Radio's most popular program format was the sponsored musical feature.

B-Boys would not have used the phonograph.

More recently, MySpace has followed a similar development path to the phonograph. It was originally intended to be just another social networking site like Friendster and other predecessors. What set it apart was when management realised that it enabled symbiotic relationships between musicians and teenage music fans.


From the very beginning of music technology, music has been used to sell technology. Without music, some technologies would never have been viable, much less a world changer.

This post is the summary of Part 1 of Dr Huge's "How the record industry got it so wrong". The latest version of the complete ebook can be downloaded here and a hard copy can be ordered here.
Posted by DrHuge at July 24, 2010 10:10 AM

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