Edison, Berliner, Johnson invented the record business. They brought into being the modern music industry. Capturing sounds from the air so that they could be played back in any place and at any time. Imagine the revolution in thinking that brought about. And what do the three fathers of the music business have in common? They were all techies, not “music guys”. In fact, the more we trawl back through the history of recorded music and the more we look around today’s Apple led world it becomes clearer that all the great surges in music consumption have been driven by technology not necessarily by the prevailing quality of music. Sure there have been exceptions – Sinatra, Presley, The Beatles, Michael Jackson who have shifted game changing volumes and were exceptional in many regards, but ultimately people bought 78’s, 45’s, LP’s and CD’s not Frankie, Elvis, Ringo or Jacko themselves. And what also drove that 50 year upward curve of music sales from 1950 to 2000 was that people sometimes bought the same recording on each of those new formats as they came out. Conversely if it was the quality of music that drove the sales increase for those 50 years, then that must mean in these days of declining sales that our music is of inferior quality?
So why the rant on this site dedicated to the history of recorded sound? Because at the weekend I took the plunge and bought a Spotify Premium package and finally joined the latest music revolution. I’ve been using Spotify for free for a year or so but much as I found it useful as search and listen engine I never enjoyed the experience of listening on the computer and I don’t have space for my computer on my hi-fi rack….so I played about on Spotify and then bought the occasional record I liked on CD to listen to properly.
No longer. With the Spotify Premium account I can still search and listen but now I transfer what I like the sound of to my phone and can listen on headphones as I commute and can easily plug into the high fi and the docking station. So now I have pretty much all the music I could possibly want in the world at my fingertips. To be played anywhere, anytime. Its Edison to the power of Elvis x The Beatles + Berliner. Quite, quite fantastic.
This morning I threw on three new albums, Gruff Rhys, Sbtrkt and Little Dragon. Never heard of them? Neither had I really. I chose them because of reviews I’d seen. Pre-Spotify I would never have explored further as they were not on my top list to check. Boy, they are now. All three albums contain superb work and I’d recommend all of you to try them. Get Spotify. Treat yourself to the Premium model. And start trying the new music once again. Its the greatest music discovery engine ever and so easy to use. Edison, Berliner and Johneson would approve.
2 thoughts on “The record business? Its always been about the technology.”
The portability of the gramophone was recognised way back at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries and there’s some wonderful advertising around showing fineky turned out gentlefolk enjoying music by the river, in the park…and indeed later during the First World War, in the trenches. Initially, electricity put an end to all that until the arrival of the Walkman in the 1960’s, though maybe there were battery powered record players? The walkman set the pattern for listening on the move, and Spotify is the latest manifestation of that. Now, how you listen is chosen by your lifestyle. I have iTunes on the computer in the study alongside the CD and vinyl collection and as this is my most-used room in the house, that’s fine for me. The 10,000 song+ iPod is in the car and is used in almost total preference to radio, the iPhone is in the pocket but has little music on it and is used more for web searching in non Wi-Fi areas, while the iPad is used primarily for reading (it’s already started to replace printed books) and web searching on holiday in wi-fi areas. What’s lacking is the channel that will bring me new music uninterrupted by human voice!
Oh, and thanks to you, Hound, I’ve just down/up loaded the Little Dragon album!!