The Recorded Music Business

Similarly to the introduction of the printing press lead to changes in law, innovation in technologies changing the way music has been made and consumed have continued to shape and disrupt the industry of their time. Whenever new technologies are introduced, it seems historically the copyright holders within the music industry resisted change.

RollingStone: Inventions That Changed Music

In 1906 Piano Roll technology was the mp3. Souza’s “The Menace of Mechanical Music’ (1906), decried the new technology as “…substitute for human skill, intelligence, and soul”.

His comments sound scarily similar to some of the comments that industry professionals have made about how the digital economy has changed the business of music today- about the internet, file sharing or streaming for example. However back then, in the US, instead of pushing to penalise the users of this new technology the law was amended to compensate rights owners. Surowiecki (2002) wrote: “Congress said that copyright was about compensation, not control”.

In 1933, the Phonograph records caused another upheaval- and then the birth of shellac and vinyl as a format signalled the end of the piano roll and sheet music era but created the recorded music business, pre-digital- to summarise Silver citing Spencer Hyman (2013, p.132), a business that, up until the birth of the Internet, was centred around the ability to control how music was made, distributed, promoted and copied. The internet and the digital revolution changed every step of that process.


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