Music History

Come Back to the Days When Musicians LOATHED the Idea of Recorded Music

About a hundred years ago, just as the recording industry was being established, musicians were up in arms. If their music could be preserved and then played back at will by anyone, anywhere at anytime, wouldn’t it mean they’d soon be out of work?

Playing records on the radio? BAD! Talking movies with soundtracks? BAD! Recording music at sporting events, theatre productions and military displays? BAD!

As far as musicians and musicians’ unions were concerned, all these new-fangled takin’ machines were KILLING JOBS! SAD! It was the end of marching bands, orchestras, dance bands, vaudeville, singers–the lot.

And there were plenty of people who were willing to do whatever it took to MAKE MUSIC GREAT AGAIN! That included a two-year strike where no new records were supposed to be made. It took the President of the United States to sort things out. has the full story.

For the music industry, the advent of recorded sound was an abstract, shocking technological development that looked like an existential threat. Live musicians were suddenly not necessary for the experience of music. Once the same thing, the music industry and recording industry were now competitors.

Musicians were not happy about it.

In 1906, the famous conductor John Philip Sousa wrote a scathing critique of recorded music in Appleton’s Magazine titled “The Menace of Mechanical Music,” in which he painted a bleak future for the art.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38343 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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