Technology's Influence on Music

Timeline created by SLScholl
  • The Phonograph

    The Phonograph
    Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877. The phonograph worked by producing sound into a horn while a tin foil-covered cylinder was rotated using a handle. The vibrations shook a needle and recorded the audio on the foil. This was the first time music, or anything, would be recorded. You could only listen to the recording once and it didn't have the best sound quality. For the first time ever, music didn't have to be listened to live.
  • Introduction

    With the invention of the phonograph, technology changes how music has always been heard up to this point; performed live. With each new technological advance, music is influenced and changed in the ways it is produced, listened to, and brings new issues to be faced. What the consumers want is important and new technology does not always give musicians their due. This timeline highlights the major technology advances and their influence on music.
  • Victrola phonograph

    Victrola phonograph
    The Victor Talking Machine Company's Victrola, is an adaptation of a phonograph, build smaller and designed to fit within the home. The Victrola became the best-selling record player of its time and brought classical musical to a larger audience, however "small bands made a crisp, vital sound, while symphony orchestra came across as tinny and feeble"(Ross 2007). Thus popular band music benefited from this invention.
  • Radio

    On this date is the first broadcast from the Chicago Civic Opera. Regular broadcasts in the 1920s featured both live and recorded music, readings, lectures, news and weather announcements. Classical music was available to the masses and not just those who could afford a concert ticket. There were few commercial records available, hence the need to broadcast a large amount of music on the air, with the consequent founding of radio orchestras. (PBS 2004)
  • FM Radio

    FM Radio
    Frequency-modulated (FM) radio becomes reality in 1933. FM radio, as opposed to amplitude-modulated (AM) radio, offers higher quality sound with less static, and it requires less transmittal power. Radios in car are common at this time, as well. (PBS 2004)
  • Vinyl Records

    Vinyl Records
    The fragile nature of discs made from shellac is revealed when RCA Victor ships the first "V-Discs" to entertain troops abroad in 1943, and polyvinyl chloride, known as "PVC" or "vinyl," is adopted as the new material for record production. Vinyl survives as the record industry's material of choice long after WWII ends. (PBS 2004)
  • Television

    Half of all homes have a television by this time. At first, ideas are borrowed from radio to create new programs on TV. American Bandstand premieres in 1957 and features teenagers dancing to the top rock and roll and rhythm and blues tunes of the day, bringing popular music and dance into millions of households each weekday afternoon. (Aldrich 2011)
  • Cassette Tapes enter mainstream

    Cassette Tapes enter mainstream
    Though the cassette tape cartridge is invented for transcription purposes in 1930, the cassette is slow to enter the recorded music industry as a viable format. It isn't until 1964 that the cassette has its commercial breakthrough, when Philips introduces its own 30-minute format for the tape cartridge and allows other manufacturers to duplicate the specifications. This standardization of cassette tapes creates a market for an inexpensive and portable solution to reel-to-reel tape.
  • Boombox

    The boombox becomes popular and associated with the rise of hip-hop music and culture. Music can be listened to on the go at affordable price, no car necessary.
  • Walkman

    Sony releases the original Walkman and people can listen to music on the go and it's much lighter than a boombox! With headphones, music can now be a private, individual experience.
  • Launch of MTV

    Launch of MTV
    This is the first TV channel completely devoted to music. A limited supply of video clips from mainstream rock artists led the channel to include new wave artists, who had been producing videos for urban "rock discos” as well as for British television. This helps to drive a mainstream New British Invasion in the United States from 1982 to 1984. It also leads to the popularity of music videos. Record companies use the videos to sell records. (Rubin 2016)
  • CD is the new way to listen to music

    CD is the new way to listen to music
    Billy Joel's 52nd Street, released in 1982 in Japan, becomes the first CD released in the world. By 1988, the CD surpasses the LP in sales. With the introduction of the CD, the '80s become the most explosive boom period in recorded audio history, as consumers replace their vinyl collections. Within three years of the CD's arrival in the marketplace, the electronics industry sells one million CD players. (Gopinath, 2014)
  • Birth of MP3

    Birth of MP3
    The combination of digital audio and the Internet create a "combustible phenomenon upon the invention of the Moving Picture Experts Group-1, Layer-3 (MP3) in 1990". The MP3 compresses digital audio files by a factor of 12 to a size that can be easily sent from computer to computer without compromising quality. (Aitken, 2014)
  • Streaming Audio

    Streaming Audio
    RealAudio successfully launches the first major streaming audio service in 1995. In comparison to the long wait associated with downloading a music file, streaming audio becomes highly popular, despite initial poor audio quality. (Aitken, 2014)
  • Prince sells music without record label

    Prince sells music without record label
    Prince announces that his next album will only be available via the Internet or an 800 number. The move is a symbolic statement that in the Internet world, the artist is freed from the economic shackles of the record labels and record stores. He sells 100,000 albums without the aid of a record label, but the experiment highlighted the difficulties of trying to create a new distribution service from scratch. (Aitken, 2014)
  • Napster Conviction

    Napster Conviction
    Napster popularized the MP3 & allowed people to download & share music for free, debuting in 1999. Those who own the music do not receive any profit.. Napster was convicted on this date of violating copyright law for enabling people to trade files without permission from the owner. The company then strikes a deal with the National Music Publisher's Association to pay $26 million for past abuses and $10 million toward future royalties. (Aitken, 2014)
  • iTunes

    Apple Computer opens the iTunes Music Store. This offered a legal and economically viable alternative to file sharing with quality audio.
  • Facebook is launched

    Facebook is launched
    By 2010 Facebook had become popular among musicians, venues, record companies, websites, and media companies as a promotion vehicle, offering pages where fans could interact among one another in ways similar to the earliest website-based forums. Some Facebook artist pages are “official,” as in the official websites above; others are maintained by fans. (Aitken, 2014)
  • Youtube is launched

    Youtube is launched
    Artists have been discovered and their careers have flourished due to exposure here, called the "YouTube Phenomenon." Independent artists can partner directly with YouTube and earn a share of the advertising revenue from their videos without the needs of a record label. Ok Go, a band that got its start on YouTube from a music video, dropped their major label, EMI and used Youtube to gain followers, endorsements and success without any help from a major record company. (Miller)
  • iPhone

    Apple launches the iPhone, a smartphone (or combined phone and portable wireless computer) with numerous features including an MP3 player linked to the iTunes store. The iPhone propelled smartphone sales and helped to incubate a market for phone software called apps (applications), many of which were music-related (Gopinath, 2014)
  • Spotify is launched

    Spotify is launched
    Different from iTunes, where music is paid for and downloaded, Spotify streams music free, supported by advertising.
  • TikTok

    The latest in social media launches in this year. In 2019, Lil Nas X captured the No. 18 spot on Forbes’ top-earning country stars, fueled by his viral hit “Old Town Road” which first appeared on Tiktok. An influx of TikTok videos emerged inspired by the country/trap mix. The track, which holds the title as the longest-reigning Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 in the chart’s history. (Mercuir, 2019)
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    Music goes beyond live performance

    With the invention of the phonograph and radio, music is heard outside of live performances or is heard live in different locations over the radio. Music can now reach a much broader audience. Radios also entice buyers to buy records to listen to performances whenever they want.
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    Music on the Go

    Radios were first put into cars in the 1930s. Boombox and Walkman, later iPod and iTunes, allowed music to be listened to anywhere. Now our phones go everywhere with us and can do everything. Music can be done simultaneously with other pursuits, it is not solely an event anymore to dress up and listen to. Music can now be a solo activity, instead of shared with an audience. This increases music's availability as the technology becomes affordable and mainstream. (Gopinath, 2014)
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    Materials Matter--How sound is produced

    Higher quality sound is produced on vinyls, but music must be tailored to fit each side. The invention of LP's vinylite record led to the ability to play longer songs. With the invention of tapes, home editors can record on blank tapes. Record executives complain that teenagers tape and swap their favorite albums, and advocate a tax on blank cassettes to make up for the lost revenue. The invention of the CD breaks records in recorded audio history, as consumers replace their vinyl collections
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    Television and Music

    With television becoming more popular than radio during this time period, consumers now listen to and watch music. Music videos are on the rise and come to their height with the launch of MTV. VH1 and reality shows like The Real World evolve from MTV. Pop and classical music can be enjoyed on TV. Both are recorded and broadcast on tv. Music becomes part of advertising jingles, TV theme songs, and soundtracks to movies.
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    Music in the Digital Age

    With music being able to download straight to a computer or iPod, this brings music to more people, but consumers find ways to get music for free so that musicians are not paid for their work. Napster's conviction helps to make sure music is downloaded legally, though copyright infringement still goes on. This is the new way to consume music. YouTube becomes a way to promote and jump start careers as well as share music videos. Artists have the option to be successful without a record deal.
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    Social Media and Music

    In the last decade with the rise of sites like Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok, musicians have used these sites to connect with fans and promote their work. Many have been discovered when their videos go viral. These are a lucky few that have made their videos stand out in a sea of videos. Copyright issues are also a concern that is not always policed on these sites.
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    Technology has influenced and changed music greatly in the last 150 years. Music continues to evolve with technology. The most pressing issues in 2020 are the easy access of music. When music can be heard at a push of a button and has to compete with such varied styles, it can inspire creativity, but also brings up copyright issues. Artists have shown they can be successful, independent of a record label. Music will continue to evolve to meet consumer and technology needs.