Music existed for awhile before the recording industry however there are many people who would have you believe otherwise. There were also musicians, and they somehow made a living.
In this time the only way to experience music was to attend a live performance.
With the advent of recording technology it, was finally possible for people to make money from music they did not create. In the early days recording devices were delicate and expensive and only worked under tightly-controlled conditions. This made the process of producing a recording time consuming and expensive, so to make up for this the recordings needed to be sold at a price and volume capable of generating revenues that exceeded the cost of the recording process.
In order to meet these demands, additional people became involved in the recording process. Entire companies sprung up simply to facilitate the generating the volume of sales necessary to support the recording process.
Conversely those who specialized in selling the music began to see patterns in the types of recordings that were easy to sell (to their current audience) and those that were not. These producers tuned their marketing system to run most efficiently using these recordings, and this information was used to select which recordings they would produce in the future.
Of course not all artists met these criteria, in fact most did not. However at first there were enough artists producing this “easy to sell” music (or were willing to do so in order to secure recording contracts) that the supply met the demand and the other musicians went on making a living the same way they always had.
As the audience for recorded music began to expand however, the demand for different types of music grew and it became necessary for the recording companies to offer more than the standard fare. This was not easy for them because their production system and recording processes were optimized to deliver a very narrow range of musical selections. This is where radio came to the rescue.
At first blush, broadcast radio would seem like the enemy of recorded music. After all, the radio offered for free the music that the recording companies were trying to sell. However, other than broadcasting live performances (which was monumentally complex and expensive at the time), the radio could only play music that was available via recordings produced by the recording companies. Furthermore, radio’s broadcast nature meant that everyone listening to the same station heard the same music; this combined with a limited number of station options (due to the high station operating cost, low selectivity of receivers and geographical broadcast range restrictions), it was a straightforward matter to ensure that the majority of radio listeners heard the recordings that the recording industry was most interested in selling. The result was an automatic classical conditioning training system for the music recording consumer.
This process continues today. Since the “golden age of radio”, there have been technological advances that have been capable of inflicting damage to this system or rendering it impotent completely, however like any organism that has lived a sufficient amount of time, this “recording system” has reacted to these technological advances by engaging its immune system in the form of psychological influence on artists, audiences and lawmakers. As the underlying reason for the recording industry erodes (the high cost of recording music), it is necessary for it to find new ways to justify its existence; first by improving the lives of its customers and second by using threats and punishment.
It would be unfair to expect this creature to go down without a fight, and given the size and power it has accumulated over the last century it would be irrational to expect the fight to be over with quickly. However those of us interested in reaping the rewards of progress need to make conscious decisions to avoid feeding the beast or it will be through our own actions that it is allowed to continue and squelch another generation of great musical artists.
As creators of music we can begin by letting go of the idea that getting “signed” is our ticket to the finacijal freedom we crave to allow us to spend our time creating music and look toward more organic methods of making a living from our creations. We must question even this notion that the value of art can be corelated to it’s revenue-generating potential.
Over time this grew into an entire industry designed to