A brief history of recorded music

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An introduction to our work on Music and Talk Radio

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<ul><li> 1. A Brief History of Recorded Music Some background to where we are now </li> <li> 2. The Beginning Before 'recording' as we understand it, music could be played automa;cally through devices like 'player pianos' - a strip of paper or card with indenta;ons or spikes read by a machine that 'played the piano' for you The earliest technologies to 'capture' music emerged in the 1860s - first as a device that recorded the waveform with a stylus in sand, crea;ng a 'diagram' that couldn't be played back, and then with something similar that could then 'play' the waveform of vibra;ons back through a stylus to a loudspeaker. Before the end of the 19th Century, every piece of music - in fact every sound - ever heard by anybody, was heard 'live' as it was made. The only way to listen to music was to go to a performance or to perform yourself. </li> <li> 3. Early Hardware Music on disk was available from the late 19th Century and remained the dominant home technology for nearly a hundred years. Electrical amplifica;on and recording came along in the 1920s, improving sound quality. The first electronic audio recording released in the UK was the service of burial of the Unknown Soldier in 1920. In the 1950s magne;c tape became the dominant recording medium, and also ran alongside records as a home-technology for listening to music (and making mix-tapes) aRer the compact casseSe was developed in the 1960s </li> <li> 4. Analogue to Digital Un;l the mid 1980s music was available to buy on record or casseSe and could be listened to as well on the radio, and on a very small number of TV shows. CD was developed as a new digital technology and released in the mid 1980s. Music companies soon stopped releasing songs on vinyl and casseSe, so audiences had no choice other than to go to CD or leave the game. The industry also achieved the great business coup of making people re-buy lots of things they already had in this crucial new format (see also VHS/DVD/BluRay) </li> <li> 5. Early fears about Piracy Since the 1960s, people have been able to use casseSes to copy records. The music industry objected to this 'piracy' and put a log on their products - "Home taping is killing music". They didn't want people to copy material that they held the copyright to. For every blank tape sold, a few pennies went to the record companies as a 'piracy levy'. ARer home technology had caught up, the industry made sure they also got their piracy levy on blank CDs </li> <li> 6. CDs and onward CDs were played in CD players and nothing much else un;l the mid 1990s saw the growth of Personal Computer ownership. People could finally use their computers to not only listen to CDs, but to copy the content onto the computer and to burn fresh copies. There were prac;cal problems with this - uncompressed music files were big and computer memory capacity was small. There were also CD walkmen but they had their own prac;cal problems - unlike tape walkmen (and later .mp3 players) they needed to be held fairly steadily or they would skip. </li> <li> 7. Life Online The internet and the world wide web developed quickly through the 1990s and a number of new music formats arose to challenge the dominance of the CD. By the end of the decade, a number of these were compressed formats - files like .wma, .mp3 and .aac maintained a good audio standard but only used about 10% of the data of uncompressed .wav files. At the same ;me the storage space on home computers slowly started to grow... </li> <li> 8. Online Piracy As well as finding an easier way to store music, the WWW gave people the chance to copy and share songs. Suddenly, instead of making tapes for your friends, you could share your songs on the WWW to anyone else who was looking. The trouble is, they arent your songs, they belong to the record company or, very occasionally, to the recording ar;st. One website in par;cular that led the way in file sharing was Napster. As it was first set up, Napster opened up all of your media files (your songs) and made them available for anybody else to copy over the WWW. In the same way you could copy anybody and everybody elses songs. Every song stored on a computer connected to the web was available to you. All for free. Who would ever spend money on music again? </li> <li> 9. Responsible, Law-Abiding Metallica The industry fought back. Some bands hated Napster and thought that their fans were stealing from them. Metallica led the way in taking legal ac;on against people who had shared their songs uploaded them (put them on the WWW for people to share) or downloaded them (copied them from somebody else online). Eventually Napster as a free file sharing site was shut down. The record industry con;nues to pick on individuals and takes them to court in the hope of frightening as many people as possible out of downloading or uploading songs. At the same ;me people find more and more ways to share files online - through newsgroups and other online communi;es, through torrent files, through file dumps and online storage, and even just simply aSached to emails for a friend... </li> <li> 10. Industry Reponses Some file formats have copyright protec;on capabili;es .mp3 and .aac both have this feature. This makes it impossible to copy a file more than a specified number of ;mes, or it ;es a file to a par;cular iTunes library or mobile device so it won't play on any other. The record industry is encouraging legal downloads, either through monthly subscrip;ons to download sites or as pay-per-song, and by including legal download sales in the official charts, as well has having a separate download chart. In the last few years, thanks to the success of streaming sites like Spo;fy and the dominance of YouTube (who have made their own business deals with the industry) playcounts from streaming sites are also big news. This is having an effect upon the charts, as songs appear before their official release date and stay in the charts for longer, and on what gets played on the radio, because playlist mee;ngs pay close aSen;on to what people are listening to, however they might be listening to it. </li> <li> 11. Music On The Go Music players have developed alongside the new file formats to enable people to listen to music on the go. From small(ish) mobile radios in the 1970s, to casseSe personal stereos (like the Sony Walkman) in the 1980s, to minidisk players in the 1990s, to MP3 players (like Apples iPod) now, and mobile phones incorpora;ng large memories and inbuilt MP3 players. As larger and larger memory became physically smaller and more affordable, it seemed possible that a movement away from compressed audio to higher quality files might be possible. However, instead larger memory players are disappearing from the market, and instead the more advanced players concentrate on integra;ng a music player with a web browser, social media access, streaming rights and cameras. Apple have cut the biggest memory iPod they market from 160GB to 64GB in the last few weeks There has always been a trade off in recorded music between quality and quan;ty. It seems that quan;ty - including the 'quan;ty' of non-audio content to go with the songs - is s;ll winning. </li> </ul>