Radio & Recording Industry: Concepts, Mediums & Influences

Instructor: Rachel Matz

Rachel teaches acting and voice. She has an MFA in Acting and an MBA in Business Administration.

Learn about the relationship between radio and the recording industry. See how concepts, mediums, and influences have changed the way we listen to music.

Radio and the Recording Industry: Explored!

When you drive in your car, do you listen to the radio? How do you learn about new music? With many choices today, listeners find music in various venues such as traditional radio, satellite radio, internet streaming radio, YouTube, and iTunes.

Although the types of radio have expanded, radio is a vital medium for audiences to hear music and find new artists. This lesson explores the relationship between radio and the recording industry, concepts facing the recording industry, the evolution of music mediums, and the influence of television and music videos.

The Relationship between Radio and the Recording Industry

Historically, radio was one of the first ways audiences got the chance to hear new music in their homes, offering entertainment and enjoyment. Also, radio provided exposure for the record industry's artists. Radio broadcasters needed songs to fill their airtime, and the recording industry needed a forum to play their artist's music. This relationship is the reason radio broadcasters do not pay record labels for song rights.

In 1941, a new record label, Capitol Records, gave free records for radio stations to play, and started a trend, further linking radio and the record industry. Then, other labels followed suit, especially the smaller labels. Whether small, large, or independent, the record label is the backbone of the recording industry.

Currently, the three major record labels include Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group. However, independent labels (indies) also function within the recording industry, and they do not belong to one of these 3 labels. Indie labels have more artistic freedom, but less money at their fingertips.

Concepts Facing the Recording Industry

Art versus Profit

The recording industry faces certain issues in the course of their business including finding the balance between art and profit and cultural homogenization. Music, as an art form, has stood the test of time, with a presence in genres like rap, hip hop, pop, rock, country, and jazz, but record labels have the reputation of taking advantage of artists and allowing profit to supersede art.

The label might make decisions that favor revenue rather than artistic expression, which is one of the reasons artists turn to indie labels. However, with the rise in the power of the artist, newer types of record deals such as artist deals and licensing deals, and the wide range of artistic platforms, the tables have turned slightly, and the artists have more say and control.

Cultural Homogenization

Globalization has brought the idea of cultural homogenization onto the scene, where one culture has the possibility of dominating all others causing the lack of cultural diversity. We have seen that if an artist and style become popular, like boy bands or singer/songwriter, then other similar artists and styles seem to follow. This idea might be an indicator for cultural homogenization, but the major and indie labels can maintain diversity with a wide variety of artists who sound different.

Covered Music and Color Deaf

How do artists choose the music they want to produce? How do record labels help their artists make these decisions? Many singers and bands write and perform their own material, but for the artists who do not record original music, they might acquire songs from songwriters or use covered music.

A cover is a song recorded by an artist, which was originally recorded by another artist. For example, the song Lady Marmalade, originally released by Patti LaBelle in 1975, was covered by Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya, and Pink in 2001. Covered music is an acceptable form of recording other people's material.

On the other hand, color deaf is a term used to describe music written by black artists, for which white artists take the credit. Record labels need to guard against producing color deaf music for ethical reasons. Cadillac Records is a movie that explores this topic.

The Evolution of Music Mediums

The recording industry has transitioned through recording and playback mediums, progressing from analog to digital formats. Although analog sound is known for a richer sound quality, digital is more accessible and less expensive. Beginning with the cylinder used by Thomas Edison in 1877 for his phonograph, below is the evolution of recording and playback mediums:

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