Simon Frith: The industrialization of music

From Andy Bennet, Barry Shank, Jason Toynbee (red.): The Popular Music Studies Reader (Routledge, London 2006), s. s. 231-238

231: “The contrast between music-as-expression and music-as-commodity defines twentieth-century pop experience. /…/ Read any pop history and you will find in outline the same sorry tale. However the story starts, and whatever the author’s politics, the industrialization of music means a shift from active musical production to passive pop consumption, the decline of folk or community or subcultural traditions, and a general loss of musical skill. […]
What such arguments assume /…/ is that there is some essential human activity, music-making, which has been colonized by commerce. /…/
The flaw in this argument is the suggestion that music is the starting point of the industrial process – the raw material over which everyone fights – when it is, in fact, the final product. The industrialization of music cannot be understood as something which happens to music, since it describes a process in which music itself is made.”
231-232: “Twentieth-century popular music means the twentieth-century popular record; not the record of something (a song? a singer? a performance?) which exists independently of the music industry, but a form of communication which determines what songs, singers and songwriters are and can be.”
232: “We are coming to the end of the record era now (and so, perhaps, to the end of pop music as we know it) /…/
rock and roll was /…/ the climax of (or possibly footnote to) a story that began with Edison’s phonograph.”

236: “Pop music meant pop records, commodities, a technological and commercial process under the control of a small number of companies. Such control depended on the ownership of the means of record production and distribution /…/ Live music-making was still important but its organization and profits were increasingly dependent on the exigencies of record-making. The most important way of publicizing pop now – the way most people heard most music – was on the radio, and records were made with radio formats and radio audiences in mind”
237: “Record companies quickly realized tape’s flexibility and cheapness, and by 1950 tape recording had replaced disc recording entirely. This was the technological change which allowed new, independent producers into the market – the costs of recording fell dramatically even if the problems of large-scale manufacture and distribution remained. Mid-1950s American indie labels like Sun were as dependent on falling studio costs as late-1970s punk labels in Britain /…/
what could be done during this intermediary stage, to the tape itself, that transformed pop music-making. Producers no longer had to take performances in their entirety. They could cut and splice, edit the best bits of performances together, cut out the mistakes, make records of ideal not real events.”
238: “By the mid-1960s the development of multi-track recording enabled sounds to be stored separately on the same tape /…/ Studio-made music need no longer bear any relationship to anything that can be performed live; records use sounds, the effects of tape tricks and electronic equipment, that no one has ever even heard before as musical. /…/
It was pop producers, unashamedly using technology to ‘cheat’ audiences (double-tracking weak voices, filling out a fragile beat, faking strings) who, in the 1950s and 1960s, developed recording as an art form, thus enabling rock to develop as a ‘serious’ music in its own right.”


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