From Edison to Marconi

The First Thirty Years of Recorded Music


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About the Book

Like any profound technological breakthrough, the advent of sound recording ushered in a period of explosive and imaginative experimentation, growth and competition. Between the commercial debut of Edison’s “talking machine” in 1889 and the first commercial radio broadcast three decades later, the recording industry was uncharted territory in terms of both technology and content.
This history of the earliest years of sound recording—the time between the phonograph’s appearance and the licensing of commercial radio—examines a newly created technology and industry in search of itself. It follows the story from the earliest efforts to capture sound, to the fight among wire, cylinder and disk recordings for primacy in the market, to the growth and development of musical genres, record companies and business practices that remain current today. The work chronicles the people, events and developments that turned a novel, expensive idea into a highly marketable commodity. Two appendices provide extensive lists of popular genre and ethnic recordings made between 1889 and 1919. A bibliography and index accompany the text.

About the Author(s)

David J. Steffen lives in Gualala, California. He has spent nearly three decades in the music industry.

Bibliographic Details

David J. Steffen
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 255
Bibliographic Info: appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2005
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2061-2
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5156-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii

Preface      1

Introduction      7

1. The Ancients and the Jukebox Phenomenon      15

2. Inventing the Music Industry      20

3. Edison’s Invention      23

4. Cylinders, Discs, and Vision      26

5. A Consumer Business or a Business Technology?      31

6. “A&R”: Artists and Repertoire      35

7. Speaking of Money, and the Jukebox      42

8. Toward Mass Production      48

9. Recording and Recordings      52

10. Sound, Quality, and Topicality      59

11. A Popular Product and a Consumer Market      66

12. A&R in the Early Years—Styles and Genres      73

13. Of Places, Performers, and Songs      75

14. Type, Style, Genre, Tempo      84

15. Most of the Music      92

16. Immigration and Recordings      109

17. Culture Swing—The Ethnic Recordings      125

18. Images, Music, and the Inevitable Transition      159

19. The Caruso Effect      165

20. Enter Marconi      174

Appendix 1. Recordings in Popular Non-Ethnic Genres, 1889–1919      179

Appendix 2. Ethnic Recordings, 1889–1919      185

Notes      217

Bibliography      229

Index      238

Book Reviews & Awards

“highly recommended”—Choice.