The Music Industry and the Growth of Audio Recording

Man using digital multi-channel soundboard

Man using digital multi-channel soundboard

People today can’t remember a time before the music industry was an enormous force that churned out performers and performances at a prodigious rate. The development of the modern music industry and the way in which it influenced many other trends is interesting, particularly the ways in which several different trends interacted with one another.

For one thing, audio recording technology got its beginnings during the Industrial Revolution, during a time period in which technological innovation and progress was being trumpeted from every street corner. The first audio recording of a human voice dates back to 1877. From that point up to the 1890s, the phonograph went through several different developments as Thomas Edison competed with many of the other pioneers of the day.

The juke box, a device that is still used today for the sake of nostalgia, was born in 1890. The juke box and similar devices managed to stay popular and generate income even during the economic difficulties that many people would go on to experience at the turn of the century.

As the twentieth century dawned, recording technology was bolstered by several other factors. For one thing, the development of the movie industry helped make developments in recording technology profitable in the first place. Silent movies had actual musicians playing the background music on piano during the movies themselves. It was only natural that adding music to the movies themselves would soon follow. The growth of the movie industry only helped fuel the growth of the music industry and the sound recording industry in general.

Jazz music and blues music achieved an unprecedented level of popularity, and these music styles went on to influence rock and most of the genres that would continue to dominate today. Naturally, the fact that the modern music fandom was more or less born during this time period helped make recording devices profitable in a way in which they never would have been otherwise. Magnetic tape recording was one of the most important inventions in this category. Stereos gave way to cassettes, and these set the stage for the digital revolution that is continuing today.

Cultural and technological developments have always managed to influence one another. Naturally, this journey is still ongoing today. The Information Age is continuing to have a profound effect on music, and visa versa.

 

Posted under Sound Engineering

The Development of Recording Technology Before Edison

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In a world in which even the most mundane of sounds can be recorded and shared to an audience of millions with the camera phones that many of us have, a world without recording technology can seem terribly foreign to us. However, recording technology dates back to the middle of the nineteenth century.

The audio aspects of the world before that point have been lost to history altogether. The mysteries involving that huge portion of history only make it that much easier to appreciate the ubiquity of recording technology today and the fact that it has undergone so many different developments since its humble beginnings.

Contrary to popular belief, Thomas Edison is not the proper father of all of recording technology, and his phonograph was not the first sound recording device. If nothing else, Thomas Edison was a truly magnificent marketer and businessman. His marketing skills have managed to have incredible posterity, since he still has people singing his praises today, and often at the expense of the other inventors that paved the way for him or that competed against him.

Leon Scott’s 1857 Phonoautograph was one of the earliest of all recording devices. It wasn’t the only one of its type at the time, but it is perhaps the most famous of these models today. The recording devices of its generation were devised for the sake of capturing and studying sound waves in a scientific environment. As such, there is a direct ancestral link between the recording devices used for entertainment today and the recording devices used for the sake of scientific research a century and a half ago.

The early Phonoautographs were a wonder to behold. Sound was directed through enormous horns that were similar to the devices that hearing-impaired people at the time often used in order to augment their hearing. The technology in both cases was fairly basic, and the people involved were taking advantage of some of the basic physics of sound.

Alexander Graham Bell added his own variation to the Phonoautograph in 1874, and his variation also managed to predate Thomas Edison’s. He actually experimented with building his device using a human ear that he removed from a cadaver, exploring the internal mechanisms of the human ear all the while. Alexander Graham Bell was certainly dedicated to technological progress, and definitely wasn’t afraid to think outside the box when it came to exploring his own ideas.

Posted under Sound Engineering

Sound Sacrifices and Digital Streaming

The streaming of songs is all the rage today, and it isn’t very hard to see why. People can listen to millions of songs for free that way, and they don’t even have to have their computers present for the streaming to take place, given the number of technological fixes that are available these days.

Downloading is also inevitably going to take up some of the space that people have reserved on their devices or their operating systems. When people stream their music, they are taking advantage of the music that is available on the Internet all the time, and they won’t make any sacrifices in the process in that regard. The only thing that they are going to sacrifice is sound quality.

Music fans will debate about this, but streamed music just doesn’t have the sound quality of something that is downloaded, played on an LP or even a CD, or performed live. Fortunately, there are technological fixes that people can use in order to get around this particular problem as well.

Many people have managed to completely bypass this problem by getting upgrades in the form of better headphones or better speakers. Many people also aren’t going to need especially expensive headphones. Headphones that cost twenty dollars or less are often going to be sufficient for this task. Speakers that manage to amplify and modulate the sound that people can get from the music that they stream will also do the trick. Many music geeks will do both in order to get the best possible sound that they can for free.

Access to music is at an all-time high today. People once had to spend thousands of dollars in order to gain access to the songs that the current generation can manage to listen to for free. This generation can also get something that at least approaches the sound quality that previous generations were able to enjoy. As long as they have the right equipment, they will manage to have the right music in every way.

Posted under Sound Engineering

In Praise of Sound Engineers

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The people who focus on the technical aspects of the sound of music have helped revolutionize music as people know it. Many of the extremely slick and smooth recordings that we hear today sounded very rough and disjointed when they were first recorded in the studio, which may have nothing to do with the talent of the musician or the musicians in question.

It is customary today for people to complain about the state of modern music, saying that there was some earlier time in which musicians did not need sound engineers in order to sound great. The thing is, a lot of musicians in the past still would have benefited from sound engineers. Sound engineers eliminate static and studio noise: they don’t just add synthetic sounds in order to fill in tracks. Incidentally, the fact that they do is more of a function of the fact that people have higher standards for the music that’s close to their ears than they do for the music that is being sung very far away.

Many people know that in live performances, the musicians are going to stammer, and their voices might break momentarily. Live performances aren’t intended to be perfect, and people don’t expect complete perfection. They are more likely to edit out tiny mistakes, the way we tend to edit out the stammering and the awkward pauses that people will sometimes make during the conversations that we have.

However, people don’t usually have that same tolerance for awkward pauses and mistakes when it comes to scripted television. Television characters who talked exactly like real people would often be painful to listen to, and despite the push for modernism in television, witty and clear dialogue has never gone out of style. It is the same for the manipulations that sound engineers will use in the studio.

They know that the music that they record is going to be held to higher standards than the music that the same musicians would perform live. Live performances, even in an age of ubiquitous recording devices, is still something that people generally consume and then forget about: they don’t listen to these momentary performances over and over again the way they would for their favorite recorded tunes. Something that people are planning on listening to over and over again needs to be the sort of thing that people would want to play over and over again, and the sound engineers of the world can definitely make that happen for all musicians.

 

Posted under Sound Engineering