Industries, Institutions & Histories of Radio & Popular Music

This week we explored the industries, institutions and histories of radio and popular music. The readings by Shingler, M & Wieringa, C, (1998) and Frith, S, (1988) take different approaches to this topic, Shingler & Wieringa touch on political matters and six themes that shaped the radio industry, whereas Frith takes a socialist point of view. However they both address technological advances through history that have created the mediums we have today.

The lecture addressed how the radio and music industries and cultures inform each other, this can be considered as a symbiotic relationship, which Frith brings into focus in his reading. He explains in “Slump”, how the relationship between radio plays and record sales add to the popularity of artists in the music industries. However, he also states that radio killed record sales for popular music but this led to an increase in less popular music. This may have been due to radio becoming a household item. Similarly, one of the ‘themes’ that shaped the radio industry; Vision, explores how it was foreseen by David Sarnoff (Marconi Operator) that the radio would become a household utility like the piano (Shingler, M. & Wieringa, C. 1998).

Exploring the history of music, there is a focus on its authenticity and how new technology has ruined it. The Frith reading discusses how studio-made music has led to music becoming a commodity, thus alienating the public. In “The Making of the Recording Industry” it states that each technological change is a threat to authentic popular music. For example, the double tracking vocals for weak voices, “cheats” the audience, as music is being made to sound good on record rather than to create authentic live shows (Frith, S. 1988). In On Air: Methods and Meanings of Radio, “Competition” similarly discusses technological advances affecting the radio industry. The introduction of television was believed to be an extension of radio (Crisell 1994) however, it led to criticism of radio by calling it ‘second best’ due to its “blindness”, as people’s leisure time became more visual. On the other hand, technology saved radio; with the introduction of car radio and Transistor Radio’s being cheap, small and fashionable, radio became more widespread than before (Shingler, M. & Wieringa, C. 1998).

Continuing the theme of technological changes with radio/music, further research could be conducted through primary research such as interviews. Interviewing a percentage of the population from different generations about their radio/music consumption when they were younger could make an interesting comparison to how it’s evolved.


Shingler, M & Wieringa, C, (1998). ‘Radio time-line: History at a glance’. In: Martin Shingler & Cindy Wieringa (ed), On Air: Methods & Meanings of Radio. 1st ed. London: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC. pp.(1-29).

Frith, S, (1988). ‘The industrialisation of Music’. In: (ed), Music for Pleasure: Essays in the Sociology of Pop. 1st ed. e.g. England: Routledge, Chapman & Hall, Incorporated. pp.(11-23).



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