Written by Barry DeVorzon – Follow us on Twitter
The Golden Years
In my opinion the golden decade for the record business, publishers, and songwriters would have to be the fifties followed by the sixties. In the fifties, everyone had their job and it was more of a collaborative effort. The songwriter wrote the song, the publisher placed the song with an artist, the artist sang the song, the producer produced the record, and the record company promoted and sold the record. We were all one big happy family and there was something for everyone.
The single record was alive and well and was the fastest and cheapest way to launch a career. And when I say a career I mean as an artist, songwriter, publisher, or record company. Radio was our friend and if you could get on the charts of just one major radio station or city you could break it nationally. Independent record companies ruled and gave birth to Rock and Roll and R&B. The majors hung on to the established pop stars with a few exceptions. There was very little format radio other than R&B and Country, but generally speaking, if it was a hit, radio didn’t care weather it was Pop, Rock, Country, Folk, or R&B.
It was easy and inexpensive to get a record out
There was an immediacy in the business that is not here today. You could record a song on Friday and it could be on the air the following week. It didn’t cost a lot to take a chance, which encouraged people to follow their gut. The result was a golden era that was immediate, imaginative, and just pure fun.
The British Invasion and how it changed the business
This all came to a screeching halt, beginning in the early sixties with the British invasion. In the fifties, all the world wanted was American music. For a good part of the sixties, all America wanted was British music. It was during this time that the major record companies rose to power, and there was good reason.
Majors were the only ones with reciprocal rights
In the fifties, independent record companies were focused nationally and usually let the majors handle their foreign distribution. England wanted our music, we didn’t want theirs, but reciprocal rights were part of every distribution agreement. When America did want their music, the only companies with reciprocal rights for British product were the Major record companies. As a result, The majors rose to power and many of the independent record companies either went out of business or were sold to major record companies.
Corporate thinking comes to power
This is the period when corporate thinking came into power and took over the business. The first thing to go was the single record. Corporate thinking determined that selling an album was far more profitable than selling a single, and they were right. But now, serious money had to be spent on an album before you knew if anyone was going to respond to the artist or his/her music.
Singer/Songwriters take center stage
It also became unfashionable for an artist to sing songs that were written by others. The record companies for the most part were only interested in signing artists who wrote their own songs. This led to a decline in quality and diversity, and the end of an era for songwriters in general. Don’t get me wrong, there were some great songs written by some great songwriters during this time, but for the most part, you had to be the artist, the songwriter, and you had to be signed to a record company to get your songs heard and recorded.
Hard times for songwriters
It has gone from bad to worse these past forty years and that’s unfortunate for pure songwriters who are not artists. The only place that resisted that kind of thinking was Nashville, but I understand today, it’s beginning to change there as well.
More to come
That’s all for now, but look for part two of this article where I discuss the other ways corporate thinking brought the music business to its knees and to the unfortunate place we find ourselves in today. That being said, I will also discuss why I think a brighter future may be ahead for all of us.
If anyone has anything to add on this subject, your comments will be welcome.
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