Self-Publishing in Music History

The book ‘How Music Works‘ by David Byrne has many, many interesting things to say. Highly Recommended and I’ll get around to a more complete review later, but here’s one of those fascinating bits of history I didn’t know. The earliest recording devices, from Edison and Victor, were used for home recording. You could press your own records on wax discs in the comfort of your own home, and people did!

“The early phonographs were like YouTube – everyone was swapping homemade audio recordings. Composers were even recording their playing and then playing along with themselves. Soon enough that function was taken away. I would be inclined to believe that this anti-participatory, non-egalitarian move by the manufacturers might have been urged by the newly emerging recording companies, who would have claimed that they weren’t being evil but simply wanted to market ‘quality’ recordings that would elevate the musical taste of their customers and the nation as a whole. Victor and Edison had even ‘signed’ a number of artists, and naturally wanted you to buy their recordings, not make your own. The battle between amateurs and ‘professionals’ isn’t new; it has been fought (and often lost) many times over.”

How little different that is from self-publishing, where the traditional publishers ‘own’ the ‘quality’ authors and the rest are merely scrap on the heap!


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