Technical Developments Essay
With the increase in the success of record sales came the need to introduce methods to diminish manufacturing costs in order to increase profit margins. Nowhere was this need more prevalent than with the independent record companies in the industry for they had the most to gain let alone survive. After the demise of Germany, German technology made its way across the Atlantic to America. One of these technical break through was the ability to store audio information on magnetic tape.
Magnetic tape was a process where Iron Oxide embedded on plastic tape could be magnetized by amplified electrical impulses for the purpose of recording and playing back audio information. It offered editing of performances, portability, and better audio quality and was significally cheaper than the existing technologies. In the USA a company that made Scotch tape called 3M improved the abilities of magnetic tape, allowing recording speeds of 30 ips to be brought down to 15 ips and 71/2 ips with little quality loss but significantly longer recording times.
In 1948 Bell laboratories introduced the Transistor to America. Transistor technology could do everything the Vacuum tube at a reduced cost. It required less power, was smaller in size and more durable. Soon the recording studio became portable and could easily be torn down and set-up if the need arisen. Most importantly, the AM radio was created and could be found in the private confines of a teenager’s bedroom. It might be hard to believe, but parents would warn their kids about the evils of listening to new music all by oneself.
This new advent in technical breakthroughs sparked interest with the major players in the industry like CBS and RCA. Over at CBS the laboratories invented “High Fidelity”, a new method of improving the record. The Long-Playing record was invented that increased the number of grooves for the playing speed was lowered from 78 rpm to 33 rpm. Because the speed was lowered and the grooves now smaller, the smaller diamond stylus replaced the larger sapphire stylus.
The new stylus needed to use lesser pressure allowing the LP’s to last a lot longer. Over at RCA, engineers were developing similar technology. They invented a smaller sized record that revolved at 45 rpm. The size of the 45 and the fact that they only played one song worked very well for the jukebox owners. The 33-rpm LP worked well for playing records that offered more than one song and could sell for more money.
With the new technical advances, records emerged as a relatively inexpensive medium compared to the overall production costs of Radio, film and Television, With this new trend, smaller independent record companies could compete with the larger companies and naturally they grew in stature and power. Records soon became the mainstay of radio and by 1952 record sales surpassed sheet music sales as a source of revenue in the music business.
No longer was the jukebox the main resource for record promotion, radio with its new personalities would make sure of that. The main broadcasting format was AM – amplitude modulation, even though FM – frequency modulation had been around for a while. FM was in conflict with the introduction of TV for it existed in the VHF bandwidth that TV also shared, and had to take a back seat to AM even though its broadcasting quality was better. It was obvious to the broadcasting companies that the future lied in TV and radio would always be secondary.
A compromise was made with Fm broadcasters and TV when TV allowed FM to operate on channel 1 on the TV station dial. It was later shifted to a bandwidth between 88-108 megacycles (between channels 6 and 7 where in now lives today. This proved to be devastating for FM broadcasters for not too many people were interested in buying an FM radio. In 1946 there were almost 7 million AM radios and less than 75,000 FM radios, and it would be a long time until TV was thoroughly entrenched that FM would start to emerge as a broadcaster for classical radio.
With the development of TV came the fatal blow to network radio, for the large advertisers were much more interested in sponsoring TV programming than radio. But radio managed to survive via the Independent broadcasters that could rely on local advertisers for revenues, what we call today “Retail” verses the “Corporate” advertising of the major broadcasters. It is amazing to acknowledge the efforts and the luck of the independents in their pursuit of good music.