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Radio's Murder of Music

I’m on a quest to document the early history of my college radio station WHRC, which began in the 1920s as a Haverford College Radio Club station known as WABQ. As I was doing a quick search for material today, I found a goldmine of vintage radio information on David Gleason’s website. For one thing, he’s painstakingly scanned old radio magazines like Broadcasting Magazine and Broadcasting Yearbook, as well as old radio guides listing radio stations of the day. The Haverford College station WABQ appears in some of these lists, going as far back as 1924. And, interesting to me, there are plenty of other college stations listed during this era as well.

But the thing that was really fun to find is from the October 15, 1935 issue of Broadcasting. In an editorial called “Murder of Music,” publisher Martin Codel writes about an “ASCAP…propaganda campaign against broadcasting.” Wow. Sounds like 2009! Here’s more text from the editorial:

“In a publicity release issued this month, ASCAP asserts that ‘murder of music’ by radio was accomplished last year when the 85 leading tunes of the year were played 1,255,669 times by the two principal networks. About two years ago ASCAP issued a propaganda blast titled Murder of Music in which it set out to prove that radio had killed sheet music, phonograph record and other musical instrument sales.”

The editorial goes on to point out that ASCAP is arguing that radio should pay up in order to make up for the loss of sheet music sales. And, it also brings up the age-old practice of pay for play:

“ASCAP does not recite in its handout the well known fact that radio tends to popularize the works of composers. Moreover, it does not bring out that composers and publishing houses are constantly plaguing the networks, stations and performers to ‘plug’ their numbers. Innumerable cases of bribery of orchestra leaders and performers have been exposed.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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One Response to Radio's Murder of Music

  1. Matthew Lasar July 3, 2009 at 8:27 am #

    Now ASCAP is after ringtones.

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