The History of the Recording Industry

Spring Quarter, 2022

Thursdays, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.

D. The History of the Recording Industry

Jacob Smith, Professor, Radio-Television-Film; Director, MA in Sound Arts and Industries

NOTE: Prof. Smith will provide a syllabus on our website with suggested listening material. Pre-listening is optional, but doing so will greatly enhance the lecture experience. As of this printing, the hyperlinks have been tested and are available on the internet, but bear in mind that links do disappear from time to time. Please be patient with any ads. This course will explore the history of the recording industry from the invention of the phonograph in 1877 to recent developments in digital audio. We will examine the social, cultural, and technological factors that have shaped the development of the recording industry, and consider musical genres such as jazz, blues, rock, swing, muzak, tropicalia, dub, EDM, rap, and K-pop. We will consider the production, distribution, and reception of recordings, tracking the changing ways in which sounds have been produced, sold, and consumed. Recordings of popular music will be our primary focus, but we will explore synergies with the film industry, radio, television, and other digital platforms. Some of the key themes in the course will be the intersection of multiple sound industries; the tension between independent and major labels; questions of copyright and creativity in popular music; struggles for diversity and inclusion in the music industry; the relationship between technology and innovation in sonic arts; and the increasing mobility and cultural ubiquity of recorded sound. Looking back across a “century of sound” allows us to gain a deeper appreciation of our current immersion in recorded music, and to better understand some of the central debates and dynamics that have shaped the recording industry.


The complete schedule is in the Class Schedule and also in the Spring Course Brochure. Those are found on the left side of this page, the Home page, and The Continuing Education page of this website.