The Major Record Companies

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In the forties the major record companies decided to abandon the black artists, race records and their black audience for the following reasons:

  1. They felt that Blacks disposable income was such they could not afford to buy many records
  2. The high overhead for talent scouts, who had little knowledge or expertise of black tastes.
  3. Racial bias.

The Mills Brothers, The Ink Spots and Nat "King" Cole were exceptions as they had consistently shown an ability to appeal to whites.

This void would be filled by hundreds of small independent companies. The most important were New York's Atlantic Records, Chicago's Chess Records, Cincinnati's King Records, Los Angeles Specialty Records and Memphis' Sun Records.

It wouldn't be until the mid-fifties that the Majors would discover the error of their ways.

ASCAP and BMI

The  large publishing houses "Tin Pan Alley" allied   with ASCAP ( American Society of Composers and Publishers) in 1914. ASCAP's function was to institute and  administer the collection of a royalty each time a licensed song was played.  Most of  ASCAP's revenue originally came from sheet music, variety shows, dance band programs, etc. that aired on radio. However, this changed and radio stations became the largest income source when they began playing prerecorded music. The radio stations felt that they shouldn't have to pay.  It was felt their playing of the music amounted to free advertising that would generated larger sales. ASCAP also, chose not to license race (R&B) or hillbilly music (country.).

Enter BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated). BMI was formed in 1940 as an alternative for radio broadcasters tried of ASCAP high fees charged for playing any song they licensed, which nearly all the popular songs were. BMI licensed rhythm and blues, country and eventually rock and roll.

ASCAP began demanding a 100% income increase from publishing fees in 1950. The radio  stations bulked and many completely banned ASCAP recordings. BMI now no longer had any competition and won by default. Eventually ASCAP settled for less than original fees and now found BMI  to a full fledged competitor that by the mid-fifties would have the lions share of popular recordings.

ASCAP was horrified at state of music and attempted to damage BMI. by accusing it and members of various illegalities of payola. They felt that the only reason that rock and roll had become a force to be reckoned with was because of payola. It was at ASCAP's urgings that the House Oversight Subcommittee held hearings to look into "payola."

By the end of decade differences were  negligible as ASCAP by necessity pursued and nurtured new material and BMI continued as it had been doing.

W.W.II and the Music Industry

The Big Bands died because of the following

  1. Bands were depleted as members entered the service.
  2. The American Federation of Musicians, headed by James C. Petrillo, went on strike July 31, 1942.
  3. Touring became impossible due to rationing of tires, gas, shellac and other materials.
  4. Wartime taxes caused many clubs to close.
  5. Large bands became impractical.
  6. Recording ban in 1942 and 1943 because of  the "threat" of juke box and pre-recorded radio
  7. Musicians wanting more independence

The result of the above was club owners put in tables and chairs, precipitating jazz's estrangement from popular audiences, and the music splintered into subgenres. Instrumental jazz evolved into a modern concert music you sat and listened to.