If you were in university during the 50s you were not listening to Rock and Roll, you
were an adult and were expected to behave like one.
With the new demographic between 13 and 18 years old we see a change with
dress, attitude and music. Rock and Roll was age-specific music.
C. CHANGES IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY
1 NETWORK TELEVISION AND INDEPENDENT RADIO
2 AFRICAN-AMERICAN RADIO - WDIA, MEMPHIS (1948)
3 RADIO DJ'S
4 CREATION OF BMI (1939)
5 GROWTH OF INDEPENDENT RECORD LABELS
6 MAJOR RECORD COMPANIES VS. INDIES
*search for a youth specific music*
rise of independent radio. Radio DJs came into play at this time. Independent recording
labels need to be seen in comparison to larger record companies. Recording labels that
have started at this time.
INDEPENDENT RECORD LABELS
Sun Atlantic Vee Jay Chess
1. Small staff
2. Regional distribution (10,20.00 sales)
These companies were often run by families, ma and pa type businesses they did not have
share holders, money out of pocket type business to hopefully make money.
Regional distribution they did not have the distribution clout to distribute their music
nationally never mind internationally.
Chess records.(Muddy Waters etc) Chicago near Lake Michigan. These small labels were
located in the ghetto areas of the major cities. Chess records distribution region was down
the centre of the US, Mississippi and along the Mississippi river. The reason for this is
that it was the passage of transportation for many. Chess Records never made an attempt
to distribute their music on the other sides of the country they remained along the
If you sold 20,000 records you had a hit if you worked in an independent record label.
Money in and Money out -- Hand- to - mouth financing. These companies did not own
their own pressing plants. They had space to record but did not have the money or the
space for pressing plants. RCA. The major record companies were not happy that
technology continued to change but they continued to press the records of other
companies even though it meant they might sell more. You could get your records
pressed if you had enough money to rent out these plants. Payola was the cost of doing
business. Payola was a red flag; it was not seen later on as a good way of distributing.
Before you would give your records in stores you would go to independent radio stations
(those who were interested in playing recorded music because live music was too
In order to get your music to the independent radio stations and DJs you would try and
give it to them. With so many records being produced Lowest paid 20.00 dollars / week
Highest paid DJ 100.00 dollars / week
It was important to consider how much money you could have done under the table
because their was not enough money being paid to these DJs.
The basic levy for a record to be heard was around 25-50 dollars a week. This would get
you started. The more plays the more money. Chess would go around and have to have so
much money in order to have these records played on the radio stations.
On the song writing credits you would see Freed/Berry. Though Alan freed did not have
anything to do with the song, Freed was the biggest name going and in order for it to sell
his name would be best to be on it. Freed would collect royalties just for artists having his
name on the credits.
Some DJs who were of the top DJs would earn 100,000 to 150,000 dollars a year. Payola
was important for them to earn such a substantial amount of earnings.
Payment from distributors. You would have a record store that would distribute the
records to the community, they had between 30-60 days to sell the records. If they didn't
sell you had the records returned. Because of such a long wait for money to be paid to the
labels, many of the independent labels could not afford to go on.
The kisses of Death, of which there are 2 when with an independent label. Lack of
Success and Too much Success. By not being able to keep up appearances you will lose
1954 Elvis was doing really well in the Deep South, the demand for his records was
coming from all over the world. Elvis was sold over to RCA because of his great success
and the demand for his music, with an independent label they were unable to press
enough records as were being dependent. To sell Elvis to RCA Sam made 50,000 dollars.
Between 1954 and 1958 there were 342 top ten hits issued by the record industry major
and independent. of the 342 seven 147 were Rock and Roll and 101 of these were by
In 1957 in the high school system a survey was taken, 8000 Chicago area teens,
4000femalesé4000males. What is your favourite music to listen to? 55% said Rock and
Roll. Not everyone at this point preferred rock and roll even at this age. 24% said their
favourite was Elvis Presley. 44% said Pat Boone was their favourite...who was anything
but rock and roll.
SLIDE E Mid-1950s Rock and Roll Styles.
It is impossible to say what the first hit of Rock and Roll as a recording was. "Sh'Boom"
The Chords is usually said to be that hit. (Cat label, 1954: CD 3:1). This group went
into a local label trying to find a way out of their ghetto society. and did an audition but
were asked if they knew anything about Royalties and Publishing, they knew nothing
about it and were given a very little amount of money in return not knowing what they
were getting themselves into. They sign the rights to their song to the label. The song
then becomes a hit.
"Sh'Boom" The Chords.
The song demonstrates independent label because of the poor sound quality.
The lyrics are scrambled made up lyrics. The lyrics aren't as bad as Shake Rattle and
Roll, but are pretty intense, the low baritone voice represents adulthood.
Because young people were listening to this, the labels took the song (since they now earned it) they re-record it by a different group The Crewcuts (Mercury records, 1954
CD1:30) recorded by white kids becomes a hit. The Chords now lost it all.
"Sh'Boom" The Crewcuts
Sounds more clear, the lose the groove, changed key, made it less intense. Softer voices
compared to the low tenor voice from THe Chords.
This one lasted 30 weeks at the top of the charts.
1950s COVER VERSIONS SLIDE
Many were first recorded by black artists and then covered by white groups.
Trying to take advantage of the music that was performed by blacks and then making it
Instrumentation was to remove the "dirty" sex sounds of the honking sax and replace it
Vocal delivery was changed
The lyrics were changed from the black adult community and airbrushed for the white
Form was changed
The major record companies were completed flat footed when rock and roll came out,
they dealt with it and opted to make a