It can be easy to discount the ways in which popular music and the growth and changes in vinyl albums are intertwined. After all, the two do seem a bit different when you think about the factors at play. The former relies on technological advances while the latter is more concerned with the way popular opinion and responses to the music produced. However, as the music industry grew and developed, it became very clear that these two factors were actually intimately intertwined. Instead of two separate concepts and entities, the work of the former impacted the latter in powerful ways. As new developments in the way music recording technology was handled came about, so did developments in the type of music that was created. Indeed, in this case, function dictated form as musicians and popular music artists only came up with music that fit the format already in place; they could take no other action steps as without the right format, producing music was pointless as it would not be heard. Recording time on albums impacted the trajectory of popular music in more ways than many people realized. Here are the steps along the path of the music technology spectrum as well as the changes in the types of music placed on those records.
1. The 78 in Shellac: The most popular standard record for sometime was a 78 (78 rotations per minute) record made out of a shellac material. This record only had about three and a half minutes and up to five minutes worth of playing time per side, and thus restricted recordings in this way. When the initial records only had about three and a half minutes per side, tracks were limited to that length of time. However, as more time was afforded on each side, there was more flexibility for artists to put more on each side of the record. This was a huge advance in the way that popular music was recorded.
2. The LP Record in Vinyl: Longer Play records, or LP records changed the face of the music industry. By expanding the length of playing time to a full forty five minutes, these records meant that artists could start creating “concept albums” instead of restricting themselves to shorter spurts of recordings that only lasted three and a half minutes. This unleashed the creativity for many and even allowed for artists like James Brown to record an entire concert for an album.
3. Electrical Recording: While this development preceded the vinyl album, moving from acoustical recording methods to electrical recording through the development of the microphone made it much easier for artists to produce high quality recordings. With acoustical recordings, it was difficult to get a high quality sound due to the limitations of the medium. The electrical recording could better handle a full range and many instruments, releasing artists to create as freely as they desire.
These are jus a few of the developments in records that shaped the music industry in the past and therefore have helped to determine our future. It is thanks to these mediums that we have been able to make the strides forward that have been so important to the music we know and love today!