W2: GASP 31: Critical Popular Music Studies-Race Records and Old-Time Music The Creation of Two Marketing
W2: GASP 31: Critical Popular Music Studies-Race Records and Old-Time Music The Creation of Two Marketing ARTS 031
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This 5 page Class Notes was uploaded by Joseph Lim on Wednesday August 31, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to ARTS 031 at University of California - Merced taught by Emily Gale in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 10 views. For similar materials see Critical Popular Music Studies in Arts and Humanities at University of California - Merced.
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Date Created: 08/31/16
Race and Records and Old-Time Music The Creation of Two Marketing Categories in the 1920s Early 1920s had developed a number of models for selling music to the American public. o Mass production of sentimental ballads to pull on the heart strings of consumers. o Stylized black music in the form of coon songs. o Featured wisecracking hillbillies in the big city and fiddle breakdowns to entertain urban audiences pinning for taste of backwoods. o Expanded into new geographical areas by employing native singers to cater to local racial or ethnic markets. Race records grew into significant segment of the market. o Crazy Blues by Mamie Smith Hillbilly music became popular which was previously viewed as untalented hacks by the industry. By the end of the 1920s, blacks and white southern artists had recorded commercial discs. Watershed o Transformation of American recording industry marking the triumph of authentic southern music. Race and old-time records marled a pivotal change in what the consumer’s musical taste was. o Market segmentation o Printed separate catalogues and flyers to promote discs. o Suggested a correspondence between consumer identity and musical taste. More narrow then broad. Old-time and race functioned both as advertisements and censors. o Musical category- Those records included in the catalogue o Segment of the population- The buyers targeted by it and the artists it promted. Race and old time categories sold millions of records. o Corresponded to the musical lives of no particular sets of artists or audiences. From Dialect Songs to Race Records Perry Bradford o Joined local minstrel troupe o Involved in New York City’s American theater and vaudeville scene. o Integral part of the black musical community. o Convinced Okeh Records to record Mamie Smith in 1920s. o Tried to get records labels to take a chance on an African American blues singer.bl Crazy Blues o First blues record featuring of a black singer. o Adam Gussov- Black violence as a way of resisting white violence and unsettling a repressive social order. o Multiple interpretations to its appeal to different consumers for different reasons. o 75000 copies sold in Harlem in its first few weeks. Mamie Smith o Our Race Artist o Cracked the industry color line, not because it necessarily signaled a significant shift in the sound or meaning of blues recordings. o Other labels tried to replicate the success Okeh had with Mamie Smith. Black recording artists rushed to support African American composers who had pioneered black participation in the national music industry and eased the way for race records. Smith and Bradford cracked the color line in the phonograph industry. Race records dealth a serious blow to white artists who traded on the authenticity of their portrayals of black music. Industry interpreted black music as an extension of minstrelsy. Dinal(1925) o Slow, lilting interpretation made it an international hit. o White songwriters searched for African American talent to invest their compistions with a sense of black authenticity. o Black recording artists were entangled in popular music’s continuing commitment to minstrel imagery. Down South Blues(1923)- Walters, Alberta Hunter, Fletcher Henderson o Lyrics are completely devoid of minstrel imagery or pop music cliché. o Song consisted of the twelve-bar, three-line verses that characterized the blues throughout the rural South. o Big hit and quickly recorded by a variety of singers. The same year would see the phonograph’s industry first recording sessions in the South. o Included gospel quartets, string bands, and solitary blue singers. o Charley Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Robert Johnson’s music would be known as country or down-home blues. Finding Native Southern Singers: The International Campaign Heads South The number of variety of race and old-time records blossomed during the 1920s as the phonograph industry attempted to increase the penetration into southern markets be selling the unique music of the region back to itself. Race and old-time music was a result of the industry revelation that the American South might be a distinct market. Howard Taylor Middleton o Insisted that white rural marketing had envisioned the talking machine bringing them songs of a bygone era rather than the latest hits. o Suggested that African American consumers constituted another neglected niche market. o His discoveries was unacknowledged until the trade disruptions of WWI forced the industry to strategize about increasing domestic consumption. Industry pundits became interested in the South. o Race records offered an important opportunity to tap the southern market. o Perry Bradford stated that the “native singer” that had fueled the phonograph industry’s global expansion now applied to the American South. Polk C. Brockman o Convinced Ralph Peer to come to Atlanta and record the local street musician and fiddle contest champion Fiddlin John Carson. o Started Polk Inc. which became the biggest and most celebrated distributors in the country. Fiddlin John Carson o Built two professional musical careers, one catering to textile workers around Atlanta and another feeding the southern embrace of hillbilly stereotypes. o Learned the fiddle at a young age. o Knew hundreds of ancient fiddle breakdowns, minstrels’ standbys, and Tin Pan Alley hits. o Entered first annual Atlanta fiddling contest in 1913. o Atlanta fiddling contests were an important site for the construction of a regional identity based on rural life, traditional folk music, and the image of the white hillbilly. o Brockman hoped to tap on a local Atlanta celebrity to help sell talking machines. Companies used local or regional scouts to find promising musicians in anticipation of the recording trip. o Competition for talent was fierce. o Placed advertisements in a local paper announcing the recording session and encouraging hopefuls to audition. o Recording southern black and white musicians offered the possibility of tapping niche markets separated by geography and race from the popular and classical music that previously dominated company interest. Radio severely affected the sales of phonograph records. o Companies voiced concern feeling that their businesses were under attack by the new medium. Advertising Race and Old-Time Records Many southern dealers were loath to sell records by African American artists for fear that black consumers would drive away white business. o Many southern stores capitulated to Jim Crow by allowing black customers but installing separate entrances and listening booths for black and white patrons. o Okeh started a new advertising strategy in the early 1922 which offered separate placards for each selection of records, allowing the individual dealer to decide which record would be featured in the store’s display. The change enabled retailers to avoid advertising records by black artists if they choose to do so. o Blackface humor was used to sell music in cartoon illustrations. o Use of minstrel imagery in race record advertisements was but one more way in which the industry signaled that its new trade in black music would not upset previous marketing strategies or the conventions of segregation. Industry strategies for selling old time music paralleled the methods employed to market race records. o Old time records soon came to dominate sales among white consumers in the rual and small-town South. Companies signaled a shift in industry conceptions of the southern market. o The realization that locals would support local artists subtly morphed into the position that southerners wanted little but local music. o It was a reversal of the cultural uplift strategy that dominated the industry just a few years before. Southern musicians embraced classical selections to northern commercial fare and not just old time records. Record companies insisted that old-time records had a broad appeal to buyers outside the South. Industry promoted early race records as a continuation of minstrels but companies suggested that early recordings of southern white audiences constituted a break from earlier stage stereotypes. o Introduced old time records as upstanding and serious folklore. Okeh began using hillbilly stereotypes in reference to music in 1925. o Ralph Peer formed “The Hill Billies” in which the locals have embraced the term. o Southern musicians noticed the marketing value of hillbilly imagery. Advertising both a general hillbilly image and a specific state or local identity corresponded to the industry strategy to sell old- time tunes simultaneously as local music for hometown fans and comical yet nostalgic hill country music for the masses. Rural drama recordings o Reinventions of the rube records popular in the early years of the century. In which these discs were inserted to snatches of music into comedy skits. Helped southern string bands project a hill billy image palatable to record buyers across the nation. Skillet Lickers o Most successful old time string bands of the 1920s. o Bestselling records were 19 rural drama discs released between 1927 and 1930. o
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