Basic history of the music industry

In the previous post, provided you with fundamental information about the music industry, such as its definition and structure. In this post, we’ll take you through the whole history of the music industry, from the 19th century to the present day.

1800s – The beginning history of the music industry

Early Days A phonograph is the first machine to record sound in that late 1800’s by Thomas Edison. The machine worked by using vibrations to create small notches in rotating cylinders that passed a needle. It was then louden and it would be allowed to be listened to by people. 1878 became the year that the first music was put on record. These machines were expensive and bulky and also popular. Thomas Edison The 1940’s marked the opening of the music industry. This is because you can make music to trade rather than to be just played. Vinyl has been invented as it has been easier to transport music in this way to entertain troops during Global War II.

The popularity of jazz began in America as a way to boost people’s spirit during the war. Jazz had soon spread to the United Kingdom. Jazz offered a rhythm and a beat and was the first and leading music for dancing.

Edison phonograph

Edison phonograph


World War II has ended with the world the very different place. With new optimism emerging and people wanted pleasure & release. Traditional values have been broken from the war such as women’s rights and ethnic minorities in society. Music which has been previously played by American African artists are now being played by white artists. It was aired on radio stations which has widened its appeal, first in America then in the UK. Black and white artists have started to work together which is unheard of on the time.


The year of Elvis Presley who exploded onto that music scene and the generation gap widened. Elvis Presley’s music was defiant, sensual, anti-authority and celebrated freedom. Older generations felt threatened by it and worried about that effect it might have on the morality of children. Radio was an significantly popular way of listening to music at the time. The portable radios were invented in 1957. This enabled people to move the radio around their places.

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley


Rock n roll thrived in 1962. The Beatles signed with EMI Record and released ‘Love Me Do’. This was an instant hit. Later on the band released ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ which sold 1 million duplicates before the initial release. Paul McCartney had quit the band in 1970. The band was greeted with screaming fans of mostly females wherever they went. Until that point people brought their music on vinyl records. However, in 1963 audio tapes were put on the market for the first time. This was originally proposed as a way of playing music in cars to American car owners. Audiocassettes were quickly developed into a popular format for listening to music.

The Beatles

The Beatles – one of the greatest music bands in the history of the music industry


That was the decade of happy, optimistic disco music. There was progressive rock driven by Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. There was also the rebellious angry punk performances with bands such as The Ramones, The Clash, The Sex Pistols and Blondie. That feeling of disconnect from the 1960s spilled into the 1970s and punkie bands sang about crime, girls and sniffing glue. Fast and frantic music, strong and gritty. The Sex Pistols were described as being ‘the definitive English punk rock band’ by the BBC. Their anger at the world was shown through those lyrics and they attacked the government and the establishment. They were singing out anarchy.


This decade hugely influential for the music industry. In 1981, MTV was launched as the first ever non-stop music video channel. This noticed the new era in promotion, consumption and power of pop music. Young people started to expect their favourite music to come to moving images. Their craving for favourite bands ruined with MTV’s schedule, which was a constant flow on music videos. Due to the popularity of music videos. It became necessary for recording companies to increase their market budgets for music artists. This is to create a video to accompany every new release. From this gained a significant increase sales of records and MTV became instrumental in promoting Madonna, Michael Jackson, Duran Duran and Adam and the Ants.

1990s – The great time in the history of the music industry 

In this decade, techno & hip-hop genres were a popular surge at the start. However, the general music in the 90s was extremely diverse. UK music industry was booming. The British shed light on the dance music coming from the USA, from ‘house’ music to ‘drum & bass. This continued to rise in popularity. This became more mainstream, together with Bhangra, a mixture of Bollywood music and techno or house beats. Originally derived from the Midlands and the North of England.

1990s music

1990s music


2001 – The display of the iPod – When the iPod launched, it certainly changed how we consumed music forever. It wasn’t the first MP3 player ever, however, it was definitely the first one that turned it into an essential device for everyone.

In 2003 – Launch of iTunes -The iTunes Music’ Store launched initially in the USA, and it enabled users to purchase & download tracks for 99 cents each and there were no subscription fee engaged.

The launch of iTunes

The launch of iTunes

2008 – The Launch of Spotify

The streaming giant Spotify launched in Sweden at 2008. As of December 2019, they have a huge 271 million membership across 79 markets, over 50 million tracks and 700,000 + podcast titles accessible to stream.

The launch of Spotify

The launch of Spotify

Record labels profited from the TV reality talent shows like Pop Idol and The X Factor. This is where ‘safe’ music artists were displayed and groomed to become the next big thing. The rating for ITV’s 2009 The X Factor final topped 19 million viewers meaning that there was the ready-made audience of potential buyers fighting to part with their download payment in order to make their favourite the winner. The careers of these champions  intended to be short-lived.

Blogs, websites, forums, Facebook and Twitter on the Internet gave fans the place to get closer to their favourite bands and artists than ever. The creation of MySpace as a forum for showcasing and accessing musical acts allowed artists yet to be signed by record companies the opportunity to have those music heard and to create a fan base without actually releasing an audio. Musical tastes were still diverse. Hip-hop and rap dominated UK and USA famous music. With artists such as 50 Cent, Eminem, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, & Dizzee Rascal . This genre still remained as very male-dominated, performed mainly by guy artists. It also featured very male-oriented lyrics and videos which often weakened and exploited women. ‘Indie’ rock remained popular with bands such as Kings of Leon, Muse, and the Artic Monkeys.

Hard rock or metal punk rock as well had popularity with bands such as: Green Day, Paramore, Panic at the Disco, and My Chemical Romance. In the UK, popular bands were: Girls Aloud, Sugababes and JLS.

Pop was less clean-cut as a result of a more pessimistic post 9/11 period than the previous decade. Artists in this genre include: Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears. Pop-rock hybrid artists include: Miley Cyrus Avril Lavigne. Singer-songwriters which gained great success include: Amy Winehouse, Kate Nash, Lilly Allen, James Morrison.

2013 – Beyoncé  Super Bowl Performance

This critically acclaimed performance was held in New Orleans for that Super Bowl XLVII halftime show. Beyoncé’s performance captured a huge 110.8 million audiences, making it the second most watched Super Bowl show in history. The event was also the most tweeted about moment ever, as 299,000 tweets were created per minute during her performance.

2015 – Vinyl Album Chart Launches

Vinyl has witnessed a huge resurgence over the last few years, and in 2015 this triggered the launch of the first official vinyl album chart in the United Kingdom..

To summarize, we have presented the most important timelines and events in the history of the music industry from the nineteenth century to the present. Stay tuned for more exciting posts about the field of music from our website

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *