Throwback Thursday: Thank Edison for Music

“Without music, life would be a mistake.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

The way that we consume music has changed so much throughout time, especially in the past decade. Often, because technology is not only readily available but a fabric of our society, we overlook the luxuries of having access to so much media, information and data. Technology affects nearly every facet of our lives, and that’s especially true for music. From MP3s and cloud storage to amplifiers and tuners, technology leaves little untouched in the music world. Imagine life without iTunes, Spotify, Vevo, iPods, radios or even record players. On this Throwback Thursday, we are traveling back to the first audio playback device: the phonograph.

Our Space Phonograph AdPrior to the phonograph, no device could playback any audio recording, and music was used as a social gathering. In 1877, Thomas Edison’s phonograph, the first device able to playback the sound from an audio recording, changed that. When the phonograph hit the public, individuals could take music, speeches or any other types of recording home with them and listen to them as they pleased. As social beings, people still attended concerts (as they do today), but the new invention allowed them to also have their own individual experience with music. It not only allowed the listener to have their own personal connection with music, but also allowed them to listen to music more often than they would be able to go to concerts.

Certainly, the phonograph changed how people could listen to music, but the invention also changed how musicians wrote music. Because a recording could not hold the amount of music that was normally played in a concert or opera, composers had to greatly reduce their pieces to the basics so that they could be played at home. Today we have the capability of storing a larger amount of music on our playback devices, but (for the most part) songs are still written to be only a few minutes long.

As the first audio playback device, the phonograph also changed the advertising game. Audio allowed a new kind of persuasive content platform businesses could use to help sell their products (like other recording and playback devises) in addition to the graphics and copy they already utilized. Radio is still a popular advertising medium today, despite the emergence of new technologies.

Without the invention of the phonograph, who knows how we would associate music today. Would we have our headphones plugged into our phones listening to music or mass produce and distribute tunes worldwide? Most likely, yes since someone would have eventually invented the first audio playback device, but since you were there first Thomas Edison, we thank you!

Cover Photo Source:  National Film and Sound Archive Australia via Flickr
Photo Source 1: Cliff via Flickr

Eric is a junior executive at SJG. He is a native Chicagoan who graduated from DePaul as a double major in Management and Public Relations & Advertising. Eric is the go-to-guy for anything sports related and can often be found on the mats getting ready to compete in Jiu-Jitsu tournaments.