Technology has played a huge role in the development of the artist/performer enabling new sounds, playing styles and changing the way in which the audience experiences the performance. However, the latter half of the twentieth century has seen unprecedented growth and merging of large companies responsible for production and distribution of media on almost all levels. In this essay I intend to discuss the impact that technology has upon the artist/performer and its relationship with the ever-expanding companies responsible for this technology.
The developing technology of recording has been a huge influence on music. One of the earliest examples was the proliferation of jazz and later blues across America. Although essentially "folk" musics of the United States their proliferation from their roots in cities such as New Orleans and Chicago to being almost universal is significant. Their proliferation arrived at the same time as the development of sound recording facilities. The work of Thomas Edison and later Bell Labs and RCA enabled sound to be recorded first on wax coated cylinder (Edison's phonograph) and later disks of shellac then vinyl.1 Without this new technology it would have been hard for such stylised genres of music to gain such widespread popularity over such a large continent as audiences usually thirst for the familiar with small variations.
However, this advance in technology left its mark on popular music that can be felt today. The original, 78RPM records had a playing time of three to five minutes, a time frame that most modern popular music still fits into. This dependence on the conventions of the past shows how even new technologies are always dependant on those that have gone before.
The innovative application of existing technology rather than the creation of new technology can be equally liberating for the artist. An example is British producer Joe Meek producer of 1962s Telstar.