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This book focuses on specific practical techniques you can use to
create and perform emotionally evocative, memorable music and lyrics. As for
popular music history and the history of particular genres, any good
library or bookstore has hundreds of titles.
said, this one chapter (out of 12), and one appendix, provide a bit of
historical background on popular music of the West. Western popular
music—especially African American popular music—is found practically everywhere
in the world. Paradoxically, humans tend to resist attempts at so-called
“cultural imperialism”—yet plunder each other’s cultures when they find
something they like. Universal people, universal music.
This chapter briefly surveys more than a dozen major popular
music genres that emerged throughout the 20th Century, mainly in
People have created music and lyrics for tens of
thousands of years, passing songs on—usually altered—from generation to
generation. The oral tradition. Folk music.
late 1700s, the Industrial Revolution took hold in England and Western Europe.
Millions migrated to the cities for factory work. They brought their folk songs
with them. At first, the only places factory workers could go for entertainment
were ale houses. They’d get smashed and sing their songs and try to forget their
miserable factory lives.
Soon they noticed that other musical entertainment alternatives
existed around them in the big city. For instance, the merchant
classes attended operas. Staged in actual opera houses. So urban
workers started demanding more and better entertainment for
themselves. By the middle of the 19th Century, various types of
music halls were springing up to meet the demand.
Singers needed material. So, composers and lyricists, some with
considerable formal training, supplied the music hall and cabaret
performers with new songs resembling classical art songs but
informed by familiar folk material. A professional songwriting industry
was taking shape. The new musical material did not fit the
description of either art song or folk song. Songs composed by
professional songwriters for music hall entertainment became
more popular than the traditional folk songs.
As well, a new middle class was emerging, better educated and
able to purchase and learn to play instruments such as the upright
piano. Literate urban dwellers demanded sheet music of popular
songs and folk songs. This created a commercial market for mass-disseminated print music.
New music halls for the masses ... professional songwriters
turning out songs for stage entertainers ... sheet music for sale to
the masses so they could perform the songs at home ... it all added
up to a new industry, the popular music industry.
Some songwriters of the 18th and 19th centuries wrote hundreds or
even thousands of songs. Publishers printed and sold sheet music
of their songs, but the composers and lyricists did not get royalties.
In those days, if you wanted to make a living in popular music, you had to
play or sing, not merely compose songs.
the idea of copyright originated in Europe hundreds of years ago, it wasn’t
until the 19th Century that national governments
legislated the right (in theory, at least) of writers and composers to
a share of the revenue from the sale of printed copies of their works
In 1851, a court case in Paris resulted in songwriters winning the
right to get paid for the public performance of their works (performing
right), as in a café or music hall.
America at the time of Stephen Foster (1826 - 1864), you could make money as a
songwriter, but you had to sell your songs outright to a publisher. The
publisher was then free to make a fortune selling thousands or even millions of
copies of the sheet music. Countless minstrel and music hall troupes touring
America and Europe introduced the new songs to the public, songs by Foster,
Daniel Emmett (composer of “Dixie”), and others. Millions of people worldwide
bought the sheet music, which they played and sang at home. Countless
professional musicians and singers made money performing Foster’s tunes.
Although Foster sold some of his best songs outright, he has the
distinction of being one of the first professional songwriters to
demand and get songwriting royalties. At his peak, he actually made
a living from sheet music royalties at a time when other songwriters
relied on performance fees for their income.
1886, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works
internationalized this principle (since revised at least half a dozen times).
This led to the establishment in France of the industry’s first performing
rights organization. Italy, Spain, and Austria followed suit, all before 1900.
The UK established a performing rights society in 1914 (PRS), the United States
in 1917 (ASCAP).
advent of recorded music in the form of piano rolls and gramophone records made
it necessary, beginning with the Berlin Act of 1908 (part of the international
Berne Convention), to recognize the right of songwriters to get paid for the
“mechanical” distribution of their songs (mechanical right).
When radio broadcasting came along in the 1920s, performing
rights were extended to include broadcast performances of songs,
both live and recorded. This was an extension of the principle of
getting paid for sheet music sales.
the mechanical right extends to all “mechanical soundcarriers”—CDs in record
stores, songs used in movies and commercials, Internet-based song sales, and so
medium that began it all—sheet music—doesn’t generate much revenue for