Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Ay | Simon Napier-Bell

Summary of: Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Ay: The dodgy business of popular music
By: Simon Napier-Bell


Dive into the captivating world of music business chronicled in Simon Napier-Bell’s book, ‘Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Ay: The dodgy business of popular music’. This summary provides an intriguing exploration of the music industry’s transformation, from the early days of copyright laws and sheet music, to the advent of the phonograph, radio, and eventually the digital revolution. Discover the profound impacts of historical events, diverse cultures, major artists, technological advancements, and even substance abuse on the evolution of popular music, as well as the role of record companies in shaping the industry.

The Evolution of Music Publishing

Music has been around for centuries, but it wasn’t until copyright laws emerged in 1710 that songs were recognized as individual property. This led to the first music publishing house, Chappell & Co., which paved the way for artists to make money by selling sheet music to the public. The invention of the phonograph in 1877 further revolutionized the industry, allowing publishing companies to focus on records instead of sheet music. This new revenue stream proved to be much more profitable, as records would inevitably get worn out and require replacement. Today, the music publishing industry thrives on a variety of revenue streams, including streaming services and digital downloads.

The Pioneer of American Pop Music

Irving Berlin’s love for music from a young age, despite facing the challenges of poverty and homelessness, catapulted him to become a legendary figure in American pop music. His hit song, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” introduced a new sound to the masses, mixing military brass and New Orleans jazz in a four-beat structure that emphasized the off-beat rhythm. It transformed pop music and set the stage for the future of American pop songs. Berlin’s success evolved with his catchy, lively music, and his songs like “Blue Skies,” “What’ll I do?” and “Always,” cemented him as one of the quintessential American singer-songwriters of all time.

The Intersection of Jazz and Jewish Music

The rise of jazz music in the early twentieth century is traced to the contributions of black artists, who were mainly outsiders in the music industry at the time. Jazz became more popular as these black musicians signed recording and publishing deals, toured the country, and helped to raise the music’s profile. Jewish people who also had limited options for prosperous work, found their niche in the music industry as the owners of publishing companies and as songwriters, such as George Gershwin. They were some of the first to record and publish black artists’ songs, which would in turn influence the songs composed by Jewish songwriters. After World War I, most songwriters were Jewish, and most popular songs incorporated elements of black culture, either through jazz or blues music that originated from the worksongs of Southern slaves. The intersection of jazz and Jewish music is also evident in the hit song “Memphis Blues,” which was recorded and interpreted by countless famous musicians over the years.

The Radio’s Impact on the Music Industry

The radio revolutionized the music industry in the 1920s by providing families with a cheap alternative to record players. Despite concerns about declining record sales, the music industry eventually recognized radio as a marketing tool and began working with DJs to promote new music. This partnership proved successful in getting the public hooked on songs and eager to buy albums in stores.

The Impact of Prohibition on the Music Industry

In 1933, Prohibition was abolished in the United States, leading to a surge in nightclubs, bars, and the music industry. The jukebox, a record-playing machine with dozens of records that could be played on demand, became a hit, with filling up the machines accounting for over half of all record sales. Hollywood also played a crucial role in the music industry’s increased prominence, as musicals became more popular, led by hits such as 42nd Street and Top Hat. Irving Berlin knew how to profit from these musicals by keeping the rights to his songs, ensuring he received royalties every time a movie used his tracks. While people began spending less on nightclubs and records and more on movies, Berlin’s strategy ensured a steady stream of income.

Want to read the full book summary?

Leave a Reply

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

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed