Vintage Ads Warning Against Recorded Music

After Hollywood began producing films with soundtrack music, a publicity campaign foretold that recorded (“canned”) music, symbolized by hostile robots, would choke the art, color, and humanity out of society. Scoff if you will…but there’s something magical about a live band accompanying a film. Via Paleofuture:

After the release of The Jazz Singer in 1927, thanks to synchronized sound, the use of live musicians was unnecessary. In 1930 the American Federation of Musicians formed a new organization called the Music Defense League and launched a scathing ad campaign to fight the advance of this terrible menace known as recorded sound.


20 Comments on "Vintage Ads Warning Against Recorded Music"

  1. Thom Vane | Feb 17, 2012 at 9:35 pm |

    Wow, great find Jacob!

  2. Mr Willow | Feb 17, 2012 at 9:57 pm |

    And, once again, it is revealed that machines are stealing people’s jobs. . .

    • Hopefully they’ll steal all jobs, that way we can all do the things we love to do, rather than things we have to in order to survive.

      • Mr Willow | Feb 18, 2012 at 1:33 am |

        I imagine that was (at least one of) the thoughts behind mechanisation to begin with. After all, machines can do the work of ten people or more faster, more efficiently, without complaining, and all they require is an occasional inspection and oil in their gears. 

        It won’t happen, though, because it would necessitate we embrace *dirty, wretched* communism, and we can’t have that, now, can we? 

        • I believe in time there will be a full hand over of mundane jobs to machines, even the traditional job of check out assistant in supermarkets is being replaced by computers. It’s abit of a toss up as to what needs to be done, more mechanisation = more unemployment, but a potential great stepping stone to the future. or stop / slow mechanisation to keep people employed, slowly move towards the future (if we reach there at all).

          • Bob Robertson | Feb 18, 2012 at 11:07 am |

            More mechanization does not equal more unemployment. That fallacy has never been demonstrated although it’s often been said.

            Only 2 farmers for what were 100 farmers 200 years ago. Yet are those 98 people “unemployed”? No, they’re just not farmers.

            A back-hoe does what 100 men with shovels did, yet are those 99 men unemployed? No, they’re just not digging ditches.

            Unemployment is not caused by mechanization, it’s caused by minimum wage laws, trade licensing, all those deliberate and supposedly “well meaning” interventions that prevent people from doing what they would otherwise do.

          • Mr Willow | Feb 18, 2012 at 5:16 pm |

            When every form of employment involves some sort of mechanisation or another eventually you will begin to see it manifest in unemployment numbers. 

            At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution you had people in London who were laid off in textile mills, steel mills, lumber mills, et al, who came in and smashed the machines because they stole their only means of employment, because they trained to be proficient in one skill or another, so they couldn’t just change professions at the drop of a hat. 

            Watch just about any show depicting how products are manufactured—‘How It’s Made’ or ‘Factory Made’ or even some ‘Modern Marvels’ episodes—and you can see the ubiquity of machines in the process. Some factories are entirely automated. And the person they interview will tell the audience that before they had the machines in place they had a few dozen, or a hundred, people working on the floor, meaning in buying the machinery, he laid however many people off, who then have to compete with one another over the fewer and fewer jobs not dominated by mechanised labour. 

            And this doesn’t even touch on overpopulation, where, coupled with mechanisation, there are simply more people than jobs, and that latter number is slowly dwindling because machines are continually introduced into the process. 

            The only reason anyone could blame minimum wage and trade licensing is that as a result of companies having to follow those guidelines, they then turn to machines, that don’t have to be paid a salary, that don’t need health insurance, that come purpose built for the trade they’re involved in and don’t need any additional safety apparati, therefore leading to higher profit for the company, yet at the same time forcing people who do need salaries and health insurance into a position where they no longer have those things. 

            I’m not necessarily saying we need to ‘oust the machines’, but the situation needs to be looked at realistically, and I think it’s coming to a point where we will need to decide whether we continue increasing automation, at which point we will have to question how people, without jobs (therefore without salaries), will be able to get food or water or healthcare or education or a house or anything else you need to survive in this modern, ‘civilised’ world, or we begin removing machines from businesses and either reässume a period before they were introduced or strike a balance where machines are present, but they are all used by people to do work.

        • ishmael2009 | Feb 18, 2012 at 6:11 pm |

          Given that communism has led to more death, imprisonment, misery and repression than even fascism did at it’s height, no, we really can’t have that. 

          • Mr Willow | Feb 18, 2012 at 7:45 pm |

            Given that communism, as it has existed, bore no resemblance to communism as it was formulated—materialising as repressive, authoritarian, dictatorial state capitalism (the state owns the businesses [it was the only employer], the dictator embodies the state, ergo, the dictator owns the businesses [becoming both the leader of the nation and the nation’s only CEO]), rather than collective ownership of the means of production via the individuals who labour to produce products (the workers)—noöne can really comment upon what communism has led to.

          • ishmael2009 | Feb 19, 2012 at 6:13 pm |

            You’re right, of course, to say that the idea of communism was never fully realized, being subverted by tyranny. But what of that? Are we concerned with abstractions or reality? Religion preaches brotherly love, but ends up mostly with oppression. Should we disregard the oppression because the ideal itself is good? Or conclude that whilst the intent may be good, the outcome is almost always terrible, therefore unworkable?

          • Mr Willow | Feb 19, 2012 at 7:41 pm |

            I think the outcome is only achieved through the collective effort of all involved.

            In the case of both communism (any political philosophy, really) and religion, the majority are too content to leave the workings of these systems up to authoritarian minorities—in the former, a separate governing body, and in the latter the clergy. Rather than being actively involved in the process of discussing how things work at the moment, how things can work, or how things should work, they bow out of the conversation, assuming those that they leave their livelihood up to have their best interests in mind. That is how tyrannies are begun.

            If only a few are involved in the process of achieving an outcome, it will inevitably shape itself to serve only those few, even if the initial few were both competent and compassionate. If said outcome were fulfilling the spiritual needs and yearnings of people, what begins as the encouragement to explore your own spiritual opinion or identity—to question and inquire about everything within you and around you, and to bring your observations to the rest of community for evaluation and discussion—will eventually end up as the currently empty, hypocritical theisms we are familiar with, because only a few are involved (conceptually) with the spiritual realm, the observations being dictated to the community, shutting out conversation, so now every spiritual experience has to be vetted through an authority. To question that authority are grounds for ridicule or death (in the most extreme cases).

            To put it a different way, even if you have a benevolent dictator, who cares for the people of a country, eventually he will die—through some manner of intrigue or of natural causes like disease or old age—creating a power vacuum.

            If the populace isn’t in any way involved in the governance of the nation, they become lost without him, and will thus believe any of the rhetoric his successor says—if the transition goes as smoothly as to allow the selection of a successor—even if that successor cares only about the power and influence that he has acquired, losing sight of the needs of the nation and concerning himself with the manipulation of that power and influence to selfish ends.

            Thus, I believe it is imperative to have as many people as possible involved in the governance of any endeavour, so that in the event of a death, there are still plenty of capable individuals involved to maintain what was deemed to be beneficial to the well-being of society. There wouldn’t be a sort of scrambling afterward to decide, amongst the authorities the dictator set in place, who would then assume that role of ultimate authority.

            People are much too content to have their well-being dictated to them through advertising and political and religious messages that do little more than appeal to emotions, while closing themselves off to scrutiny or criticism or even open discussion over the subjects they each involve themselves with.

            “We’ve got it all figured out, so you don’t have to worry about anything, as long as you follow the plan we have all written and presented to you. If you disagree it’s heretical/treasonous, but it’s alright, because you won’t, because our plan is full-proof, as long as you follow it implicitly and to the letter. What? No, none of us have been the subject of harassment, so I don’t know why any of you would be. If you are, then you probably aren’t following the Plan. Sorry, no more questions.”

            That sort of mentality is the foundation of oppression, as those that are to follow ‘the Plan’ are not involved in its formulation, and are still expected to follow it, even if they don’t understand it. And if something doesn’t work, they aren’t allowed to address it.

            To prevent the subversion of an idea, or an ideal, requires the vigilance of all involved in the implementation of the idea—and that includes individuals opposed to the idea, as criticism of the idea is critical to making it more inclusive and harmonious for everyone involved—to be wary of any person or group attempting to assume absolute authority, and to not become complacent in following directions.

        • BrianApocalypse | Feb 19, 2012 at 4:10 pm |

          If we could replace all labor, then I think we’d have to formulate a social system beyond communism/capitalism. This binary outlook keeps our potential chained down.

          Surely we can imagine something totally different to these systems.

          • Mr Willow | Feb 19, 2012 at 4:47 pm |

            Sure, we could, but eventually the argument to implement that different something would come down to what the people against it are willing to say about it, which would probably be something along the lines of—“Are we going to allow Communism to take hold in America!?” 

            At which point, public opinion is swayed against whatever idea is proposed, regardless if it has any resemblance to whatever ideology/socio-polito-economic system is placed as its equivalent—doesn’t have to be communism/socialism, but that is the clichéd bogeyman used in the US. 

          • BrianApocalypse | Feb 20, 2012 at 10:05 am |

             Perhaps if the alternative system is first implemented in a country other than the US, then it would eventually follow. You’re right that Americans do seem particularly brainwashed about ideas concerning anything resembling socialism. All that 50’s “Red” paranoia and McCarthyism still somehow have some hooks in the American psyche.

            If such a new system ever takes place, I suspect that America will not be its pioneers.

  3. Before recorded music, it was much more common for friends and family to play together or perform for one another. In so doing, they both carried on and contributed to a rich and diverse folk tradition. Today, by comparison, listening to music is usually a far more passive, solitary activity, and we have a far more uniform, commercial soundscape. 

    Granted, it’s awesome that we’re all able to call up whatever great music we’re in the mood for at the click of a mouse, but it’s also true that we gave up something along the way. 

    • BrianApocalypse | Feb 19, 2012 at 4:03 pm |

       I agree with the part about people playing together, but to be fair; recorded music also brings people together. How many friends have been made in nightclubs or other types of parties where DJs play? Thousands of people all over the world congregate every day thanks to recorded music.

      I also don’t agree that we now have a more uniform soundscape. There are far more genres of music now than there were before the advent of recorded music, and thanks to recording, we are all able to access a far wider variety of music types than we would without.

      • I would say yeah to the genres, but not to the way music presented these days – alot of people won’t accept music unless it has that polished, bright, bass heavy studio presentation. in that way, I would say we probably do have a more uniform landscape and it’s alot more difficult to get the vast majority of people to accept music that isn’t produced in such a manner. The music itself can be soulless garbage but as long as it’s produced in that shiny mega-polished way… people will usually think it’s great.

  4. Marklar_Prime | Feb 18, 2012 at 6:27 am |

    Copy and paste as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.

  5. Ronniedobbs | Feb 18, 2012 at 11:52 am |

    the distant future the distant future

  6. ishmael2009 | Feb 18, 2012 at 6:15 pm |

    This shows the music industry always has been reactionary, trying to fight every new change that comes along, rather than embrace it. Sad that they never learn that technology always offers more opportinuties than threats,.

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