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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
Friday, January 6 2001

Economics of pop music

In an ironic sense, this week's discussion of popular music takes us full circle to our very first topic in this Jonal journey (beginning in January), economics. However, this time it's economics in a broader context than Western Pennsylvania's steel and coal industry.

Much has been said just about everywhere on how the musical tastes and styles radically changed in the 1950s and we've shown over the past two days how the top 10 each year became more youth-oriented than the one before. And this is where economics comes in, because I believe the real difference in 1955 was a shifting of the music consumer base from adults to youth, particularly teenagers. Ten years later, circa 1965, when I was living in Philadelphia attending seminary, the CBS FM radio network had an evening format that it called "the young sound" (I still have tapes made from some of those programs). In that, I propose, CBS radio put its finger on the difference between music before Bill Haley's Rock Around the Clock, and afterward.

I draw this point out because it follows on something noticed two days ago. The Crazy Otto Rag, also a top-10 list member for 1955, was a classic jitterbug, and I discussed how similar the jitterbug, from the 1920's on, was to the dance called rock and roll. There had been jitterbugs all those years, though they were not dominant. Rock and roll, despite the general wisdom, was not a new phenomenon but rather, at best, a renewed or recreated one. What was radically different by 1955 and ever thereafter, was two-fold: 1. Now, the big money in music was not in sheet music and performed music (concerts), but single recordings of music sold in record stores and played on jukeboxes. 2. For the first time, most of the consumers of these recordings were not adults, but teenagers.

This ecomonic fact has been known to sociologists from the beginning. In fact, more than 40 years ago I wrote a Teen Events column on a major article appearing in a national magazine about the millions of dollars now being spent each year by teenagers, for the first time ever. Much of it, perhaps most of it, was spent on popular records (if it's assumed the dollars spent on their food, shelter, and clothing were their parents' dollars, not the teens' own).

Another factor is that the teenagers of the '50's and '60's tended to grip on to their youth longer than any previous generation, at least in American history. As David Caldwell well said in his letter to the list on Thursday, "But for the passage of time and the progress of technology, I am one of the teens cruising with a boom box vibrating everything in the vicinity." He graduated from high school in 1957, three years before I did, and I've already described what a "teenager" I still am, with my laptop computer blasting out my tunes in mp3 digital file format to ease the stress of daily commute.

Food for thought. Comments anyone?

Webmaster Jon Kennedy


1. Kidnappers are not very interested in you.
2. In a hostage situation you are likely to be released first.
3. It's harder and harder for sexual harassment charges to stick.
4. No one expects you to run into a burning building.
5. People call at 9 p.m. and ask, "Did I wake you?"
6. People no longer view you as a hypochondriac.
7. There's nothing left to learn the hard way.
8. Things you buy now won't wear out.
9. You can eat dinner at 4 p.m.
10. You can live without sex but not without glasses.
11. You enjoy hearing about other people's operations.
12. You get into a heated argument about pension plans.
13. You have a party and the neighbors don't even realize it.
14. You no longer think of speed limits as a challenge.
15. You quit trying to hold your stomach in, no matter who walks in the room.
16. You sing along with the elevator music.
17. Your eyes won't get much worse.
18. Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off.
19. Your joints are more accurate than the National Weather Service.
20. Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can't remember them either.
21. Your supply of brain cells is finally down to a manageable size.

Sent by Zan

Lenten thought

Lord and Master of my life, cast away from me a spirit of laziness, despair, love of power and idle talk. But grant unto me, your servant, the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sins and not to judge my brothers and sisters. For you are blessed unto ages of ages. Amen. O God, cleanse me a sinner.

The prayer of St Ephrem, fourth century

Sent by John Stamps

Lenten thoughts (i.e., pertaining to repentance and spiritual growth, from any faith-community perspective) are solicited from readers.

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