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Publication Date

Spring 2014

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Journalism and Mass Communications


Scott Fosdick


Entertainment, History, Phonograph, Radio, Technology, United States

Subject Areas

Mass communication; Music; American history


This thesis explores the entertainment industry's attitude towards the introduction of the phonograph and radio in the United States. The research addresses the question of whether new forms of technology were accepted, feared or resisted and what events led up to acceptance.

A qualitative research design was employed using historical methods by means of trade publications, The Billboard and Variety. The researcher strategically reviewed weekly issues from 1906-1924 and discovered that the 20th century entertainment industry held onto old technology while resisting the new.

Music technology was available during the late 19th and early 20th century but the public was indifferent. Eventually, the public's interests shifted to African American theatre and musical acts that led to the trend of music growing in popularity outside of theatre houses. The phonograph was in nearly every household but competed with radio broadcastings of live performances that hurt theater houses and musicians. These findings revealed the 20th century rivalry of technological advancements, which resulted in musician unions, copyright laws and numerous lawsuits battling for royalties.