My love of music began when my older brother introduced me to the sounds of Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Bill Haley and Buddy Holly. When I became old enough to work, to earn spending money I began working on a paper route in Covington. And, what better thing to spend my money on than records! I can still remember the excitement when I walked to downtown Covington to visit Willis or Gates Records to purchase new titles. Little did I know that someday there would be a much easier way to get my music….at the library!
Did you know that Boone County Public Library has an extensive collection of music from which to choose? From Folk to Rock, from Classical to Hip Hop, we have it all. You can come to the library and browse your favorite music genre or search for the perfect title on our website. A whole world of music available for free.
Want to download music? Try Freegal, the music download service to which the library subscribes. With a Library Card, each member of your family can download five items per week. You’ll have access to over 1 million songs and 15,000 music videos. And again, it is absolutely free. All you need is a valid library card. Alas, access to music was not always just a click away.
1898 – 1925
Prior to 1898, generally the only way to listen to music would be have been to go to a
club to hear a live band. In 1898 the 78 RPM record was developed and forever changed the way we listen to music. Made of brittle material and coated with among other things, shellac, the duration of music played on the 78 RPM was generally 3-5 minutes. While this revolutionized the music industry, these 78 RPMs had poor sound quality and were easily broken if dropped. During this time, recordings were done by having an artist sing or speak into a horn which would in turn vibrate the recording stylus and cut the master disk.
In 1925 performers began singing into a microphone ushering in the electronic age of music recording and in turn producing much better sound quality. In 1945 the technique of magnetic tape recording, a process developed in Germany in the 1930s finally arrived in America. Bing Crosby, one of the biggest stars of the day, invested $50,000 in this new technology in order to improve his own sound recordings.
1945 – 1948
On June 21, 1948, Columbia Records unveiled the 331/3 long playing album. These non-breakable discs included 5 to 6 songs per side with a playing time of around twenty-three minutes per side. Mendelssohn’s Concerto in E Minor performed by the New York Philharmonic was the first piece of music to be recorded in this new format.
At this same time RCA introduced the 45 RPM. This development truly revolutionized the industry and made music widely available to the general public. Now, as I said previously, the record store was always my favorite place to shop and now for less than a $1.00 you could purchase your favorite song and play it over and over until your Dad got tired of hearing it! An additional benefit to the format was its portability. I can say my 45s made their way around Covington as they went to my friend’s homes and back to mine. As a teenager, I could take my favorite music with me. Life was good and listening to music was only going to get easier.
In an era of cultural and musical revolution, we were introduced to the compact cassette and the 8 track tape. It should be noted that in 1966, when Mercury Records introduced the cassette tape, the catalog consisted of only 49 titles. With the wide use of the Sony Walkman and the boom box music became portable and the popularity of the cassette tape skyrocketed.
While popular but with less long term popularity than the cassette tape, the 8 track tape, developed by among others, Bill Lear (of the Lear Jet Company) did lead the Ford Motor Company in 1967 to offer the 8 track tape player as an option in its new automobiles. The popularity of this format waned and by 1982 was phased out of production.
With the development of the compact disc, music became even more portable but with a cost. The original cost to purchase a CD was around $30.00 and the first CD player had a cost of around $1000.00. Soon thereafter the Discman replaced the Walkman as the portable player of choice. In the age of MTV, music became even more portable.
The Modern Age
With advances in technology and computing, music has gone digital and sites such as iTunes and Amazon make music easy to purchase and download to your personal device. In 2011, sales of digital music for the first time surpassed sales of physical discs. In 2016, you can stream music through Pandora and Spotify and listen to only what you select (no chance to hear what is on the flip side).
Some predict that streaming will bring about the demise of the CD but, I for one hope
this isn’t true. As a music lover I still enjoy holding the disc in my hand and in turn enjoying the cover art much in the same way that I still enjoy holding a book.
As you can see, the way we listen to music has changed quite a bit over the years but
through it all my love of music has remained as strong as ever. Whether checking out the wide range of music available at the library to downloading the latest hit from Freegal, the Library provides endless possibilities for the music lover.
As Shakespeare said, “If music be the food of love, play on.” So, next time you’re in the mood for music, try the library, you’ll love it!
John Purdy is a proud graduate of Covington Catholic High School and a Veteran of the United States Army. He retired from the U.S. Postal Service after a 32 year career. He is currently a Circulation Assistant at the Scheben Branch of Boone County Public Library where he leads the Real Men Reads Book Group and acts as the branch’s de facto expert on all things related to rock and pop music