Let there be light, and there was light
Let there be sound, and there was sound
Let there be drums, there was drums
Let there be guitar, there was guitar, ah
Let there be rock
And it came to pass
That rock 'n' roll was born
All across the land every rockin' band
Was blowin' up a storm
And the guitar man got famous
The business man got rich
-Angus Young, Malcolm Young, Bon Scott (AC/DC)
In the early 1950s when Rock and Roll was born, it was so new and so different than anything heard before that by the time the above song was released more than 25 years later, it seemed like nothing had existed before it. Punk Rock had a similar effect on the music scene. Just as the original Rock and Roll was embraced by the youth culture as something new, exciting and possibly dangerous, Punk Rock was embraced by many as a new revolution with the potential to change everything. But did it? This essay will address the question of whether Punk Rock changed anything. It will focus on the business and industry that evolved within and around the punk scene, the politics of punk and the internal ideological debates within the scene.
The music industry can trace its roots to the 18th century when classical composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart sought commissions from the church or aristocracies by touring to promote their music (Boerner). By the early 20th century, recorded collections of songs were available for purchase for home listening. Towards the middle of the century, record album production had become the norm for getting new music to the masses and album sales had replaced sheet-music sales as a measure of popularity, with the first gold-record, which was a record literally painted with gold shellac, being awarded in 1941 to The Glenn Miller Orchestra for 1.2 million sales of Chattanooga Choo-Choo (Hoffmann 441).
Radio airplay was another gauge of success. When radio stations shifted away from live big-band performances to pre-recorded rock and roll albums, disc jockeys were regularly bribed to promote one song or artist more than others. This practice of payola, outlawed in 1960, lead to decreased variety of music played on radio but also increased access of smaller labels to the airwaves (Rennhoff). In recent years, however, deregulation of media ownership in the United States and the swallowing up of smaller labels by the so-called Big-4 record companies (Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, EMI Group, and Warner Music Group) has left only 28% of music industry market share worldwide for independent labels (Boehlert).
Music Industry Market Share (2005)
Figure 1 (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry)
The 1960s Beatlemania and subsequent British Invasion movement in popular music supplanted the industry-produced, sanitized teen idols such as Fabian and Frankie Avalon. The UK bands breathed new life into rock and roll music...