The Music Industry Is An Oligopoly

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The music industry is an oligopoly. Since the late 1800’s people like Thomas Edison have been buying up patents in communication technology, forming monopolies, leading to a non-competitive entertainment industry. With only a handful of corporations controlling all aspects of acquisition, distribution and marketing of music, harsh business principles create an exploitative industry that takes the best of what artists have to offer and leaves many of them unable to support themselves. Beginning in the 1950’s with payola and white cover music and ultimately evolving into iTunes and Spotify, the music industry has grown into a billion dollar industry with far-reaching influence and control. Contracts rarely serve the artists’ best interest and many are left out to dry when their usefulness has expired.
In the 1950’s, radio was struggling to keep ratings against the emerging new television craze. Music executives began to pay disk jockeys to play their music. It is called payola and it is still in practice today, although it is technically illegal. The record companies write off the legal fines imposed by the Federal Communications Act as an expense of promotion (Campbell p.88). Black artists in the 50’s were writing some of the most inventive and marketable music of the time, but their music was still not palatable to a white audience as long as it was played by black musicians. Record companies began buying the songs of poor black musicians and giving them to their exclusively

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