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COMM002: Media and Society

Unit 6: Music, Radio, and the Soundtrack of Our Lives   Recorded music and radio have enjoyed a special synergy almost since they were invented. The wireless telegraph patented by Guglielmo Marconi in 1897 transmitted the dots and dashes of Morse code. The development of radio that could broadcast music, drama, lectures − and commercials − paralleled the development of higher-fidelity recording techniques. For generations of Americans, radio was the primary medium for listening to their favorite music as it brought news and culture to the most remote corners of the country. Musicologist Charles Hamm calls radio “the constant companion of man.” [iv] In this unit, we will consider recorded music and radio together while we explore other radio formats, including the explosion in talk radio over the past 30 years.


[iv]Charles Hamm, “‘The Constant Companion of Man’: Separate Development, Radio Bantu and Music,” Popular Music, 10, no. 2 (May, 1991): 147.

Unit 6 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 11.75 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 6.1: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 6.2: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 6.3: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 6.4: 2.75 hours

☐    Unit 6 Assignments: 1 hour

☐    Unit 6 Assessment: 30 minutes

Unit6 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to: - describe the history of recorded music and radio, including the technological innovations that helped make them mass mediums; - explain how recorded music has affected culture, and how culture has influenced recorded music; - differentiate and describe radio station formats and the social and economic forces that shaped them; and - analyze the effect of the Internet on the music recording industry and on radio.

6.1 The Evolution of Radio and Recorded Music   6.1.1 History of American Popular Music   - Reading: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 6, Introduction: From Social Networking to Stardom” and “Section 1: The Evolution of Popular Music” Link: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 6, Introduction: From Social Networking to Stardom” and “Section 1: The Evolution of Popular Music” (PDF)
 
Instructions: These sections on pages 236-251 present a succinct yet thorough history of recorded music. As you read through this, you will see that the fate of recorded music has been intertwined with the development of radio. Keep this in mind and try to connect the dots as you read the next subunit.
 
Reading these sections and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share-Alike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

6.1.2 The Evolution of Radio   - Reading: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 7, Introduction: Terrestrial Radio Stumbles Into the Digital Age” and “Section 1: Evolution of Radio Broadcasting” Link: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 7, Introduction: Terrestrial Radio Stumbles Into the Digital Age” and “Section 1: Evolution of Radio Broadcasting” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Radio has survived into the digital age because of its adaptability to changing times, as these sections on pages 288-305 will demonstrate. Up until the advent of the Internet, radio was the electronic medium with the lowest entry cost, meaning almost anyone could start a station. In the subunits below, we’ll see how recorded music and radio have had a large impact on culture, with popular music playing a part in the racial history of the United States and talk radio taking on a major role in the political discourse of the nation.
 
Reading these sections and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share-Alike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

6.2 Race and Popular Music   - Reading: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 6, Section 2: The Reciprocal Nature of Music and Culture” Link: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 6, Section 2: The Reciprocal Nature of Music and Culture” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Chapter 6, Section 2 on pages 251-262 will set the groundwork for the discussion below. This section outlines how much of what we think of as popular music began with black musicians. This includes musical genres as diverse as the blues, rock and roll, jazz, and even popular classics from George Gershwin and others. Try to keep this information in mind as you study the subunits to follow.
 
Reading this section and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share-Alike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

6.2.1 The Ancestry of Popular Music   - Reading: PBS: American Experience: “Stephen Foster: Blackface Minstrelsy” Link: PBS: American Experience: “Stephen Foster: Blackface Minstrelsy”(HTML)
 
Instructions: The history of popular music doesn’t begin with the invention of the phonograph. In Chapter 6, Section 2 of Understanding Media and Culture, you read how race has had a profound influence on American music. The influence of race on popular music dates back to before the Civil War with Stephen Foster, who the PBS says “virtually invented popular music as we recognize it today.” One of Foster’s influences was blackface minstrelsy, the practice of white actors and singers wearing black makeup and acting out the worst stereotypes of black people. It was a type of theater that survived well into the 20th century. In these sections of The American Experience website, historians discuss blackface minstrelsy and its lasting impact on American culture.
 
Reading these sections and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
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6.2.2 Radio Sends Out Shockwaves   - Web Media: American Radio Works: Nate DiMeo’s “Hearing America: A Century of Music on the Radio” Link: American Radio Works: Nate DiMeo’s “Hearing America: A Century of Music on the Radio” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Race and class were powerful elements in the history of radio, too, as you’ll hear in this American Public Media documentary. For extra insight, read some of the articles that go along with the broadcast.
 
Listening to this broadcast and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.
 
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6.2.3 A Contemporary Take on Race and Pop Music   - Web Media: The New Yorker: Sasha Frere-Jones’s “A Paler Shade of White: How Indie Rock Lost Its Soul” and “Lost Soul” Link: The New Yorker: Sasha Frere-Jones’ “A Paler Shade of White: How Indie Rock Lost Its Soul”(HTML) and “Lost Soul”(MP3)
 
Instructions: For pop music critic Sasha Frere-Jones of The New Yorker, today’s music needs more soul. Frere-Jones makes the case that the development of pop music has relied to some extent on the ability of white musicians to synthesize influences from black music. But today singers are eschewing these influences, to the detriment of their music, Frere-Jones writes. Read his article and listen to his comments, including musical excerpts.
 
Reading the article and listening to the talk should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
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6.3 The Place of Radio in Political Discourse   - Reading: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 7, Section 2: Radio Station Formats” Link: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 7, Section 2: Radio Station Formats” (PDF)
 
Instructions: This short section on pages 305-310 of Understanding Media and Culture outlines the various format types for radio stations. “Format” refers to a style of programming for certain demographic groups and include political talk, sports talk, country western, oldies rock, contemporary rock, and the oxymoronic soft rock. Apply what you learn here to the subunits below.
 
Reading this section should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share-Alike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

6.3.1 The Death of the Fairness Doctrine and the Rise of Talk Radio   - Reading: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 7, Section 3: Radio’s Impact on Culture” Link: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 7, Section 3: Radio’s Impact on Culture” (PDF)
 
Instructions: This section on radio and culture on pages 310-323 discusses the Fairness Doctrine and its repeal in 1987. This allowed radio talk show hosts to say whatever they wanted and gave birth to Rush Limbaugh, among others. In many ways, the divisive political culture we experience now is due in part to the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine and the highly partisan radio shows that resulted. Keep these readings in mind as you tackle the next subunits.
 
Reading this section and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share-Alike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

6.3.1.1 A Case to Bring Back the Fairness Doctrine   - Reading: Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting: Steve Rendall’s “The Fairness Doctrine: How We Lost It, and Why We Need It Back” Link: Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting: Steve Rendall’s “The Fairness Doctrine: How We Lost It, and Why We Need It Back”(HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Steve Rendall’s take on the Fairness Doctrine. FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) believes this doctrine can help reduce the bias and censorship it sees in today’s electronic media.
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to Steve Rendall and FAIR, and the original version can be found here

6.3.1.2 “Host,” the Inside Story of Talk Radio   - Reading: The Atlantic: David Foster Wallace’s “Host” Link: The Atlantic: David Foster Wallace’s “Host” (HTML)
 
Instructions: David Foster Wallace’s profile of conservative radio host John Ziegler is revealing in many ways. Wallace describes the technical innovations that make modern talk radio work as it does. He shows us what makes Ziegler tick. He places talk radio in the spectrum of political life, and he discusses the economic forces of the medium. It’s highly entertaining, but more than that, once you read it, you will have a much more media-literate picture of political talk radio.
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.
 
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6.3.1.3 Conspiracies, Angels, and the Illuminati: The Weirder Side of Talk Radio   - Reading: Optional Activity: *Coast to Coast A.M.* Link: Coast to Coast A.M.(HTML)
 
Instructions: This activity is OPTIONAL. After you read the article “Host,” take some time to explore the Coast to Coast A.M. website and learn what the show is about. You can sign up and listen online, or tune in late at night. It’s on your radio dial somewhere.
 
Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
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6.3.2 Does Rush Limbaugh Have Real Influence?   - Reading: University of Chicago: Nassira Nicola’s “Black Face, White Voice: Rush Limbaugh and the ‘Message’ of Race” Link: University of Chicago: Nassira Nicola’s “Black Face, White Voice: Rush Limbaugh and the ‘Message’ of Race” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Rush Limbaugh, love him or hate him, pretty much invented conservative talk radio. The article by David Foster Wallace described Limbaugh’s formula and discussed his rise in the radio business. Nassira Nicola analyzes Limbaugh’s use of race as a code with his followers. It’s a revealing portrait of Limbaugh and his methods.
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
 
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6.3.2.1 Rush Has Real Power   - Reading: Los Angeles Times: Faye Fiore and Mark Z. Barabak’s “Rush Limbaugh Has His Grip on the GOP Microphone” Link: Los Angeles Times: Faye Fiore and Mark Z. Barabak’s “Rush Limbaugh Has His Grip on the GOP Microphone” (HTML)
 
Instructions: The Los Angeles Times, considered part of the liberal mainstream media by Limbaugh and his followers, makes a case for Limbaugh’s having real power with conservatives. The authors say that Limbaugh during the 2008 election was “unchanged and unbowed. If anything, his prominence and political import have increased.” Do you agree? Read this story carefully, and then follow up with conservative columnists David Brooks’s rebuttal in the next subunit.
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
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6.3.2.2 Limbaugh and His Ilk Hurt the Conservative Cause   - Reading: The New York Times: David Brooks’s “The Wizard of Beck” Link: The New York Times: David Brooks’s “The Wizard of Beck” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Conservative columnist David Brooks thinks Limbaugh’s power is mostly illusion. Where do you place yourself in the debate?
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
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6.4 Music and Radio in the Age of iTunes   - Reading: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 6, Section 3: Current Popular Trends in the Music Industry” and “Section 4: Influence of New Technology”; and “Chapter 7, Section 4: Radio’s New Future” Link: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 6, Section 3: Current Popular Trends in the Music Industry” and “Section 4: Influence of New Technology”; and “Chapter 7, Section 4: “Radio’s New Future” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Technology has overwhelmed old models of distribution in the music business, and terrestrial radio faces stiff challenges from satellite and Internet radio. Chapter 6, Sections 3 and 4 (pages 262-282), and Chapter 7, Section 4 (pages 323-326) break down these forces and their effects on the music and radio industries. In the two subunits below, you’ll see further analysis and a few rays of hope for over-the-air radio.
 
Reading these sections and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share-Alike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

6.4.1 The Music Industry is Turned on Its Head   6.4.1.1 The Long Tail and Music Sales   - Reading: Wired: Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail” Link: Wired: Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Because digital production of a record or album is so inexpensive, a service such as iTunes can house thousands of artists who might sell very few songs. Together, those thousands of artists, who reside in the long tail of the distribution business, add up to big money.
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
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6.4.1.2 Owl City and an Alternative Route to the Top   - Reading: The New York Times: Ben Sisario’s “From Mom’s Basement to the Top of the Chart” Link: The New York Times: Ben Sisario’s “From Mom’s Basement to the Top of the Chart”(HTML)
 
Instructions: In 2008, Adam Young was living in Owatonna, Minnesota, and recording music alone in his mother’s basement under the name Owl City. Using MySpace and iTunes, he increased his sales to about 2,000 tracks a week, and then his single “Fireflies” surged to the top of the Billboard charts. His story is one of how artists need new and old media to reach stardom starting in the long tail of the music business.
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
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6.4.1.3 Music from the Cloud   - Reading: S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications: Principles and Practices 3.0: Kenneth Consor’s “Cloud-based Music Subscription Services” Link: S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications: Principles and Practices 3.0: Kenneth Consor’s “Cloud-based Music Subscription Services” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Next up for the music business: cloud music services. You store your tunes on a central server, then listen anywhere you have Internet service, on any device. Read this subunit, then think back to the advent of recorded music on wax cylinders and vinyl discs.
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
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6.4.2 The Challenge to Radio   - Reading: Colorado Biz: Eric Peterson’s “Radio in the Internet Age: Pandora’s audience is soaring” Link: Colorado Biz: Eric Peterson’s “Radio in the Internet Age: Pandora’s Audience is Soaring”(HTML)
 
Instructions: Understanding Media and Culture notes that radio has remained relevant through decades of technological change because of its flexibility in adapting formats and programming. Pandora, an Internet station that listeners customize to their listening tastes, is the latest challenge to terrestrial radio stations. How will terrestrial radio respond?
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
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6.4.3 The Power of Community Radio   6.4.3.1 Rural Radio Serves Small Cities and Towns   - Reading: University of Kentucky, Institute for Rural Journalism & Community Issues: “Radio Stations and Networks in Texas, Montana, and Appalachia Serve Rural Areas in Ways New and Old” Link: University of Kentucky, Institute for Rural Journalism & Community Issues: “Radio Stations and Networks in Texas, Montana, and Appalachia Serve Rural Areas in Ways New and Old”(HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this summary of rural radio projects. A key part at the bottom is the item about media giant Clear Channel and how its news reports go through a central hub, meaning even local news is late in reaching rural audiences.
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
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6.4.3.2 Community Radio in Africa   - Reading: UCLA Center for Communications and Community: George White’s “Community Radio in Ghana: The Power of Engagement” Link: UCLA Center for Communications and Community: George White’s “Community Radio in Ghana: The Power of Engagement” (HTML)
 
Instructions: In Africa and other parts of the world, community radio has become a social force that has a role in eradicating disease and poverty. This article describes the power of community radio in Ghana.
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
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6.4.3.3 Listen in on Community Radio   - Activity: Sagal Radio Services: “East African Community Radio Atlanta” Link: Sagal Radio Services: “East African Community Radio Atlanta”(HTML)
 
Instructions: This activity is OPTIONAL. Even in the United States, community radio is a powerful force in acclimating immigrants, as this website from Atlanta, Georgia, demonstrates. Read some of the activities Sagal Radio undertakes, then click on the link to the right to listen to the station.
 
Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
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