Convergence Cultures in the U.S. Recording Industry, 1925-1935

At the close of the Jazz Age and start of the Great Depression, U.S. recording companies struggled to negotiate industrial and technological changes, while its business ties to the radio and film industries intertwined like never before. By the close of the 1920s, Victor Records had ceased to exist as a discrete entity and was now a subsidiary of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). Columbia Records had begun falling from great heights into a period in which upstart radio companies bought and sold the company for its industrial works and brands. Thomas Edison, the inventor of the phonograph, shuttered his recording company altogether. In such a time of change, musicians sought opportunities beyond the record and the stage, as hosting radio shows and appearing in movies became appealing cross-promotional strategies. Through a discursive analysis of recording industry documents, the music trade press, and attention to musicians’ market strategies in a turbulent era, this presentation seeks to position the record business as a media industry, through asserting its deep intermedial ties to radio and film, as illustrated in the first major conglomeration of entertainment media in the twentieth century.