Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The top cylinder of 1894! (Actually, no.)

I'm on a kick of researching the origins of various organizations - check my business blog Empoprise-BI on February 4 for a post on the founding of the New York Stock Exchange.

So a music person may wonder - how long as Billboard been around?

Billboard provides the answer:

The magazine was launched in the fall of 1894 by two partners, William H. Donaldson and James H. Hennegan, as a publication for the billposting business. Donaldson was a salesman for his father's lithography company, which specialized in printing advertising posters. Hennegan also worked for a family printing firm.

Donaldson saw a need for a publication that would inform the roving bill posters of industry news. What's more, the new publication could help the Donaldson and Hennegan family printing firms stay in touch with their major clients.

The new magazine was named Billboard Advertising and was published monthly. As declared on its ornate opening page, it was "devoted to the interests of advertisers, poster printers, bill posters, advertising agents and secretaries of fairs."

That first issue was dated Nov. 1, 1894. It was eight pages long and carried a cover price of 10 cents (90 cents for a full year's subscription). The magazine was headquartered at 11 W. Eighth St. in Cincinnati, Donaldson and Hennegan's hometown.

So when did it move into music?

Billboard's ad pages...were packed with pitches for "Trotting Ostriches" and "French Fencing Girls" and other oddball attractions. But amid such novelties were hints of things to come. In the issue of April 27, 1901, the Edison Manufacturing Co. began advertising its "moving picture" machine (along with lists of silent films). The same year, the Rudolph Wurlitzer Co. chose Billboard's pages to advertise its new coin-operated music machine, the Tonophone. Seven years later, a money tree was used to illustrate a full-page ad for Wurlitzer's player piano and other "automatic musical instruments with slot attachment."...

Advertising for sheet music began appearing in the magazine as early as 1902. By 1905, photos of early music publishers, such as Leo Feist and Harry Von Tilzer, were featured on Billboard's cover. A May 13, 1905, item on Von Tilzer remarked: "The art of song writing is becoming as much a science as the trimming of a hat or the cutting of a suit of clothes."...

The cover price had risen to 15 cents with the Dec. 16, 1916, issue, but an annual subscription had gone down to a mere $3.

By this point, recorded music was starting to make its impact, bringing a new form of entertainment into the home and fueling a succession of national dance crazes. The music industry had gone beyond piano rolls (for player pianos) and sheet music. Billboard took note, describing the phonograph in a Sept. 15, 1917, editorial as "the greatest of all music carriers."

Read the whole article here.
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