The Recording Industry
That hit record changed everything. It was the same group, with the same act, the same material but with an important difference. They were in the Top Ten, the pop metamorphosis. Before ‘Too Late Now’, £30 an engagement was the norm; after ‘Too Late Now’, £75; after ‘Hippy Hippy Shake’ between £250 and £300 a night. (Jim Godbolt, on being agent for the Swinging Blue Jeans in 1963)1
Have several numbers ready for your recording session. The A&R man might want to record quite a few songs from your repertoire before it is decided which two will be chosen for your single release … As you are playing in the studio, the recording manager will be listening to every aspect of your music. When he finally decides how a number should be played he will be able to pinpoint the ‘commercial angle’. That is, the way you play and sing which makes you different from anyone else. (The Hollies on ‘How to be a Beat Group’ in 1964)2
In 1950 the recorded music sector in Britain was still dominated by shellac 78 rpm records, a format that had been introduced to the mass market at the beginning of the century. Shellac records were fragile, only carried five minutes of music a side and had a high surface noise level when played. The Musicians’ Union was at the height of its influence and the protection of jobs in live music performance was its primary objective, to which end it had negotiated deals with the record companies’ licensing agency, Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), to ensure that ‘the competition of a musician’s recorded work with his live performance’ was ‘rigidly controlled and compensated’,3 and with the BBC, Britain’s only broadcaster, to restrict the playing of records on the radio. This situation was about to be transformed and in this chapter we will describe how the growth of the recording industry in the post-war era changed both the power structure of the British music business and the prevailing ideology of music production and consumption.