How Record Players Work

How Records Influenced Culture

The invention of the record player is considered by many to be one of the most significant influences on music and culture. Much of the first recorded music was performed by marching bands, but John Phillip Sousa, one of America's most recognized band leaders, wrote in 1906 that a live performance was unique and that recordings cheapened the experience. He admitted that the machines were "remarkable" and were sufficient for people who weren't able to learn music or attend a performance, but he feared that they would undermine the incentive to acquire musical ability and create original pieces [source: Sousa].

Access to recorded music, however, resulted in greater exposure to a wide variety of music for all types of people. Local musicians who made a recording could share their tunes worldwide. Additionally, recorded music helped begin to bridge a racial divide between whites and blacks in the United States. Black artists' recordings grew in popularity, including jazz musicians in the 1920s, Motown recording artists in the 1960s and most recently many rap artists.

The record industry continued to grow throughout the mid-20th century, but after World War II, portable music became popular. The second half of the century saw music quickly move through a variety of mediums from transistor radios to tape players and most recently to compact disc and MP3 players.

But even as the way people listen to recorded music has evolved over the years, the record player can be considered the trendsetter. And these days, as we'll talk about next, vinyl records are making something of a comeback.