Playing Second Fiddle:

A history of the relationship between technology and organisation in the Australian music economy




David Rooney  BA

Faculty of Humanities, Griffith University


A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.



November 1996





This thesis is a socio-economic history of the relationship between music technology and organisational practices in twentieth-century Australia. It argues that the history of technology in the Australian music economy is dependent not only upon the changing technical characteristics of musical instruments and electronic consumer goods but also upon government policy-making, management practices in music technology manufacturing firms and patterns of music technology consumption.

            The thesis examines economic statistics regarding the import, export and local production of music technology in Australia. The economic statistics have not previously been examined in relation to the history of music technology in Australia. The historical analysis is structured according to a four-part periodisation which includes the Electric Age (1901-1930), the Electronic Age (1930-1950), the Transistor Age (1950-1970) and the Information Age (1970-1990). This periodisation enables the analysis to continually be refocussed as the key technological and socio-economic dynamics change. With this perspective, the history of the relationship between technology and organisation in the Australian music economy has been demonstrated to be dependent on a number of key technological changes. The thesis examines changes including the shift from acoustic to electric recording; the development of transistor-based consumer electronics goods; and the advent of digital information technology. However, a number of key social determinants, particularly organisational modes, are examined including changes from protectionist to more deregulated trade policy; lack of business skills in areas such as marketing, manufacturing technique and industrial research and development; and the development of a sense of popular modernity which is expressed in the consumption of new, technically advanced and glamorous music technology.

            In addition to the new perspectives on the history of music technology provided by the analysis of empirical economic data, this thesis contributes to the historiography of technology. The analytical framework it proposes locates music technology within what is described as an assemblage of technologies: technologies of production, technologies of sign systems, technologies of power and technologies of the self. This approach makes clear the interdependence of technological and social factors, and the inadequacy of narrow technological determinist and social constructivist accounts. The notion of an assemblage of technologies is further embellished by drawing upon key elements of recent theories of systems analysis: the seamless web, evolution and chaos theory.

Through this analytical framework and the socio-economic analysis of the relationship between music technology and organisational practices, the thesis demonstrates that the history of technology cannot be understood unless it is seen as part of a complex and interacting technical, social, economic and institutional system.



Abstract                                                                                                           Page     i

Table of Contents                                                                                                         ii

List of Figures                                                                                                               v

List of Tables                                                                                                                vi

List of Abbreviations                                                                                                     x

Acknowledgments                                                                                                        xii

Introduction                                                                                                                  13

PART ONE: Directions for the History of Music Technology

Chapter One: Technology, Music and the Music Economy                                    29

            Primary Sources                                                                                               30

            Secondary sources                                                                                           37

                                    - Economic History & Political Economy                                   38

                                    - History of Technology                                                            42

                                    - Australian Popular Music & Culture Studies                46

            Debates in Technology Studies                                                              49

                                    - Cultural Imperialism & Technology Transfer                49

                                    - Technological Democratisation                                               56

            Conclusion                                                                                                       60


Chapter Two: Towards an Historical Analysis of Technology,

Music and the Music Economy                                                                                 64

            Critiques of Technology                                                                                    66

            Analytical Approaches to Technology                                                   72

                                    - Technological Determinism                                                     73

                                    - Social Constructivism                                                 76

                                    - Seamless Web                                                                       78

                                    - Technological Evolution                                                          85

            Defining Technology                                                                                         87

                                    - Technologies of Production                                                    90

                                    - Technologies of Sign Systems                                     91

                                    - Technologies of Power                                                           92

                                    - Technologies of the Self                                                          94

                                    - The Assemblage of Technologies in the Studio                        97

            Conclusion                                                                                                       99


PART TWO: The Electric Age: 1901 - 1930


Chapter Three: The Pre-World War One years                                                      104

            1903: German Traders and Exhibitionists                                                           110

            1911: The Trouble With Selling                                                             112

            1900s and 1910s: Preservation and Isolation                                                     118


Chapter Four: Music Technology: Post-world War One

            1921:   America Calls the Tune                                                             128

            1920s:  Dancing to a Different Beat                                                                   128

            Conclusion                                                                                                       134


PART THREE: The Electronic Age: The 1930s and 1940s


Chapter Five: The Depression Years                                                                       154

            1931:   Winning Wireless                                                                                  158

            1930s:  Consumption and Reorganisation                                                          167


Chapter Six: The War Years                                                                         175

            1941:   The Versatile Voice                                                                              175

            1940s:  Reconstruction, Recovery and Discovery                                              183

            Conclusion                                                                                                       193


PART FOUR: The Transistor Age: The 1950s and 1960s


Chapter Seven: The 1950s: The Consumer Boom and

Post-War Modernity                                                                                                  198

            1951:   Know-How or Know Not                                                                    201

            1950s:  Transistors and Transition                                                                     210


Chapter Eight: The 1960s: Counter Culture and Globalisation                              222

            1961:   Low-Tech or No Tech                                                                         222

            1960s:  Tyranny of Proximity                                                                             230

            Conclusion                                                                                                       239


PART FIVE: The Information Age: The 1970s and 1980s


Chapter Nine: Globalisation                                                                         245

            1971:   Passive Consumption                                                                            250

            1970s:  Economies of Scope                                                                             255


Chapter Ten: Digitisation                                                                                          266

            1981:   High, Medium or Low Technology                                                        266

            1980s:  Cottage Industry                                                                                   275

            Conclusion                                                                                                       293

CONCLUSION                                                                                                          298


            Appendix A                                                                                                      323

            Appendix B                                                                                                      335

            Appendix C                                                                                                      344

            Appendix D                                                                                                      347

            Appendix E                                                                                                      348

            Appendix F                                                                                                      362

BIBLIOGRAPHY                                                                                                      382

Figure   1. Imports, musical instruments and parts 1903                          Page     111

            2. Exports, musical instruments 1903                                                                 111

            3. Imports, musical instruments and parts 1911                                      112

            4. Imports, comparison by instrument groups 1911                                            113

            5. Imports, gramophones and accessories 1911                                                113

            6. Ratio, production to imports, musical instruments 1911                                  114

            7. Exports, comparison by instrument group 1911                                             116

            8. Exports, musical instruments and parts 1911                                      116

            9. Exports, gramophones and accessories 1911                                                117

            10. Number of Australian instrument factories 1903-1930                                 119

            11. Imports, musical instruments and parts 1921                                                129

            12. Imports, comparison by instrument groups 1921                                          129

            13. Exports, musical instruments and parts 1921                                                131

            14. Exports, gramophones and accessories 1921                                              131

            15. Exports, comparison by instrument groups 1921                                          132

            16. Imports, gramophones and accessories 1921                                              133

            17. Ratio, production to imports, musical instruments 1921                                133

            18. Imports, comparison by instrument groups 1931                                          159

            19. Imports, musical instruments and parts 1931                                                161

            20. Imports, wireless and accessories 1931                                                       162

            21. Imports, gramophones and accessories 1931                                              163

            22. Imports, records 1931                                                                                165

            23. Exports, musical instruments and parts 1931                                                165

            24. Exports, gramophones and accessories 1931                                              166

            25. Number of Australian instrument factories 1930-1950                                 169

            26. Value, Australian musical instrument production 1930-1950                        170

            27. Imports, gramophones and accessories 1941                                              176

            28. Imports, wireless and parts 1941                                                                176

            29. Imports, musical instruments and parts 1941                                                176

            30. Imports, comparison by instruments groups 1941                            179

            31. Ratio, production to imports, musical instruments 1941                                180

            32. Value, Australian radio production 1930-1950                                            182

            33. Imports, comparison by instrument groups 1951                                          202

            34. Imports, musical instruments and parts 1951                                                203

            35. imports, gramophones etc 1951                                                                  204

            36. Imports, radios and accessories 1951                                                         205

            37. Number of Australian instrument factories 1950-1970                                 208

            38. Imports, musical instruments and parts 1961                                                223

            39. Imports, gramophones etc 1961                                                                  223

            40. Imports, radios and parts 1961                                                                   224

            41. Imports, comparison by instrument groups                                       225

            42. Exports, radios and parts 1961                                                                   228

            43. Exports, musical instruments and parts 1961                                                228

            44. Exports, gramophones etc 1961                                                                  228

            45. Exports, comparison by instrument groups 1961                                          229

            46. Imports, musical instruments and parts 1971                                                250

            47. Imports, gramophones and tape recorders 1971                                          252

            48. Imports, radios and parts 1971                                                                   253

            49. Imports, comparison by instrument groups 1971                                          253

            50. Australian radio and gramophone production 1972-1983                262

            51. Imports, musical instruments 1981                                                   266

            52. Imports, gramophones and tape recorders 1981                                          267

            53. Imports, radios and parts 1981                                                                   269

            54. Imports, comparison by instrument groups 1981                                          271

            55. Ratio, production to imports 1981                                                   272

            56. Exports, comparison by instrument groups 1987                                          273

Table    1. Value of output by economic agent:

                        Australian music industry 1991/92                                             Page     277

            2. Manufacturing assistance schemes 1994                                                        279

            3. Imports, musical instruments 1903                                                                 324

            4. Exports, musical instruments 1903                                                                 324

            5. Imports, musical instruments 1911                                                                 324

            6. Imports, gramophones 1911                                                             324

            7. Exports, musical instruments 1911                                                                 325

            8. Exports, gramophones 1911                                                             325

            9. Imports, musical instruments 1921                                                                 325

            10. Imports, gramophones 1921                                                                       325

            11. Exports, musical instruments 1921                                                   326

            12. Exports, gramophones 1921                                                                       326

            13. Imports, musical instruments 1931                                                   327

            14. Imports, gramophones 1931                                                                       327

            15. Imports, wireless 1931                                                                               327

            16. Exports, musical instruments 1931                                                   327

            17. Exports, gramophones 1931                                                                       328

            18. Exports, wireless 1931                                                                               328

            19. Imports, musical instruments 1941                                                   328

            20. Imports, gramophones 1941                                                                       328

            21. Imports, wireless 1941                                                                               328

            22. Exports, musical instruments 1941                                                   329

            23. Exports, gramophones 1941                                                                       329

            24. Exports, wireless 1941                                                                               329

            25. Imports, musical instruments 1951                                                   329

            26. Imports, gramophones 1951                                                                       330

            27. Imports, radios 1951                                                                                  330

            28. Exports, musical instruments 1951                                                   330

            29. Exports, gramophones 1951                                                                       331

            30. Exports, radios 1951                                                                                  331

            31. Imports, musical instruments 1961                                                   331

            32. Imports, gramophones 1961                                                                       331

            33. Imports, radios 1961                                                                                  332

            34. Exports, musical instruments 1961                                                   332

            35. Exports, gramophones 1961                                                                       332

            36. Exports, radios 1961                                                                                  332

            37. Imports, musical instruments 1971                                                   333

            38. Imports, radiograms 1971                                                                           333

            39. Imports, radios 1971                                                                                  333

            40. Imports, musical instruments 1981                                                   333

            41. Imports, radiograms 1981                                                                           334

            42. Imports, radios 1981                                                                                  334

            43. Imports, instrument group comparisons 1903                                              335

            44. Exports, instrument group comparisons 1903                                              335

            45. Imports, instrument group comparisons 1911                                              336

            46. Exports, instrument group comparisons 1911                                              336

            47. Imports, instrument group comparisons 1921                                              336

            48. Exports, instrument group comparisons 1921                                              337

            49. Imports, instrument group comparisons 1931                                              337

            50. Exports, instrument group comparisons 1931                                              338

            51. Imports, instrument group comparisons 1941                                              338

            52. Exports, instrument group comparisons 1941                                              339

            53. Imports, instrument group comparisons 1951                                              340

            54. Exports, instrument group comparisons 1951                                              340

            55. Imports, instrument group comparisons 1961                                              341

            56. Exports, instrument group comparisons 1961                                              341

            57. Imports, instrument group comparisons 1971                                              342

            58. Exports, instrument group comparisons 1971                                              342

            59. Imports, instrument group comparisons 1981                                              342

            60. Exports, instrument group comparisons 1981                                              343

            61. Ratio, production to imports 1911                                                   344

            62. Ratio, production to imports 1921                                                   344

            63. Ratio, production to imports 1931                                                   345

            64. Ratio, production to imports 1941                                                   345

            65. Ratio, production to imports 1951                                                   345

            66. Ratio, production to imports 1961                                                   346

            67. Ratio, production to imports 1970                                                   346

            68. Ratio, production to imports 1981                                                   346

            69. Record imports 1931                                                                                  347

            70. Record imports 1941                                                                                  347

            71. Record imports 1951                                                                                  347

            72. Record imports 1961                                                                                  347

            73. Music technology production & music technology factories 1903-10           348

            74. Music technology production & music technology factories 1911-20           348

            75. Music technology production & music technology factories 1921-30           349

            76. Music technology production & music technology factories 1931-40           350

            77. Music technology production & music technology factories 1941-50           354

            78. Music technology production & music technology factories 1951-60           355

            79. Music technology production & music technology factories 1961-70           357

            80. Music technology production & music technology factories 1971-80           358

            81. Music technology production & music technology factories 1981-90           360

            82. Imports and exports of music technology 1901-10                          362

            83. Exports and exports of music technology 1901-10                          363

            84. Imports and exports of music technology 1911-20                          365

            85. Exports and exports of music technology 1911-20                          365

            86. Imports and exports of music technology 1921-30                          366

            87. Exports and exports of music technology 1921-30                          368

            88. Imports and exports of music technology 1931-40                          369

            89. Exports and exports of music technology 1931-40                          369

            90. Imports and exports of music technology 1941-50                          371

            91. Exports and exports of music technology 1941-50                          372

            92. Imports and exports of music technology 1951-60                          373

            93. Exports and exports of music technology 1951-60                          374

            94. Imports and exports of music technology 1961-70                          375

            95. Exports and exports of music technology 1961-70                          376

            96. Imports and exports of music technology 1971-80                          377

            97. Exports and exports of music technology 1971-80                          378

            98. Imports and exports of music technology 1981-90                          379

            99. Exports and exports of music technology 1981-90                          380


ABC                -           Australian Broadcasting Corporation/Commission

ABS                 -           Australian Bureau of Statistics

ADAT              -           Analogue Digital Audio Tape

AIPO               -           Australian Industrial Property Organisation

AM                  -           Amplitude modulation

APRA              -           Australian Performing Rights Association

AT&T              -           American Telephone and Telegraph Company

Ausmusic          -           Australian Contemporary Music Development Company

AWA               -           Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd

BBC                -           British Broadcasting Corporation

CBCS              -           Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics

CBS                 -           Columbia Broadcast Systems

CD                   -           Compact Disk

CSIRO                        -           Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial research Organisation

DAT                -           Digital Audio Tape

DIY                 -           Do-It-Yourself

EMI                 -           Electric Musical Instruments

GATT              -           General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade

GDP                -           Gross Domestic Product

HiFi                  -           High Fidelity

HMV               -           His Master's Voice

LSD                 -           Lysergic Acid Diethylamide

MCA               -           Music Corporation of America

MGM              -           Metro-Goldwyn Mayer

OECD             -           Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

R&D                            Research and Development

RCA                -           Radio Corporation of America

RPM                -           Revolutions Per Minute

STC                 -           Standard Telephone and Cables (Australasia) Limited

TV                   -           Television

US                   -           United States (of America)


It is with thanks that I acknowledge the assistance and encouragement of my supervisors Belinda McKay and David Carter; without them this thesis would never have reached fruition. The input by Michael Meadows, who stepped in to supervise for one semester, is also greatly appreciated. In addition, the Humanities librarian at Griffith University, Christine Cardwell, who helped me navigate the avalanche of ABS and CBCS primary sources, was vital to the establishment of this thesis. Finally, for their encouragement and support of historical scholarship in the Faculty of Humanities, I acknowledge the dedication and help of all postgraduate students and academic staff in the School of Cultural and Historical Studies who engaged with me in either formal or informal discussion of issues relating to the craft of writing history. Above all, for their constant support, patience and understanding I acknowledge my family; for that was the foundation stone upon which this work is based.


To Sigrid, Ella and Sabina


This work has not previously been submitted for a degree or diploma in any university. To the best of my knowledge and belief, the thesis contains no material previously published or written by another person except where due reference is made in the thesis itself.



                                    David Rooney


This thesis is concerned with two central issues: first, the development of an analytical framework within which to understand the history of technology and technological change; second, the relationship between music technology and the institutional, commercial and socio-cultural processes of organisation in the Australian music economy over the course of the twentieth century.

Despite the importance of understanding the rôles and effects of technology in society, a strong theoretical understanding of the historical processes of technological change is too often lacking in scholarly and policy debates. Talk of technological crisis is a case in point. Arguments for the existence of a technological crisis usually depend upon a technological determinist account of technological change.

It is an attempt to address the lack of theoretical understanding and historical knowledge of music technology in Australia which has motivated this thesis. Although the pitfalls of technological determinism are well known it is important to make clear that I also seek to avoid reductionist social constructivist accounts which may, for example, over-emphasise the rôle of consumer demand in technological change or ignore the social shaping capacity of technology. The point here is that the reductionism in social constructivism is not confined only to ignoring technological determinants; it can also mean reducing the scope for social determinants as well. Care must be taken to ensure that important elements in a relationship, which may be relatively remote from each other within a web of contingent relationships, are accounted for, and that the chance of multiple parallel and serial chains of causal variables are considered. Of course, it would be impossible to discover all, or even most, of these relationships within the limitations of this project and so this thesis can make only the modest claim of identifying the key dynamics in the history of technology in the Australian music economy.

My analytical framework is derived from the "seamless web" model of technology which, although its name suggest otherwise, takes account of both continuities and discontinuities in the history of technology. As I will show in Chapter 2, there are several closely related approaches to the analysis of the history of technology which come under the heading of the seamless web; however, the particular version from which this thesis develops is the approach outlined by Hughes (1983, 1986, 1987, & 1991). Briefly, the seamless web is a way of viewing the history of technology which is designed to be neither technologically determinist nor socially determinist. It seeks to be what Hughes describes as a "neutral" way of assessing the history of technology; it is sensitive to both social and technical actors yet privileges neither (Hughes 1991). I have extended Hughes' neutral position by introducing the idea of non-reductionist determinism which is a key element of non-linear mathematical theory or chaos theory (Gleick 1987; Kellert 1994). The seamless web model also dispels the idea that there is an inevitable historical trajectory for technology, because the process of technological development is not a purely technical one. There are many social processes involved which are not concerned with strictly technical rationales. Cultural, economic and political expediencies may come into play and militate against technical forces. The particular spectrum of technical and social forces acting on a technological artefact are too complex and are contingent upon too many variables to easily predict outcomes. However, borrowing from chaos theory again, I will show that we can move beyond Hughes by arguing that limited predicability in the short- and medium-term may be possible. An essential element of this treatment of determinism is the breaking of the strong link between determinism and predictability and replacing it with a weak link.

Building on the seamless web model, the definition of technology used in this thesis views technology not just as "gadgets" and machines but also intellectual technologies. For the purposes of my argument we can see both physical and intellectual technologies existing together in an assemblage of interdependent technologies which includes machines, musical techniques and cultural practices. We can further divide these classes of technology into Foucault's (1988) four types of technology: (i) technologies of production (or machines); (ii) technologies of sign systems; (iii) technologies of power; and (iv) technologies of the self. This approach is essential to the analytical framework that I will develop in chapter 2 and is what I have called the assemblage of technologies. The Foucauldian definition, furthermore, is taken to mean that there are three main levels of socio-economic analysis. These three levels are the level of policy-making, the level of the firm and the level of the consumer or audience. I will maintain a focus on each of these levels throughout the thesis and will show how they are not strands running parallel to each other but are interwoven strands. Because these are interwoven, there is considerable interplay and influence, one upon the other.

Although Hughes' approach claims to use a neutral language rather than the skewed language of the social constructivists and technological determinists, the assemblage of technologies model offers a language that is more sensitive to the goal of neutrality, or, better, non-reductionism, than is Hughes' and also provides a stronger analytical structure. The essence of the non-reductionism in the assemblage of technologies approach is that it places the technological and the social in a relationship where each is explicitly dependent on the other and clearly recognises the possibility that each can influence the other in a broadly-focused analysis. The analytical structure of the systems approach is enhanced not only by the more overt neutrality of its language, but also because it forces the researcher to continually inquire into the rôles of each of the four types of technology. If it is recognised that the four types of technology cover a spectrum of potential factors in the history of technology such as economics, politics, aesthetics, science and market behaviour, then it is clear that the focus of attention must be open to diversity and complexity, or as Bijker and Law (1992) have put it, to the heterogeneity of historically contingent factors that have been important in the history of technology. What is also essential to the assemblage of technologies approach is its sensitivity to the processes of organisation, or the heterogeneous cause-effect relationships which promote, or inhibit, technological and social outcomes in the assemblage. Moreover, the assemblage of technologies approach has led me to write a history in which technology is not the focal point, but rather, a history where the focal point is the interrelationship between technology and socio-economic modes of organisation.

By putting the seamless web and the assemblage of technologies elements of the analytical framework together teleological and reductionist histories of technology can be avoided. The Foucauldian definition helps avoid treating technology and art as separate phenomena, thus allowing a history of technology which contextualises technology within its complex social, technical and economic history to be written. The process of analysis in this thesis shows that the production, consumption and uses of technology are influenced by a wide variety of elements such as science, politics, economics and law on the one hand, and on the other, more personal variables such as the semiotics of different music subcultures, as well as cognitive and motor skills. These kinds of contingent variables can affect the behaviour of individuals and the ways in which they interact with the music economy. Indeed, I will argue that all of these things can be thought of as technologies, and that to treat "technologies of production" as something separate or autonomous from other aspects of society is inappropriate. For example, the intellectual technology of what Attali (1987) calls scientific listening, or the modes of listening that many high fidelity enthusiasts adopt – critically listening not only to the musical performance on a recording but also to production values such as special sound effects, the level of white noise and frequency response – helped create new consumer demands, improved recording quality and improved stereo systems.

Investigating the ways in which the Australian music economy has altered its structure in relation to technological, economic and political change is a central task of this thesis. By undertaking this research, it will be possible to see that the notions of technological crisis and the historical uniqueness of current technology-related problems are questionable. This is not an argument that history repeats itself; rather, it is an argument which rests on the recognition of broad historical precedent. With the aid of a strong historical description we can say that the situation in the 1990s, where issues like digitisation and the convergence of music, video, graphics and text are having far-reaching effects on the Australian music economy, although not identical to situations in the past, have a broadly similar appearance to other periods during the twentieth century: for example, the 1920s, when new mass communications technologies such as radio broadcasting, mass-produced music recordings were developing rapidly; or the 1950s and 1960s when portable record players, stereo radiograms, transistor radios and cassette tapes all came onto the market. These precedents are important to note because they provide us with some reference points to which current debates about technology and culture can refer, and although it is not the intention of this thesis to focus on contemporary debates, it will provide an intellectual foundation on which such debates could be more usefully based.

There are related themes that run consistently through the history of music technology in twentieth-century Australia and which will be dealt with in my analysis. First is the issue of cultural sovereignty, and its obverse cultural imperialism, which have most often surfaced in the claim that Australian culture is under threat from a wave of vulgar American popular culture. This thesis will show that a complex set of social and technological issues produced a continuously changing cultural orientation in Australia which cannot simply be described as a steady shift from a British to an American orientation. Some attention will also be given to Australia's position as a cultural producer, which should alert us to the dangers of seeing Australia only as being culturally colonised.

The issue of technology transfer also requires careful treatment. Here we must be careful not to take the view that Australia is simply a passive receiver of foreign technology. The arrival of new technology in Australia is associated with choices and adaptations of that technology so that they are culturally, or otherwise, appropriate to Australian conditions. An example of this kind of adaptation is the way that Australian piano makers were expert at adapting European designs to suit Australian climatic conditions so that their pianos would still sound good and have stable tuning.

Much attention will be paid in this thesis to the organisational processes within the Australian music economy. Not only are intellectual property laws central organising tools but so too are cultural policies, industry protection policies like import tariff regulations and, within individual businesses, the techniques of marketing, financial management, research and development, and other forms of strategic planning. Because many of the problems associated with technology have resulted from an inability to organise and adapt politically, economically and commercially to technological change, and because our lives prosper or suffer in large degree as a result of this in/capacity to organise effectively, it is appropriate for this thesis to place these issues at the core of its discussions. Indeed, the final chapter will focus quite specifically on a number of issues relating to the seemingly habitual addiction of Australian governments and businesses in the Australian music economy to the inappropriate or uncritical use of "generic" organisational tools.

Trends in the corporate world, both in Australia and overseas, have been important to the history of technology in the Australian music economy. It is therefore necessary to take into account the influences of such things as the transnationalisation of the cultural industries, as well as the pursuit of business strategies such as synergy, economies of scope and scale, and flexible specialisation in the global consumer electronics industry. I will show that all of these factors have impacted greatly on the Australian music industry. Political and economic thought, including Keynesian theory and neo-classical economics, have been influential factors in the Australian music industry, and will also be duly considered. In Australia, changes in industry policy, which for most of this century was highly interventionist, protectionist, and informed by Keynesian theory, has given way to a more liassez-faire attitude to policy-making which has been informed by neo-classical economic thought. I will argue that the inept handling of these political and economic positions in Australia was disastrous for Australian music technology manufacturers because, in part, they caused many of the organisational weaknesses which were endemic in Australian manufacturing. Furthermore, it will be argued that the change to policies of deregulation of trade only managed to compound the problems associated with protectionism in the Australian music technology manufacturing industry.

It is not just trends in the corporate world that are important. Trends in musical taste such as the development in the 1960s of a number of popular music subcultures like psychedelic rock culture have also made an impact. Psychedelic rock and other cultures made quite specific connections between the style or "sound" of their music, the types of technology used in the production and reproduction of the music as well as fashions, attitudes to political issues and so on. Preferences for more or less public, or private, locations for the enjoyment of entertainment must be considered in order to provide a proper context for this history too. In particular, the move in the second half of this century of the location of music audiences from the concert hall and living room, out to the beach, into the car, and into bedrooms has been an important element in the changing technological, commercial and cultural landscape in Australia. In addition, popular expressions of modernity through the consumption of music technology and the links between commercial strategies such as synergy with the adoption of increasingly passive, rather than active, modes of music enjoyment, will be key areas of focus in the latter sections of this thesis.

Because I rely heavily on an examination of economic statistics, it is important to clarify the relationship between economic history and the history of technology. It has been recognised by many historians and sociologists, from Marx (1974 [1887]) to Feenberg (1991), that the history of technology, if it is to make any sense, must be closely related to economic history because of the vital rôle technology plays in the production process. In large degree, this project is the history of an industry, or, more precisely, a micro-economy. An attempt to describe the history of such an entity without reference to its economic past would be to write a history that has not described or analysed the underlying framework of the field under examination. I therefore place great emphasis on the economic history of music technology in Australia and will explore systematically the previously unresearched information provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS] and the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics [CBCS] on imports, exports and domestic manufacture of music technology in Australia. Through the analysis of economic data, the underlying framework of the music economy can be seen and the fundamental changes in it clearly mapped.

In each chapter I shall examine the changes in imports, exports and the capacity of Australian industry to manufacture music technology. Further, music technology in Australia will be contextualised through an examination of changes in unemployment, inflation, Gross Domestic Product [GDP], overall foreign trade performance, wages, population growth and retail trade activities. In addition, social indicators such as trends in household expenditure on music, numbers of radio listener licences and the number of musicians in the population will be examined. Non-statistical evidence includes legislative change, management practices, and political and social movements. Commentaries from contemporary music trade and technical press such as Radio (TV) and Hobbies, the Sonics Year Books and newspapers will also be included in the analysis as they would in traditional social histories.

Having outlined the scope of my research, it is useful to discuss some of the terminology used. Throughout this thesis it is argued that the component parts of the music industry have been in a continual state of change and adaptation to newly arising circumstances. Sometimes this change has been slow and incremental, at others rapid and discontinuous. The modern music industry in Australian is made up of a number of industries or sub-industries including the recording and music publishing industry, the radio broadcasting industry, the music performance industry, the music technology manufacturing industry, music retailing, music press and media, music video production and so on. At the time of Federation, the music industry had a much more confined structure. There was no radio broadcasting or recording industry and certainly no music video production companies. It is this structure of fragmented and changeable elements in the music industry which I have called the "architecture" of the music industry. I will argue that the architecture of the music industry has changed in response to the combined influences of the introduction of new music technology, new ways of running businesses, government interventions in the Australian economy, new ways of marketing products and many other contributing factors. The term "music economy" is used to distinguish between the music industry, which can be regarded for our purposes as the productive or industrial elements of the music economy, and the whole music economy, which includes the consumers or audiences of music as well as the producers and distribution networks.

The historical analysis below begins at the time of Federation and continues up to 1990, and will be divided into four sections, each of which covers a specific period. Hall and Preston's (1988) four general periods of technology in the twentieth century provide a basis for the periodisation of this history. The four periods are: (1) the Electric Age; (2) the Electronic Age; (3) the Transistor Age; and (4) the Information Age. This periodisation is useful for illustrating my argument that the technological changes evident in the 1980s and 1990s have ample historical precedent. Each of these periods represents a time in which significant departures in the ways communications in general, and the dissemination, reception and production of communications in particular, have been undertaken in Australia. These changes, and the commercial and social disruptions that rose out of them, helped to create challenges to and shifts in the status quo in the music economy in each of the periods of technology.

Before finishing my discussion of the organisation of historical analysis it is necessary to direct attention to the basic internal structure which will be applied to each chapter. My discussion of each of the above four sections or technological periods outlined above will extend across two chapters and each chapter will cover one decade (the only exception is the first chapter in the Electric Age section which will cover two decades). In each chapter, the first part of the discussion, after some introductory comments, will focus on the first year of the decade with which the chapter deals (the first chapter of the Electric Age will look at 1903 and 1911 together). In these parts discussion will be approached on a micro level of analysis. The concern is to develop a detailed description of the Australian music economy in that year so that the fundamental changes which occurred within the architecture of the music economy, relative to the preceding chapter, can be found. With this information I can map the changes from decade to decade, compare and contrast the architecture, and signal the directions that the analysis will take in the remainder of the chapter. The second part of each chapter provides a macro level of analysis across the whole decade. The former is primarily descriptive and the latter analytic.

During the Electric Age (1880s to 1920s), which was well under way at the time of Federation, basic discoveries were being made about the nature and behaviour of electricity. This meant that previously undreamed of activities such as telegraphy, gramophone recording and electric lighting were made possible. Efficient and fast communications radically changed business procedures, the conduct of war, and the experience of household comforts such as good quality lighting and convenient heating. Important for the Australian music industry was that it marked the beginning of the move in emphasis from music as a concert hall entertainment performed by professional musicians or domestic entertainment performed by suitably trained family members to a domestic activity centred on the gramophone and wireless set. This is not to say that recording destroyed or even seriously damaged the live performance of music. Indeed, the ubiquity of pianos in Australian homes has been a key feature of Australian cultural history. The increasing use of gramophone and wireless was, however, the beginning of the trend towards a more "passive" music enjoyment which became a dominant feature of the music economy in the post-war years. There was, therefore, a significant change in the structure of the music economy. The scope of activities in the music industry expanded and increasingly came to include music which was delivered via the technology of mass communications such as gramophones and wirelesses. Although this was a period of profound technological change we must resist the temptation to see it as a time of technological crisis. Indeed, some of these changes had been developing since the 1880s, and the penetration of electric technology into business, government and homes was not at the levels of saturation that we know today; in fact, the level of penetration was fairly low.

Electronics, in comparison to electricity, is centred not on the behaviour of electrons but on the component parts of electrical appliances. Some important technological developments in the Electronic Age (1930s and 1940s) were the rectifier, which converted alternating current into direct current, preamplifiers in a wireless set which took a weak signal and strengthened it, and highly sensitive microphones. Magnetic recording tape, better radio aerials, and more sophisticated vacuum tubes are further examples of relevant advances made in the Electronic Age. The Electronic Age is also notable for the move away from the empirical physics of the Electric Age to the mathematical models and theories which characterise modern physics and electrical engineering. These models are highly formalised modes of scientific discovery which, in the eyes of some, elegantly expressed the age of modernity. Furthermore, the products of these new modes of engineering, such as electrically recorded records and radio broadcasting, were to become potent cultural symbols of modernity, and therefore key foci of analysis throughout this thesis. What is also important about this period is that previously developed technologies could be made more accessible to people in the home and at work, and that they could perform the tasks they were designed to perform in more socially appropriate ways through improved design, efficiency and reliability. The significant social impacts of electronic goods included the fact that music technologies could become more pervasive in society, even if they were technologies that were confined mostly to middle class consumers. With the new emphasis on component parts and an emphasis on improving their individual contributions to the overall performance of a system, the concepts of "Hi Fi" sound and of the audio-phile began to develop. At the same time manufacturers began to develop a stratified view of audio markets, distinguishing between consumers who had different expectations about what gramophones needed to deliver in terms of sound quality.

The penetration of electronic music technology into popular usage was however, limited, if only by the restrictions of the Depression and the war. In Australia the radio broadcasting industry flourished but, as I will show, many of its social impacts were positive. Further, even though government often struggled with radio regulation and patent laws there is no evidence of there being a crisis in which technology was out of control and wreaking havoc on Australia's social infrastructure.

The Transistor Age (1950s and 1960s) intensified the effects of the electronic age as electronic consumer goods became more widely available. This resulted in further significant changes to the architecture of the music industry in Australia: radio became more music-oriented, music began to be broadcast on television and record sales boomed. Most importantly, transistorisation improved the cost and reliability of electronic products. Also, the massive utilisation of transistors in electronics manufacturing because of the breadth of applicability of this technology to areas of life such as entertainment, defence, transport and science, acted as a multiplier, further stimulating the deployment and innovation of the technology itself. Transistors meant that technology which was technically possible in previous decades but impractical because of cost, reliability, efficiency or size could now be brought into everyday use by a wider range of people.

Not only did electronic music technology continue as a symbol of modernity in the Transistor Age, but it became a symbol attainable by the newly affluent working class in the 1950s and by young people in the 1960s. As a result, a more truly popular form of modernity than had existed in the 1940s emerged. The ubiquitous transistor radio of the 1960s characterises this period. Cheapness and portability were crucial in the popularity of these radios. This period is also important because of the further movement of the music industry towards the commercial interdependency of radio broadcasting and record production. In addition, a key moment in this history was the emergence of the economic importance of the new young audience of "teenagers", which was, at least in part, a result of the pervasiveness of cheap and appropriate transistor technology. For Australian music technology producers this period has special significance. At a time of rapid technical change, there were great pressures on manufacturers to keep up with the technical knowledge and training needed to design new products, and to afford the retooling of manufacturing assembly lines with high technology equipment to produce state-of-the-art products. This, as we shall see, was a challenge that Australian manufacturers were unable to meet then, and have continued to have difficulty with since.

The Information Age (1970s and 1980s) is important in this thesis because of the changes in the volume and ease of information exchange in a global music market. Compact Discs [CDs], which involved both digital production and reproduction of music, came onto the market and were a great success, due in part to the technical features of digital sound but also because of the corporate strategies of synergy, seeking economies of scope, flexible specialisation, and the intensification of passive modes of music enjoyment. Digital technology had more implications for the music industry than just CDs. From the late 1980s, digital home recording studios with multi-channel recording desks and cheap high quality digital sound effect units were to make significant changes to the modes of production in the music industry. These technologies significantly changed the established relationship between record company and artist.

The 1980s also saw the beginnings of technological convergence. Convergent technology, typified by what has become associated with multimedia and the Internet, has triggered much of the interest and concern about technology since the 1980s. Convergence builds on information technology but places hardware, software, transmission protocols and so on within an integrated system. Convergence has been driven by vertical integration of the information industry as companies attempt to consolidate existing market positions and then extend their share of the market. The most significant aspect of convergence is its potential to link computer-based systems in large networks, often on an international scale (Burton 1992, pp. 2-3). Again, it is the accessibility of new technology and the ways in which it facilitates changes in the relations between publishers, artists, producers and consumers, which has caused some commentators to see a crisis in the music industry.

Although the architectures of production and consumption of music technology in Australia had changed again in the late 1980s, arguments of unprecedented change are not supported by the historical evidence. For many individuals and businesses new ways of doing business or being creative within a new architecture needed to be found, and it was not always easy to find an appropriate economic, legal, administrative and cultural mixture within which to successfully conduct business in the music economy. Yet the historical evidence suggests that in all likelihood the Australian music economy will continue to reorganise and grow even if its manufacturing base has atrophied. Nevertheless, it is useful to pause and consider that Burton (1992, p. 33), in his survey of research into the socio-economic effects of information technology and convergence, claims that there has been no technology-led revolution in social or economic terms and that productivity, employment and work practices have tended to change incrementally through the 1980s and early 1990s, rather than exponentially as we are often led to believe. Indeed, a detailed study of manufacturing companies in the United States and Europe between 1978 and 1984 has shown that spending on information technology has generally had little impact on output and labour productivity increases (Loveman 1994). These comments suggest that the growth in the music and music technology markets has received considerable impetus from non-technological quarters. If this is the case, these stimuli must be in the form of socio-economic phenomena. Further, we can assume from this that the impacts of technological change accumulate at a slower rate than the growth of technical knowledge and capability. Indeed, I will show that in post-war Australia it was not the speed of technical development which was crucial to the Australian music economy; it was the pace of organisational, policy and managerial change which was crucial.

Technological change will continue to contribute to the evolution of the architecture of music production and consumption in Australia. Any crisis, if one exists, is better perceived as a disruption or redistribution, around which new ways of organising the music economy must be found. Although some individuals or businesses do struggle to make profits or to prevent themselves from becoming obsolete, for others technological change is a source of release from subservience to the record companies and limitations to creative expression. The ability to make professional quality recordings at home, and publish on a "cottage industry" basis, may be all that some bands desire, and for them this is not a crisis but an opportunity to be embraced. Even profound changes in the relations of production in music, or any other cultural industry, are not usefully seen as crises in the traditional sense, which implies a deterministic and dystopian view of technological change. While for individuals or specific sectors of the music economy there can be crisis, this does not mean that the industry or the society are in crisis. More importantly, it can be assumed that the notion of technological crisis is simplistic because, as I will argue throughout this thesis, the disruptions which can be seen have as much, if not more, to do with problems in areas like management, policy and law than with technology alone.






Because this thesis covers a broad cross-section of scholarship it is necessary to identify some of the main strengths and weaknesses of recent research in a number of fields, and identify some key areas which can be addressed by my research. My central concern in surveying a range of views of technology, music and the economy will be to see how historical research can develop more nuanced analyses of the history of music technology and contribute in a significant way to the increasingly interdisciplinary studies of music and technology. It is, however, worth pointing out that it is not simply the case that history needs to be informed by other fields but that when history is thus informed it can contribute in useful ways to, for example, the often ahistorical analyses in technology studies and popular music studies.

This chapter is organised in three parts. The first is a discussion of primary sources including those from the archives of the Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS] and the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics [CBCS]; other published statistical evidence such as that found in Australian Historical Statistics (1987); commercially produced reports on aspects of the Australian music industry; the Australian Industrial Property Organisation [AIPO] patent archives; and other sources such as newspapers and magazines. The ABS and CBCS data on imports, exports and domestic production of music technology have never been used in a comprehensive historical study, and so my analyses of these materials constitutes new knowledge against which the secondary sources can be viewed.

The second part of the chapter will look at secondary sources. I have divided the secondary sources into a number of fields including economic history, political economy, history of technology, and Australian popular culture and popular music studies. In each of these subsections I will discuss how key publications will be used to shape the course of argument, and to corroborate and augment my analysis of the primary sources.

In the final section, I will also concentrate on secondary sources but with a focus on two important threads in technology studies: first, the related themes of cultural imperialism and technology transfer; and second, technological democratisation. These should be fundamental areas of analysis in the history of music technology and this discussion, together with the preceding section, will argue that an interdisciplinary approach can fill many gaps in the historical analysis of music technology. From this perspective it is possible to criticise much of the current treatment of music technology in Australian history, and, indeed, historical treatments of technology generally. With this critique as a foundation, I will develop an analytical framework which attempts to bridge these lacunæ.


Australian Bureau of Statistics and CBCS economic statistics on imports, exports and local production of music technology provide much data which can be applied to the historical analysis of Australian music technology. These statistics can be used in two important ways. First, they can be used to outline the broad structure of the music economy and music technology consumption and production in Australia during the twentieth century. This structure can provide a framework for the wider contextualisation of this history within Australia and the world. Second, the statistics can be used to provide regular detailed quantitative evidence at set points where microanalyses of the Australian music economy can be done. With this detailed evidence it is possible to see in cross-section what can be revealed about the underlying structures in the Australian music economy, and how music technology was implicated, as both cause and effect. This approach enables scholars to track the changing conditions of music technology demand and production in Australia, and correlate them with changes in modes of organisation at policy level, the level of the firm and at the level of consumers or audiences. [4]

Economic and social statistics are not without their problems for historical research. The accounting or calculation methods used eighty or ninety years ago are not the same as those used today. With each change in method the question must be asked: what kind of distortion to the overall continuity of the figures is caused by this change? For this project the most important of these changes is in the detail with which music technology production has been reported. Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics figures given for Australian musical instrument factories in the 1900s lump together factories that made musical instruments and those that made gramophones. Later, the figures list separately piano and organ factories, factories that produced other types of musical instruments, and gramophone factories. The problem is not serious because continuity of the total number of factories is preserved and so although the degree of resolution in the picture changed the overall perspective remained constant. As long as the definition of what constitutes a factory remains constant, or only changes incrementally, one can confidently make useful comparisons between adjacent decades. There are a number of similar issues, like discontinuity in local radio set production figures, however, it is more convenient to deal with these problems in more detail when they arise in the discussion.

The nature of demand for music technology is a key dynamic in the history of music technology and the use of statistical evidence has some limitations. Any discussion of demand is problematic in historical analysis: what does demand mean and how is it measured? There is no complete answer to this question, but for the purposes of this research it is appropriate to measure demand as a correlate of consumption of music technology measured by the value of goods coming onto the market. This measure is, therefore, a facsimile of a complex human behaviour. Despite these shortcomings, this measurement eminently serves the objective of painting an overview of market activity. However, where possible more qualitative evidence, like that which can be found in editorial comment and advertising in the press, can be used to explore socio-cultural motives behind these expressions. I will return to a discussion of this kind of evidence in more detail below.

The ABS and CBCS statistics also make it possible to relate the number of Australian music technology factories and their total output to an average output for firms in the industry, and then to extrapolate from this average to a nominal measure of viability. Once again, this is a facsimile which is in need of qualified analysis. In the absence of any detailed history of music technology manufacturers in Australia there are few other options available for estimating the state of domestic music technology manufacturing. However, even though we can say little of individual businesses in this analysis, there remains a great deal which can be said in overview. For instance, because it is possible to track the total number of manufacturers of music technology and changes in their average output, it is possible to gauge the relative successes of the manufacturers by seeing if, for example, as numbers of manufacturers increase whether average output also increases or if on some occasions it decreases. Such figures provide a useful, if qualified, guide to discussing issues like the value of increasing economies of scale and the relative merits of, for example, producing pianos and other musical instruments compared with radio/audio technology at various times in twentieth century Australia.

Discussion of ratios of records imported into Australia from Britain and the United States, and relating that ratio to a cultural and popular music orientation by Australians to America or Britain is possible too. Once again, despite the interesting insights this tactic can provide, I must warn of its limitations. Over time the number of records pressed in Australia has increased and as more Australian pressings entered the market the less reliable this ratio becomes because the Australian pressings could have been either of local musicians, or of American or British musicians. Unfortunately, very little research has been done in this area and so the chance of significant distortion arises with the increased volume of locally-produced records. As a consequence, I shall cease using this measure, somewhat arbitrarily, after 1971. Despite this problem, there is value in indicating that Australian cultural and popular music orientation has had a complex relationship with British and American culture as represented by the constant, and at times radical, changes in the ratio. However, a more exhaustive look at the processes shaping Australian cultural orientation may reveal more substance and complexity than the evidence I have obtained allows.

The ratio of imports of music technology to local production of music technology can be calculated to help develop an index of the share of the domestic market Australian music technology manufacturers have had. Once again, it is necessary to view these figures with some caution. The major difficulty with these calculations is the lack of figures on domestic production of radios at critical times. It has often been difficult to estimate the level of radio production in Australia because of this lack and because sometimes the available figures are discontinuous and do not readily suggest any kind of trend. Because radios have been a major component of imports of music technology, their omission from comparisons is unfortunate. Nevertheless, it is possible to make an analysis which shows, in overview, the trajectory or the trend line of participation in the local market by local producers compared to imports. The value of these calculations is reinforced, despite my cautious approach to them, by the fact that the shrinking market-share trend has been so pronounced and consistent in post-war Australia, and that this trend equates well with the overall manufacturing performance in the Australian economy during the same period.

Other kinds of relevant statistical information are pertinent to the study of the history of music technology too. For example, statistics on industrial research and development activities in Australia can be gathered from ABS Year Books and Bureau of Industry Economics reports. These statistics are important to consider because, as I will show in the later chapters, Australia has had a poor record in industrial research and development. Given the importance of technological innovation, or technological microdiversity, it is useful for national economies to be able to quantify this kind of activity. In particular, it is useful to know things like the relative differences between what Australians paid for the use of foreign patent licences, compared to what Australians paid for the use of Australian owned patents, and the relative distribution of research and development spending between the public and private sectors. Such statistical analysis make it possible to place Australian manufacturing and technological development in a broader context.

Census information can also be used to address specific questions. How many people were employed at different times in Australia to make musical instruments; how many worked as musicians or music teachers; how many were involved in retail sales of music technology; and what were numbers of radio listeners' licences in Australia at different times? It is, therefore, of considerable benefit to have statistics which lend themselves to analysis of aspects of the broader political economy of Australian music technology manufacturing and music technology use.

In addition to the economic statistics outlined above, ABS social statistics are valuable in researching the relationship between technology and culture. Importantly, these kinds of statistics provide information at the level of household consumption. Household expenditure on musical instruments, audio equipment and so on can be viewed through these statistics as proportions of total household expenditure, enabling an index of hierarchies of household expenditure to be developed. These hierarchies shed light on how people have prioritised different activities in their lives, including active and passive music activities. It is possible to use these recent statistics on leisure activities to illustrate larger trends in the use and consumption of music technology such as the trend towards passive music enjoyment and the loss of primacy of active music making through the twentieth century.

As well, other academic research such as that done by Butlin (1986) and Vamplew (1987) can be used to obtain relevant historical statistics such as rates of inflation, unemployment, urbanisation and standards of living. As a result of this evidence it is possible to present an expanded perspective on the Australian music economy, and its technology, as an integral part of the greater Australian economy. By utilising these sources it is also possible to identify better the broad responses of the music economy to major social disruptions like the Great Depression, the world wars, the consumption boom of the 1950s and demographic trends such as post-war immigration.

Archives held by the Australian Industrial Property Organisation [AIPO] provide information about Australian inventors who have applied for patents of music technology and provide another source of primary research material. Research can be done under various AIPO "catchwords" such as amplifiers, or broadcasting and radio. However, it is a formidable task, outside the scope of this thesis, to determine whether these inventions have musical applications, or whether they are designed and used for other industrial purposes. Consequently, I have restricted research to the patents awarded under the "catchword" of musical instruments. This research is important because a problem which is of particular interest is the successful, or, rather, the unsuccessful commercialisation of music technology inventions in Australia. Although this is a relationship which is not directly addressed in AIPO's archival information, the archives do nevertheless provide a means of identifying Australian inventions which can then be followed up in the music press and elsewhere to find evidence of commercialisation.

A heightened sense of economic self-awareness was shown by the Australian music industry in the 1980s and early 1990s, and at the same time an increasing interest in the economics of the industry was shown by government. The result has been a number of valuable reports that provide detailed insights into the economics and commerce of the industry (see, for example, Gillard 1994, Guldberg 1987, Price Waterhouse 1994 & Richmond 1994). There are two crucial points which arise from these sources. The first, beginning in the 1970s, is the shift of the economic epicentre of the global music economy from music publishing houses to consumer electronics manufacturing-based corporations. With this information it is possible to highlight the repercussions for Australia of not following this trend in the 1960s and 1970s; and, therefore, of not being able to participate in the resulting wealth generation as did countries like Japan.

The second point that comes from these reports, related to the first, is the Australian music industry's own analysis of its deficiencies in manufacturing, exporting, marketing and so on. Given the lack of detailed historical investigations of individual businesses in the Australian music technology manufacturing sector, the above-mentioned reports take on a special significance. The various reports, which are cited in the final chapters of discussion in the thesis, have been constructed through surveys and feedback from individual firms. Therefore, their conclusions and discussions are based on direct evidence from the industry. It is this industry evidence which adds particular force to the accusations of poor organisation that I will level at Australian firms and policy-making bodies. In addition, the fact that the findings are consistent among themselves and also with the long term problems that I will identify is crucial in bringing the thesis to a decisive and persuasive conclusion.

Newspaper advertisements play a central rôle in providing evidence for key arguments, particularly about the ways in which manufacturers and sellers perceived the attitudes of customers to their products. What is important about those perceptions is that it can be concluded that the advertisements of successful brands of music technology in Australia were successful because, at least in part, they accurately gauged the mood of their customers. Given this imputed accuracy, the attitudes or images portrayed by these advertisements can act as a barometer of changes in the morphology of demand for music technology in Australia. When reading the changes in this barometer, with reference to things like the levels of consumption and relative levels of success by Australian producers in the local market, a general indication of attitudes of Australians to music technology consumption can be gained. For example, I will use these sources to argue that at different times a technological cringe was evident in the Australian music economy, while at other times the mood was more of a technological strut.

In pulling this discussion of primary sources together, it can be said that because of the lack of scholarship in the history of music technology in Australia there is a lack of detailed research into individual firms which were involved in music technology manufacturing. Because of this lack of knowledge it is not useful to become deeply involved with the fine detail of the economic accounts, but to be concerned with long term trends, sudden changes and periods of apparent instability. In general, these primary sources help to achieve this goal, and therefore, create a base line of knowledge in this area. However, the development of this knowledge is not an end for the historian; rather, it raises more focused questions about the processes behind this history. For example, where were sudden changes most keenly felt, and why was a trend moving in a particular direction; was there a change in musical style apparent at the same time as changes in consumption patterns or the introduction of new technology occurred; was a particular musician or group influential in altering people's consumption patterns; was a government policy change important; was there an effective marketing campaign for a particular type of technology?



There is much that the historian of technology can utilise in current research in other areas of historical scholarship and emerging fields such as popular music studies, cultural studies and technology studies. By taking an interdisciplinary approach to research, the history of technology can be informed by highly developed bodies of knowledge in a number of key areas. For example, technology transfer, cultural imperialism and technological democratisation theories bring critical theoretical dimensions to the history of music technology. In addition, cultural studies of the development of radio broadcasting and examinations of the emergence of modernity in everyday life in Australia are examples of current research which can also have far reaching implications for the study of the history of music technology. The following discussion shows that there are many gaps in the theoretical outlook of the history of technology and I seek to identify some of these gaps by examining relevant areas of this literature.

Economic History and Political Economy

Under the rubric of economic history we can, for the purposes of analysis of the history of technology, also include business history, political economy and history of management. This scope is necessary because for much of this century many Australian business and economic practices were studiously modelled on British practices in macro-economic management, business administration and engineering strategies. Therefore, it is instructive to examine some accounts of twentieth century British economic history like those by Hill (1985), Kirby (1981) and More (1989) which examine the relationship between Britain's declining manufacturing capacity, and business and economic management practices used in its manufacturing sector. It is possible to connect certain economic outcomes and business practices in Australia to similar outcomes and practices used in Britain.

The process of placing the Australian music economy in an international context needs to address the nature of bilateral trade between Australia and Germany in the first half of this century. Tampke and Doxford (1990), Harmstorf and Cigler (1985), and Harmut Teßmer (1988) count among existing research which can inform the analysis of changes in musical instrument imports from Germany until the Second World War. These scholars track the changing trade relationship between the two countries at the level of government; the effects of differences in day-to-day business practices between the two countries; and changing Australian attitudes to Germany and Germans. This analysis is important because of the dominance of German-made musical instruments in the Australian market in the early decades of this century.

Other Australian economic history and political economy research will be used extensively in this project as well. This research is important in assisting further contextualisation of the Australian music economy with the greater Australian economy and the global music economy. Some basic elements of the Australian music economy, such as the commercial practices of recording companies and the economics of the relationship between the local (Australian) and the global in music publishing, are examined by Eriksen (1984) and Breen (1992a & 1992c). This research will be particularly useful in discussions about cultural imperialism, an issue to which I shall return later in this chapter. The economic literature can also be used to deal with issues relating to the conditions of manufacturing in Australia. In this analysis Forster's (1970 & 1964) examinations of the development of economies of scale in Australia; Stubbs' (1980) treatment of issues relating to the lack of competitiveness in Australian industry; and Catley and McFarlane's (1983) discussion of the relationship between the Keynesian economic underpinnings of post-war industry policy and low productivity in Australia all offer important contributions. As well, the investigations by Stewart (1991), Crawford (1968) and Anderson (1987) of import tariffs and protectionism in Australia will be helpful in developing the necessary background in Australian economic history which is essential for the development and corroboration of arguments about the industry-policy-based shortcomings in Australian music technology manufacturing. Kelly's (1992) discussion of the neo-liberal, or neo-classical, economics which was pervasive in Canberra on both the Labor and Coalition sides of politics, and in the bureaucracy during the 1980s, assists in locating the driving forces behind the moves to deregulate and "open up" the economy. This literature provides critical support for my argument that giving full rein to market-forces was devastatingly unsuccessful in the Australian music technology manufacturing sector. With this literature it is possible to develop an economic context for the Australian music technology manufacturers, not just in terms of the whole Australian economy, but also in a more specific context within Australian manufacturing.

In the field of management and business history Roussel (1991), Steele (1988), Sobel (1986) and Betz (1993) show how manufacturers have strategically managed technology in production, and research and development processes in Australia and elsewhere. However, it is the work of Piore and Sabel (1984) that is central. Piore and Sabel have undertaken an extensive analysis of the development and use around the world of flexible specialisation in manufacturing and the seeking out of synergies between different areas of business activity. Another important aspect of analysis in Piore and Sable's discussion is the development in Japan, from the 1970s onwards, of automated manufacturing processes. When combined with my own research the contrast between the capacities of the Australian music technology manufacturing sector and those in Japan and elsewhere will be seen to be sharp. Goldsworthy (1987) supports this argument with his claim that this lack of capacity was to be found across the spectrum of the Australian manufacturing sector. As a result, I will argue that flexible specialisation, synergies and automation benefited the possessors of those capabilities. As a result, nations which utilised this technology were able to leap further ahead of those, including Australia, who did not. This type of analysis is also important because it focuses attention on the inadequacies of policy-making and business organisation in Australia. Furthermore, having established these positions, it is possible to show that Australian consumers began to function primarily as consumers in a global economy, leaving an inadequate local music technology manufacturing industry marginalised in its home market.

The last set of secondary economic literature to be considered is that by Leydesdorf (1994), Allen (1994), and Allen and Phong (1994). These researchers represent the most innovative and penetrating economic analyses of recent research in the field of the economics of technological change. Their non-linear econometric modelling of the economy is particularly useful in supporting the findings in this thesis because their non-reductionist economic analysis compliments my historiography. In particular, this body of research assists in (1) the navigation of the terrain between policy based on high protectionism and the drive for deregulation; (2) understanding the need for technological microdiversity to promote technological change and the rôle of policy in this process; and (3) focusing on the lack of microdiversity in the Australian music technology manufacturing sector. An understanding of the importance of microdiversity through innovation can help explain why the Australian music technology manufacturers failed to prosper in the latter part of this century. I will use this literature to argue that the failure to generate technological diversity meant the Australian music technology manufacturing sector could not make evolutionary adaptations to continually changing economic or market conditions. A central finding of this revisionist economics is the need for pragmatic policy-making rather than the ideologically narrow focus that neo-classical and Keynesian economic management has habitually formed in Australia.

Taken together this body of literature provides the economic context for the history of music technology. I will seek to explore the Australian music economy in the context of the Australian economy as a whole as well as the global music economy both in terms of the statistical fundamentals such as imports and exports, and in terms of economic organisation. In addition, the technology manufacturing sector of the Australian music economy can be contextualised within Australian manufacturing in general and also with music technology manufacturers in other countries with the aid of the economic history and political economy outlined above.

History of Technology

Some histories of music technology have been written, but they do not always offer entirely satisfactory models to follow. Read and Welch (1977) and Gellat (1966), for example, have produced detailed "internalist" histories of the phonograph. This kind of history of technology is concerned less with broad socio-economic and cultural contexts than it is with tracking technical changes in the development of individual technological artefacts.

Not all histories of music technology, however, are "internalist" histories. More recent histories have tended to look at the external context, examining carefully the many variables acting on the music industry, including political and cultural circumstances, then linking these components together as if they existed in a symbiotic relationship. These histories offer a more sophisticated model for writing social histories of technology. For example, Jones (1992) is careful to point out in Rock Formation that music technology has usually been examined from the listener's point of view and not the musician's or record producer's perspective. In attempting to redress this situation he begins to map the complexity of the social history of technology. In addition, he has identified two distinct types of technology in music: those for "creating artefacts" like musical instruments, and recording equipment; and those like musical notation and "know-how" or knowledge (intellectual technology) which allow people to know how to do things and what tools can be used in a given situation (pp. 7-9).

Jones (pp. 1-7) is less convincing when he suggests that the introduction of cheap home recording technology has democratised popular music production. As I will show below, arguments about the democratisation of cultural production through technology require careful analysis. In dealing with the democratisation issue one must ask: what is involved in the production process of popular music? For instance, the processes of distribution, finance and marketing must also be included. If one wishes to argue that the process has become more democratic, then it must also be shown that the distribution, financing and marketing of music have become democratised too. I shall return to the idea of technological democratisation later in this chapter. It is enough, for the moment, to recognise that Jones has shown how ambitious and difficult the task of writing histories of music technology can be.

Michael Atherton's (1990) Australian Made Australian Played is a recent attempt to deal with the history of Australian music technology, although it is in essence a semi-biographical look at Australian musical instrument makers. Atherton says: "I began to write this book, to tell the story of a remarkable number of largely unrecognised craftspersons making an astounding variety of world-class musical instruments". It is, therefore, an important contribution to the history of Australian-made music technology. However, the book cannot be considered a social history of music technology in Australian music because Atherton clearly has a much narrower focus. For example, he is not concerned with including the use of technology that has been imported into Australia; he is not interested in mass communications technology such as radio; he shows only fleeting interest in technologies like instrument amplifiers and signal modifiers; and he does not have an interest in recording or high fidelity stereo equipment. Equally significantly, Atherton presents no social or economic overview within which to situate his history.

Organs are not musical instruments of prime importance to this thesis. However, considering the lack of material written on the history of music technology in Australia, E. N. Matthews' (1969) Colonial Organs and Organbuilders, a study of late nineteenth century and early twentieth century Australian organ manufacturing, is of more than passing interest. Of particular interest is Matthews treatment of the processes involved in constructing an organ. We are presented with a picture of the work conditions that existed in George Fincham's organ factory in Melbourne. Issues dealt with here include the apprenticing and training of artisans, wages, hours of work, and employer-employee relations. Although the book only deals in a limited way with these issues, it is important because it establishes some sense of the practices and conditions in an important musical instrument factory at that time. It would of course be dangerous to suggest that it must be taken without question that Fincham's conditions and practices were typical, but neither is there any reason to think that Fincham's were markedly different in their basic character from other firms. Fincham's, then, may serve as a reasonable illustration of work conditions and practices for the period, in the absence of further research.

Game's (1976) The Music Sellers is a valuable source of information which reflects on music retailing activities in Australia for much of this century. The Music Sellers is the history of Melbourne music retailing shop Allan's (Allan and Company). Of particular relevance, is the wealth of evidence describing the types and numbers of musical instruments sold at different times by Allan's and the reflections that those details give of the state of the music technology market and popular tastes at those times. Much use has been made by Game of Allan's advertising material, with some surprising results. For instance, a product called the "Master Healthizer" is an example of a technology not specifically designed with musicians or music audiences in mind, but one which nevertheless is a technology that was being sold in a musical context:

This wonderful machine makes every muscle ripple and quiver under the zestful vibrations it sets up, and by bringing the blood stream through the ugly fatty deposits, gently but surely disperses them in a natural manner. It is of special benefit to musicians in keeping the muscles supple, and to singers in reducing superfluous fat without injuring the voice (p. 171).

Although The Music Sellers contains little in the way of argument and analysis, its descriptiveness and the fact that it is based largely on privately held and previously unpublished primary sources are of particular value.

Williams' (1995) Australia's Radio Pioneers and Geeves' (1995) The Dawn of Australia's Radio Broadcasting have chronicled some aspects of the history of the Australian radio/audio manufacturing industry. Although these works are also lacking in argument and analysis their contributions of relevant documents such as advertisements, personal reminiscences and extracts from the industry press such as Radio (TV) and Hobbies, and Wireless Weekly allow them to be used as documentary collections. Williams' work in particular can be used for the insights it allows into the level of organisation and adaptability in the industry in the post-war years. Within Williams work, there are important clues which when placed in the context of wider research help sustain the focus on specific organisational weaknesses within the Australian music technology manufacturing sector.

Finally, Moyal's (1985) Clear Across Australia, an examination of the history of telecommunications in Australia, is important for establishing an argument about Australia's lack of technological capacity. It is clear from Moyal's research that there was no coherent policy for the capacity to develop the latest in telecommunications technology, and particularly the capacity to develop such technology locally. Moyal argues that this incapacity has been endemic in Australia and that World War II serves to highlight Australia's lack of communications infrastructure and dependence on foreign manufacturers. What is particularly important about this work is that it establishes the existence of a basic weakness that was evident well before the advent of transistors in the post-war years. It is made clear, therefore, that an ad hoc approach to technological development in Australia, particularly at policy level, has been a fundamental weakness. Furthermore, Australian technological incapacities, which have become evident in the transistor and information ages have roots in the pre-war era. This kind of policy weakness is one of the key themes of this thesis and so Moyal's valuable contribution must be recognised.

Clearly, there are many gaps that need to be filled in order to bring a genuine social history of technology in the Australian music economy to fruition. However, the existing literature is important to this project because it has tended to focus more narrowly than I am seeking to do. This body of research provides many important details of life in the Australian music economy which I have extracted and placed in broader analysis.

Australian Popular Music and Popular Culture Studies

Despite what Breen (1992, p. 63) calls the "paucity of locally published material" Australian research into popular music has increased noticeably in recent years. Some of this research offers the historian a great deal of help in understanding the often complex ways in which the popular music industry works. In particular, the commercial and economic structures of the music recording and publishing sector of the industry and the cultural intricacies of music enjoyment require careful attention. Popular music and culture studies tend to be interdisciplinary in approach, drawing on sociology, political economy, musicology and anthropology. It is this interdisciplinary approach which may help historians to better conceptualise the interrelationship of technology and music, and provide historians a more sophisticated and powerful set of tools with which to analyse the history of music technology.

Despite the value of popular music studies the early Australian contributions to popular music studies carry some unsophisticated views about the relationship between technology and music. Breen's (1987) Missing in Action made the first attempt to pull together the fragmented early thoughts of a number of commentators on Australian popular music, but the approach by at least one of its contributors is uninformed by research into cultural imperialism. The chapter by Madigan strings together ill-considered statements such as "the triumph of gadgets and gimmicks over poetry and song", and that "American machinery [is] imposing the American way of life on us" (p. 114). This view adds little to our knowledge and acts as a warning against embarking on an historical analysis of music technology in such an uninformed way.

A more recent and more useful work on the production of popular music in Australia is Hayward's edited collection of essays, From Pop to Punk to Postmodernism (1992), which may represent a new stage in Australian contemporary popular music studies. This book challenges the accepted wisdom of British and American research, and their relevance to Australian circumstances. Turner (p. 21) for instance attacks the claim that rock culture is quintessentially urban, when he argues that in Australia suburban pub and club culture is at least as important as inner city music culture. The warning for the historian is clear: do not assume that Australian popular music is a monolithic entity, with a monolithic audience. It also warns that overseas models cannot necessarily be translated into the Australian context.

Despite warnings about uncritically using overseas models to understand Australian popular culture, it is still possible to adapt some of the broad directions of the international literature. Such an example is Rowe's Popular Cultures (1994), which sets out a clear analytical scope for his study of British popular culture, which is equally applicable to Australian research. Rowe treats popular culture:

as an ensemble of pleasurable forms, meanings, and practices, whose constituents are neither static nor unambiguous, and which cannot be insulated from the social processes and structures in which they are embedded (p. 7).

Rowe therefore seeks to address the social, economic, cultural, political and ideological to develop an understanding of popular culture. In a similar vein, Cunningham and Turner's The Media in Australia (1993) examines the Australian media (including the rock music industry) by investigating it in terms of cultural institutions, industries, producers of texts and audiences. Furthermore, they advocate an interdisciplinary approach which includes sociology, political science, political economy and history.

Historians might expand their views of music technology consumption in Australia and look at suburban expressions of modernity as Lesley Johnson (1988) and Bruce Johnson (1994) suggest. Furthermore, Breen's chapter in From Pop to Punk to Postmodernism concentrates on the links between the major recording companies, the independent record companies, and radio. He argues that a symbiotic relationship has developed among these sections of the Australian music industry and that this relationship works to provide a broad range of music styles that would otherwise be impossible to achieve. Breen in fact identifies a dynamic interrelationship between technology, music production and consumption, and commerce. Breen therefore, emphasises the degree to which more specific attention to the details of the architecture of the music economy, which are not always present in general social and cultural histories, are beneficial in helping to produce useful analyses of culture and technology interrelationships.


Much of the analysis and community discussion in Australia of issues related to technology and culture such as cultural sovereignty, technology transfer, and democratisation through technology are not adequately informed by recent research. Biddiss (1993) has shown that arguments about the democratisation of music production are based on simplistic assumptions. This serves as a reminder to us of the need to test assumptions in this and other areas of debate. By looking at Eriksen (1984, p. 6), who has seen Australia as simply a "host country" for transnational recording companies and stated that local (Australian) music production is irrelevant to transnational concerns, we can begin to see how narrow perspectives can deaden analysis. Unfortunately, Eriksen does not recognise the capacity of local music producers and consumers to resist being marginalised by the transnationals.

This thesis seeks to move away from relatively one-dimensional analyses such as Eriksen's to a more complex approach where a broader focus on the multiple relationships between technology and the music economy are examined. To this end, the cultural imperialism debate will be examined in the light of the rival sociological theories of dependency and effect. Similarly, the technological democratisation of music debate, in which assumptions such as that new, cheap and easy-to-use technologies facilitate access to participation in the music industry, will be questioned. Much of the argument carried out in these debates will be shown to be too narrowly focused and incapable of dealing with subtleties in the relationship between technology and culture.

Cultural Imperialism and Technology Transfer

Debates about the effects of cultural imperialism in popular culture have particular importance to Australia because Australia has often been described as simply a "host country" for transnational recording companies. I have also shown above that in a more extreme case it has also been asserted that "foreign mercenaries" who work for American record companies "despise and manipulate Australian culture", and use American machinery to "force" the American way of life upon Australians (Madigan 1987, p. 114). What is displayed in the above comments, although in a rather unsophisticated manner, is an analysis of cultural imperialism which places technology in the front line. Therefore, the issue of cultural imperialism is an important one to be considered in the context of the history of music technology.

A more sophisticated example of the treatment of the cultural imperialism issue in Australia is White's (1992, p. 62) Inventing Australia when summarising how Australian intellectuals have constructed a national identity. That identity was constructed through a framework which saw that Australia's national identity, according to White, was:

Gained by virtue of the fact that it was a new society, politically democratic, culturally materialistic. In this process it was not creating anything distinctive, but simply following in the footsteps of the archetypal new society, the United States.

However, dependency theory based analyses such as these, tend to rely on the assumption that audiences are passive receivers of a one-way flow of cultural and technological products, rather than active participants both receiving and sending culture, and technological innovation (Salwen 1991, p. 31). Dependency theory based analyses of cultural and technological development can be blinkered to the fact that Australia has been subject not just to American but also Anglo-Celtic and other influences. More importantly, Australia has generated cultural and technological development which is not to adequately described only in terms of foreign origins.

Rickard's (1988) Australia: A Cultural History concentrates on the issue of cultural sovereignty in Australia too, but with a more clearly defined view of the implications of cultural imperialism in Australia. The implication of lost, or never held, cultural sovereignty seems clear when he claims that "the new technology which was changing suburban life was American-dominated"; and that in the 1920s the adoption by Australian builders and architects of the California bungalow resulted in "art-deco picture houses, electric trams and soda fountains" (p. 133 & 134). However, Rickard has carefully framed this debate to avoid excessive dependency theory based argument in saying:

My assumption has been that a provincial culture is by definition derivative, and that it is necessary to keep in view the continuing relationship with the metropolitan culture. The paradox is that if one focuses on the derivative, one gains a new perception of what might ultimately be seen as 'distinctive' (p. i).

This framework provides a good position from which to begin analysis. Rickard's position is also supported by Katharine Brisbane's (1991, p. 10) view that: "From the start the entertainment culture [in Australia] was provincial yet, paradoxically, international in a real sense. In due course it matured into a cosmopolitan culture, gathering to itself the tastes and cultural traditions of many nationalities". The phrase "gathering to itself", is the key to Brisbane's approach. Brisbane sees the cultural development of Australia as something Australians have actively done themselves. Australians have in some way chosen a cultural landscape, or at least chosen and adapted significant parts of it; it is a landscape that is partly local in origin and partly international.

The flaws in dependency theory arguments have been clearly demonstrated by Straubhaar (1991) who offers a more detailed argument than Rickard and Brisbane. The one-way street scenario in the cultural imperialism debate is central to dependency theories, but unnecessarily restrictive. Effects theorists have examined ways in which the flow of cultural products affects its receivers and how the receivers respond as active participants. Straubhaar (p. 39) has argued that examinations of inequalities in media and cultural flows by dependency theorists, such as those done by Cardoso, and Salinas and Paldán, are simplistic. These researchers have examined cultural flows from North America to South America and have developed a somewhat one-dimensional concept of dependent development between the third world and the first world. Straubhaar is not claiming there is equality in these relationships but that the receivers possess varying degrees of power and initiative in resisting the inequalities. What can be said about the exchange of cultural commodities in a global market is that a "continuum of possibilities, not just a dichotomous state of dependency or dominance" exists (p. 41). Straubhaar has shown that audiences actively search for "cultural proximity" in cultural products, in so far as they look for national or local products in preference to foreign products, thereby resisting, even if they do not completely eliminate, cultural imperialism. Furthermore, Straubhaar adds force to this argument by pointing out that interdependencies exist in inter- and intra-regional markets, principally through local genre adaptations of products from other cultures. This argument supplants the idea that only an "American" global popular culture market exists. Although Australia is a developed nation, this line of analysis is appropriate for the cultural and technological conditions which prevail in Australia because of its peripheral location in global markets.

Recorded music in Australia has been regarded as being dominated by the major record companies and the Australian company, Festival Records. In 1984, these companies took an 85 per cent share of the Australian record market. Although this seems an extraordinary domination by a few companies, Festival was second to EMI with a 20 per cent share and independent labels took another fifteen per cent (Eriksen 1984). Eriksen's figures, although not his argument, indicate that national labels control about one third of the local market and that American transnationals have to struggle with European and Japanese companies to gain a share of the remainder of the Australian market. The argument about the strength of a global cultural hegemony is rendered even less convincing by Negus (1992, pp. 152, & 154) who argues that record companies can really only try to control distribution systems, recording facilities, manufacturing arrangements and promotional outlets, rather than music content, style and meaning. In other words, it is dangerous to see the popular music industry as a simple dichotomy of corporations and audience, or centre and periphery, rather than as a dynamic in which both corporations and audiences, centre and periphery, are receivers and transmitters of culture, working in reference to each other, and other social and cultural factors.

Technology can work in opposing directions in cultural industries. On the one hand, it provides record companies with the hardware to control consumption and production of fetishistic commodities (Harley 1993, p. 212). On the other hand, recently home recording studio technology has weakened the control of the record companies and producers by giving bands access to good quality production equipment at home, thereby removing the cost of commercial recording facilities (Jones 1992, p. 10). Also, commercial studios are relatively public sites to which record company representatives have easy access, whereas the private site of the home studio denies record companies easy access and therefore restricts their more direct influence over the production process than they would enjoy in a commercial studio. Furthermore, it has been argued that an aesthetic of "DIY garage multi media… street tech" (Harley 1993, p. 224) has been allowed to develop largely in private and then assimilated into the corporate view of what constitutes popular music.

Moreover, technology has facilitated "geo-cultural hybridisation" where, for example, samples of Italian techno-pop, black American rhythms and white American heavy metal might be combined by the use of software that can manipulate such elements as pitch and tempo (Harley 1993, p. 225). This is another illustration of the idea of intra- and inter-regional interdependencies in music and technology. It is also evident, as Breen (1992, p. 53) has pointed out, that the major record companies have no hesitation in associating with independent labels. Through these associations the major companies can exert influences upon the independents through distribution deals and manufacturing arrangements. In turn, the majors are willingly influenced by the independents, signing many bands directly from the independent companies after they have shown they can attract strong local support. In this way, the independent record companies act as bridges between "street culture" and the transnationals.

Although American popular culture often sets the standards for world consumption, it is possible for Australian bands to achieve international success. Yothu Yindi, Midnight Oil, INXS, and Crowded House represent stylistically diverse approaches to popular music, yet they are all products of the Australian popular music industry and represent, to very different degrees, mixtures of local meanings and stylistic elements with global meaning and style. There is certainly no hint that such bands are simply stamped out by cynical and opportunistic corporate American transnationals or that they are passive and totally dependent on foreign cultural input. Clearly, these bands have influenced others in Australia, and elsewhere, and have been influenced in turn by others, both local and from overseas. Furthermore, this process can be seen as an important source of cultural diversity.

Similar "imperialism" arguments can also be developed for the transfer of music technology. Although Australia has imported much of its music technology it has, just as in cultural production, always had some capacity to manufacture locally. However, it is not just the process of manufacturing that is important; it is necessary to recognise innovation and invention as important activities as well. I will show that Australian music technology like the Fairlight music computer and the Passac instrument preamplifier were significant contributions to the global market, even if such commercially successful Australian innovations and inventions have been rare. Smaller innovations, like removable car radios produced by small local firms in the 1960s, which enjoyed some local success, need to be considered as well. Therefore, it can be said that despite the inequalities and dependencies, those dependencies are parts of a complex and variable phenomenon which dependency theorists neglect.

Ihde (1990) has provided a convincing argument for a treatment of technology transfer, in a way similar to effects theory in cultural imperialism. Ihde (p. 130) claims that technology carries cultural values and meanings, and that despite the fact that technology transfer could make the recipient culturally dependent, that view must be moderated by a recognition of the "embedded cultural matrix" in the technology:

At the complex level of cultural hermeneutics, technology may be variently embedded; the "same" technology in another cultural context becomes quite a "different" technology (p. 144).

Just because a technological artefact is easily assimilated in the cultural setting from which it was created does not assure it such a comfortable fit in another culture. It may need to be modified, or it may be put to quite different uses to be acceptable or useful in another culture. This aspect of technological innovation and diversification should not be underestimated. Colin White (1992, p. 157) has placed Ihde's argument in a specifically Australian context by claiming that Australians have always had to adapt technology from America, Britain and Europe to a very different environment because of Australia's "different resource inputs, a high-risk environment, [and] a distinctive factor supply position".

Recent literature suggests that it cannot be assumed that Australia has been saturated with foreign cultural and technological products at the total expense of local Australian products. It has been argued that new cultural hybrids have been able to emerge, that inter- and intra-regional exchanges are possible, and that those exchanges may actually provide audiences or consumers with more cultural and technological diversity than would otherwise be available. Most important is the argument that countries like Australia are not simply made up of passive, dependent receivers of American cultural and technological imperialism, but of active choosers and modifiers of cultural and technological imports, and also of occasional original producers. Having said that, it must be kept in mind that there are still basic inequalities in Australia's cultural and technological relations with other more powerful nations, and we must recognise the presence of these inequalities.

Technological Democratisation

White (1992, p. 56) has connected mass communications technology, which is central to the production and diffusion of popular music and popular culture, to increasing acceptance of the notion of democracy in Australia, America and Britain in the early years of this century. It is important that White has made this connection because it relates to the frequently raised issue of technologically induced democratisation. This is a complex issue which is dependent on a multiplicity of historical variables yet it is often dealt with in rather simplistic terms.

When the term democratisation is used in relation to the production and consumption of music its meaning is often vague or, as Curran (1991) has argued in relation to media debates, it is often invoked in a framework which seeks to legitimise neo-liberal deregulation or market-forces agendas. Durant (1990, p. 193) states that proponents of democratisation arguments (particularly the manufacturers of music technologies) base their argument on three general assumptions: first, that good quality music technology is cheap and therefore anyone can afford it; second, that all consumers have influence at the design stage of new music technology through market-forces (demand); third, that anyone can learn to use new technology because the skill level required is either low or easily attained because new technologies can be used "intuitively". Two advertisements in the 1990 Sonics Year Book help to illustrate these positions. A Commodore computer advertisement claims its computer is accessible to everyone: "whether you're nine or ninety, student or teacher". An advertisement for the Zoom 9002 digital signal modifier poses a hypothetical scenario, which it is implied is based on questions all musicians have asked, that: "Some day they'll make a digital rack processor small enough to wear on your [guitar] strap". Zoom's response is that "they [or rather we] did" and that it is not just a multi-effects processor but a personal studio. Zoom is promoting the idea that they are responding to the "democracy" of consumer demands.

The argument that increased access to the means of music production has been achieved through low cost, easy-to-use technology is weakened when it is considered that a medium priced Roland home keyboard sampler costs $1595, a Tascam four track mini studio $990 and Cubase 2.5 software package $895 (Sonics Year Book 1994). These three items alone account for almost $3,000 and when the cost of a personal computer, microphones, amplifiers, musical instruments and other basic recording equipment is added, the investment for a musician with an unreliable and low income is considerable. Furthermore, to set up a good quality interactive music studio, it is estimated that a minimum investment of $50,000 is necessary (Sly 1994, p. 65). These figures show that arguments claiming easy accessibility to music production based on low price are suspect.

However, despite the costs it is clear, as Jones (1992, pp. 7, 141 & 168) points out, that more and better quality home-made demo tapes are being produced now than ever before. Here Jones is pointing to the increased volumes of good quality home-made demo tapes that record companies have reported seeing since the late 1980s. Despite this trend it must be remembered that demo tape production is at the lowest end of the music production process, and that possessing a good demo tape does not imply successful entry into the commercial music business: a demo tape represents nothing more to an unsigned band than a résumé does to a job seeker. An additional problem for musicians, and for the democratisation argument, is that the speed at which new technology appears is faster than the rate at which musicians can afford to purchase it, the result being that most home studios are made up of largely superseded equipment. This means that the use of a commercial studio will often be necessary to achieve certain effects (Biddiss 1993, p. 113).

It is not just in the recording process that democratisation claims can be unravelled. For example, it is absurd to claim that all musicians make equal contributions to defining the specifications and protocols of technology. This is a crude market-forces argument that relies on the assumption that consumer demand dictates what producers can sell. I am not arguing that manufacturers do not react to consumer demand, but that they do so in consideration of their own commercial priorities (Durant 1990, p. 193). Therefore, when manufacturers employ highly trained technicians and élite musicians to help in the development of their products the voice of the ordinary customer is quietened somewhat. As a result, technology may end up being designed for the uses that élites have, which may be different from those of the DIY producer.

There are difficulties in measuring exactly what the skill levels required for music production are but it is important to do so if democratisation arguments are to be assessed. On top of knowing how to use various software packages and electronic devices there is what Durant (1990, p. 195) calls "passive musical literacy". This kind of literacy, or intellectual technology, involves such things as producers having enough knowledge of music history to be able to place samples that allude to past styles and events in songs, and understanding signifiers of social values and meanings such as riffs and "sounds". Furthermore, in multi-media productions, the technical skills required cover such a diverse range of processes that it is unlikely that individuals would possess enough of them to do a satisfactory job on their own (Sly 1994, p. 40). Therefore, the use of even the simplest technology may not be "intuitive" as many assume it to be.

It is also useful to test democratisation arguments at each stage of the production process: entry requirements are different at different stages of the production process and owning a Zoom 9002, for instance, is only relevant to a small part of the overall process. This position means that the democratisation claims made by Commodore and Zoom are further weakened because they consider only isolated points in the total process. Furthermore, the Zoom advertisement emphasises power, possession, cost effectiveness, control and capacity, all of which are apparently invested in the customer by the technology. The advertisement seeks to create an aura of completeness and therefore power and control over the music production process through a technological determinist approach. However, the production process is more complex and expansive than playing music in a bedroom, studio or concert.

Even an understanding of the business processes in the stages of production that occur after a song has been recorded, such as book keeping, promotion and distribution, are essential to give a recording a wide audience and to recover the costs of production. There are less obvious obstacles to the notion of democratisation including restrictions on copyright materials like sounds, melodies and lyrics, the free availability of which is not increased by technology (Durant 1990, p. 195). It therefore becomes difficult to argue that technology necessarily provides a remedy for people who do not already possess adequate business and legal skills, and passive literacy in music technology. For the music production process to be democratised, we must also democratise the administrative, marketing, retailing and other aspects of the process as well.

Furthermore, although it has been argued that technology can increase cultural diversity, it can also limit the access of its users to culturally diverse musical styles. A representative of the recording equipment manufacturer Tascam has explained that:

It's damn difficult to reproduce [non western] music electronically… Really what do you sell more of, traditional Japanese music played on the koto, or rock and roll? Rock and roll is common throughout the world, and they're building instruments to create rock and roll (Jones 1992, p. 82).

Similarly, an official at the electronics company ART has said:

The vast majority of the market is duplicating the sounds that they hear on records [cliche sounds]… Unfortunately, often products end up being designed to have the ability to do that. Sometimes it may take away from their ability to be a truly creative tool… If you make a reverb these days it has to be able to do a gated snare reverb that sounds like Phil Collins snare sound (Jones 1992, p. 85).

This does not represent democratic access: it is a process of exclusion, even if this may be unintentional. Therefore, it is not necessarily the case that technology automatically leads to democratisation.

What this discussion of technological democratisation must lead us to is the view that it is more useful to discuss levels of "accessibility" at specific points in the music production process than to resort to vague generalisations like "democratisation". What can be said in view of recent scholarship is that degrees of accessibility at different stages of the production process have been opened up to some extent, but that a broad-based democratisation is naïve. Certainly, home studios are not readily affordable to everyone, but they are not as expensive as the $350 a day that commercial studios could charge (see Sonics Year Book 1994). Digital sound libraries and bulletin boards accessed through phone lines mean that transporting information has been freed up to a considerable degree (Biddiss 1993, p. 113), but not everyone has access to the Internet or the skills to use it to obtain sound files and other information. Finally, the passive music literacy and business skills necessary to be successful in the music production process are not necessarily made more pervasive by new technology which can mean that key areas of the production process remain beyond the access of even many of the most avid music technology users.



By building on the primary and secondary sources this thesis can develop its analysis of the history of technology in the Australian music economy in three important ways: first, by bringing forward new knowledge through the examination of ABS and CBCS economic data on imports, exports, and domestic production of music technology; second, by informing analysis of those data with recent research in the fields of economics, economic history and political economy; and third, by utilising theoretical developments in technology studies, cultural studies and popular music studies to show the way to making sophisticated analyses of the relationships between technology, music and the economy.

The secondary economic history and political economy sources will be used to place my analysis in a broader context than is available from primary sources alone. I will seek to contextualise the Australian music economy within the global music economy and within the whole Australian economy. This is a particularly powerful tactic because it becomes possible to establish whether the Australian music economy was at different times rail-roaded into particular directions along with the rest of Australia or the world, and if there were times when it went against the tide. The same analytical benefits can be claimed for attempting to contextualise the music technology manufacturing sector of the Australian music economy with Australian manufacturing generally and manufacturing on a global scale.

Secondary sources covering the history of technology will be employed for two central tasks. First, they will be used to highlight the large gaps in our knowledge of the history of technology in Australia. However, the literature still serves to provide much valuable historical data and argument which will be appropriately utilised throughout this thesis. The second, and equally important task, is to highlight the complexity of social, economic, political and technological matrices which historical analyses of technology must account for. This will be achieved by showing how theory on cultural sovereignty, technology transfer and technological democratisation have raised a range of different perspectives that historians of technology can capitalise on. Therefore, the task for the historian is to combine multiple perspectives into one analysis so that a broader perspective and more complete picture might be made: in this case, to examine the relationship between technology and organisation at the level of policy-making, the level of the firm and at the level of the consumer.

Popular music and culture studies research will be used in my analysis to show the complexity of the Australian music economy in its local and global interactions, and to raise an argument that music technology consumption in Australia can be seen as an expression of popular modernity. It is the issue of expressions of popular modernity through music technology consumption which is most intriguing. If it is true that this kind of consumption is an expression of popular modernity, then it is possible to make a significant contribution to the understanding of the cultural dynamics of demand in the history of technology.

This chapter has also examined a number of important areas in which debate about the rôle and effects of new music technology are currently being conducted. Rather than trying to find answers to any specific questions relating to the history of technology in the Australian music economy, this chapter has examined the assumptions upon which those debates rest and has identified some appropriate questions to ask about them. This approach has been taken to show that current debates around cultural imperialism, technology transfer, and technological democratisation are easily bogged down by misleading assumptions that restrict their potential to deal with problems in ways that are sensitive to the variables that impact upon them. For example, if the debate on cultural imperialism is centred on a set of assumptions that overestimates the control of foreign cultural and technology producers in shaping Australian demand, and underestimates the degree of active participation of Australian consumers, then the continued success of Australian music cannot be accounted for. My argument is not that Australia is culturally and technologically autonomous from America or Britain, but that neither is it wholly dependent on either of those countries. In short, a constantly changing range of states between autonomy and dependence is possible, and this range must be acknowledged in any analysis.

It has also been shown that the issue of technological democratisation in the music economy is restrictive, and that those who use that term make unrealistically narrow assumptions about the extent of the music production process and what it takes to be able to move a product from one end of it to the other. Therefore, while technology has not democratised the music production or consumption processes in a general way, it may be possible to identify specific aspects of those processes of production and consumption which have, to varying degrees, been opened or made more accessible to some people.




Pure technology that is not exposed to social influences does not exist nor is there such a thing as a society that is not exposed to technology. Because the rôle and effect of technology in society is influenced by factors as diverse as science, economics, law, cultural movements and business practices it is necessary to be able to approach the history of music technology in the Australian music economy from a position which allows for flexible and wide-ranging analysis. The first part of this chapter introduces and summarises a number of important theoretical approaches to the nature and effect of music technology which provide an intellectual background to recent debates. Among these issues are questions of the dehumanisation of music by technology, the commodification of music through the linkage of technology and popular music with commerce, and the industrialisation and mass production of music.

In the second part of this chapter I shall examine the three main types of historiography used in the study of the history of technology. The first of these approaches is technological determinism, which explains the history of technology from a position which claims that technology is autonomous from social forces and, when imposed on a society, dictates how that society will change. Social or socio-economic determinism is the second of these approaches. Social determinists see technology as not the shaper of society but as being shaped by society. In this approach it is often argued that the history of technology is determined by consumer demand. It will be argued that neither technological nor social determinist approaches are sufficient on their own because it is clear that both kinds of determining forces can be observed and both must be accounted for. An additional problem is that they are teleological in that they project predictable trajectories for technological development. An approach which avoids these kinds of analytical restrictions is the seamless web or systems approach: it casts a wide analytical net in which the subtleties and contingencies of the interrelationship between technology and society can be captured in a deterministically "neutral" analytical framework.

In the final part of this chapter I shall look at a definition of technology which builds on the seamless web approach. By using Foucault's (1988) framework of four types of technology (technologies of production, technologies of sign systems, technologies of power and technologies of the self) I am able to show not only that the interrelationship between technology and culture is complex and subtle, but also that technology and music (or any form of cultural production) are not discrete entities. Music, technology and economics, for example, are inseparable and interdependent parts of the infrastructure of cultural production, an infrastructure which consists of an assemblage of technologies which requires all these elements to be present for production to occur on any level. Creating a dichotomy between music and technology is avoided in this approach because art is not privileged, or rarefied, but is seen as technological too. The assemblage of technologies approach seeks to reinforce the deterministically "neutral" analytical framework in a more structured way than the seamless web approach does. It allows us to talk about "hardware" technology as a special entity which is not separate from society because it does not invest the term technology with any non-social meaning. In addition, the language of the assemblage of technologies approach makes more explicit than current research does the notion that not only is technology at times socially shaped but also socially shaping. Furthermore, if the assemblage of technologies approach is also informed by the non-reductionist determinism used in chaos theory, then more clarity can be brought to the understanding of the patterns of cause and effect which can be widely distributed throughout the assemblage of technologies.

Foucault's definition also helps to bring attention to a wide range of technologies of production in music which include traditional acoustic musical instruments, electronic musical instruments, recording studio equipment, records and the electronic equipment used in music reproduction. However, the focus of analysis in this project is not just the technologies of production, rather, it is the relationship between technologies of production and modes of organisation in society. The analysis is derived from an examination of the ways in which technologies of production are interconnected with technologies of organisation – primarily technologies of power and the self, and to a lesser extent technologies of sign systems.

Finally, the analytical framework developed in this chapter takes note of the economic history of the Australian music economy. Because economic activity is an essential part of the seamless web or assemblage of technologies it must be clearly mapped out to provide some of the foundation stones for this and future research on the Australian music economy. Benjamin and the others discussed in the first part of this chapter have shown that commerce, economics and industrialisation are critical features in the twentieth century music landscape.


Philosophical and sociological debates about the effects of technology on music, and cultural production in general, have been going on in earnest since Max Weber's book The Rational and Social Foundations of Music (1958a [1921]) and Walter Benjamin's The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1976 [1936]). Both of these works appear to have influenced Adorno's (1990 [1941]) well known essay On Popular Music which criticised "new music" (jazz) for its rationalisation and reproducibility, and because it had become a commodity causing a debasement of music's essential qualities. This situation according to Adorno (1990 & 1973) resulted in a loss of true musical character and caused a regression in the standards of musical appreciation. Adorno's critique depends therefore, upon being able to show that "serious" music and technology are separate and incompatible with each other. This position is clear in Adorno's statement in Philosophy of Modern Music (1973, p. 194) that "music… has become the victim of its own confusion [and] fears in the face of expansion of technology… [to the point] that it may regressively fall victim to the contradiction between itself and technology". Adorno thought that popular music was a product of "the cult of the machine" and the "machine age", indeed, popular music was "machine music" and, therefore, inferior to "serious" music. The most extreme point in Adorno's lashing of popular music and technology appears in Dialectic of Enlightenment (Horkheimer & Adorno 1973 [1944], p. 121) where the "culture industry", Adorno's pejorative term for the popular culture industries, is said to be technological, ideological and deliberately to produce commercial "rubbish". Although it can be shown that popular music is commercial, ideological and technological it is seriously misleading to argue that the end product of this kind of construct is necessarily rubbish. If popular music is socially and technologically constructed then it is possible to show that all music is social. If all music is social then it can be shown to be commercial, ideological and technological. Adorno's view of popular music as unemotional, mechanical and largely meaningless also lacks an appropriate understanding of the social context of popular music. As Johnson (1988, p. 7) has argued, Adorno's analysis came from the position of a cultural élite which led him to claim that the development of a culture industry was a way of duping audiences (for purely commercial reasons) into relying only on the market place to find art. This theme, which we could characterise as the "false consciousness of popular culture" argument, is what underpins all of Adorno's critique of popular music and is based on what Tony Bennett has called the unresolved contradiction "that artistic practices are socially determined, and Art is not" (Goodall 1995, p. 37).

It is insufficient to view the music, technology and commerce interrelationship in Adorno's dystopian way. All kinds of art rely, to some extent, on a symbiosis of economics and technology. There would be only vocal music if there were no musical instruments (technology) and only private performance if there were no audience or funding infrastructure (markets and economics) to support it. It is also simplistic to suggest that commercial interests alone dictate what audiences hear without the need to respond to audience demand, which may be independent of the desires of commercial interests. One of the centre pieces of Adorno's dismissal of popular music is his argument that it is standardised in terms of structure, melody and harmony, and is therefore a poor vehicle for "true" creativity. Yet this position is undermined by Adorno's own statement about "serious" music that:

The state of technique appears as a problem in every measure which he [the composer] dares to conceive: with every measure technique as a whole demands of him that he do it justice and that he give the single correct answer permitted by technique at any given moment. The compositions themselves are nothing but such answers – nothing but the solution of a technical picture puzzle (1973, pp. 36-7).

As I will show later in this chapter, the kind of technical construction (or technique) which Adorno has described above can be seen as technological and therefore not only is popular music technological but Adorno has provided the evidence that "serious" music is too. Adorno's error was to assume that there is a pure state in which "serious" music can be found that is free from technology or commerce; in other words, technique or technology and creativity are mutually exclusive. Therefore, although Adorno developed a grasp of some of the characteristics of popular music and highlighted its commercial and industrial basis, he was unable to come to terms with the broader interrelationship between the culture or anthropology of the interrelationships between technology, music and commerce.

However, what is important about Adorno is that his sociology of popular music, if not of "serious" music, shows that music and society are, according to McClary and Walser (1990), homologues of each other. Therefore if Adorno's argument were recast, to say that all music can be similarly seen as homologous and that technology is socially constructed, then music and technology would not be seen as dichotomous. Indeed, as I will show later, this homologous approach has been adopted by Attali (1987).

Walter Benjamin also engaged in the debate about the "machine age" and the technology versus music dichotomy but rather than seeing technologically produced popular music as a way of manipulating mass taste, as Adorno does, Benjamin sees technologically produced and reproduced music as a way of empowering the masses by making the music their own. This position, as I will show in later chapters, echoes claims that popular music is an expression of "the voice of the people". Empowerment, in this case, is achieved because the reproduction of art makes the experience of it "collective" by making it more easily and more widely distributed (Goodall 1995, p. 53). Central to Benjamin's analysis is the idea that the reproduction, or the possibility of the technological reproduction of a work of art, such as a musical work, causes those works to be designed to be reproduced. Certainly, the three minute pop song that had to fit onto one side of a "single" record accords with this idea.

In Benjamin's formulation there is no longer an authentic original work because all the copies of the work are the same as the original (this is especially so in the digital age). For Benjamin the authentic is lost and with the loss of authenticity, art, "instead of being based on ritual,… [is] based on… politics" because in the music industry for example, the stockpiling and distribution of recorded music can be controlled by élites (Benjamin 1976, p. 226). The result of this process, as Johnson (1988, p. 6) states it, is that the work of art is placed in the listener's own world and the "aura" is replaced by what we might call a "mystification" of the production process which makes that process an exclusive domain occupied by technical élites. Yet, despite the loss of the aura, art is enhanced because its reproduction means that it can be seen and studied in new ways, and technology can allow for its performance and reproduction to be done in new ways through editing, electronic sound effects and so on (Goodall 1995, pp. 52-3).

Goodwin (1990, pp. 267-70), however, cautions us against the idea that the aura is so easily displaced. He notes that groups such as Milli Vanilli, however, who were exposed as mimes (or actors) instead of musicians were quickly rejected by the music industry and audiences: their aura of authenticity was shattered and they could not command any focus of attention as authentic musicians. Milli Vanilli were able to keep their miming a secret for some years; therefore, the mystification of the production process, it would seem, helped maintain the aura by keeping Milli Vanilli's unauthentic rock music behaviour hidden from its public through recording and reproduction technology, and music technocrats. The use of technology in popular music presents another problem for the lost aura argument. Goodwin (p. 266) states that:

The "recognition" involved in knowing how to hear electronic music depends in part on understanding the associations attached to any given sound. One element of this is our recognition of rhythms and timbre. While digital technology might appear more "real" than analogue (since it can reproduce an actual snare drum sound instead of a synthetic simulation, a real bass guitar sound, not a synth-bass simulation), the opposite is often true: in pop's digital age, analogue sounds are the real thing, however automated or synthetic. And as electronic technology has become naturalised, audiences have become habituated to seeing pop performers as technicians, computer programmers, DJs, or studio engineers.

Therefore, "authenticity" may be socially constructed in surprising ways at times but it clearly does exist and has persisted into the 1990s, even if it can be constructed in different ways at different times and in different music cultures.

Although in Benjamin's analysis music becomes the property of "the people", the production process is not "democratised" because it is done in a remote location by élites. Taking this notion further, Attali (1987) has argued for a political economy of music in which technology, especially the technology of the recording studio, defines the work relations in the production of music along rational scientific lines whereby only highly-skilled technocrats such as programmers, engineers and producers, or musicians who acquire technical studio skills, can enter and take creative control. Thus the division of labour between technical and non-technical people is made. There is therefore, no room in the studio for "the people". In fact, Goodwin claims that "non-technical musicians" may attend the studio for a small fraction of the total time that it takes for a song to be produced. In Attali's analysis, not only is the production of music scientific, but so is the process of listening. He claims that the mode of listening to or judging music is scientific because the ordinary listener judges popular music on the same or similar lines as record producers do. In later chapters I will argue that "scientific" listening techniques moved from the restricted domain of early high fidelity enthusiasts and into popular listening habits. In addition, Attali sees the musician as a representative of the technocracy (p. 113). What is striking about Benjamin and Attali's analyses are the degree to which they place production, reproduction, audiences, musicians, technology, politics, science, knowledge and commerce within a single, indivisible process. Attali sums up this homology thus:

Music, the organisation of noise… reflects the manufacture of society; it constitutes the audible waveband of the vibrations and signs that make up society (p. 4).

Théberge (1989) argues along the lines of Weber (1958a), as Attali and Adorno have also done, in seeking to show that technology has helped cause a rationalisation of music production, although Weber and Adorno, in contrast to Attali, see music technology as a force which alienates its users from true artistic expression. For Weber (1958b, pp. 24-6) rationalisation is an inexorable process which increasingly restricts individual choice and freedom, and causes people to become disenchanted with the world where human actions are increasingly reduced to lifeless calculations and routinisation. An example of this rationalisation is the ossification or standardisation of intervals, which Weber (1958a) claims has seen the elimination of micro tones in modern music scales, a topic to which we shall return later in this chapter. What is common to the accounts of Benjamin, Attali, Théberge and Weber is the idea that popular music production is an industrial process, or at least a highly commercial and political activity, which rests heavily on a technological and technical foundation and a commodity based economy. It is therefore, necessary to conclude, if they are correct, that a proper study of music technology must consider the effects of a range of influences upon the processes of popular music production. From the point of view of the history of technology in the Australian music economy we must be wary of the view of technology which concentrates on an art versus technology dichotomy, as typified by the technological dystopian accounts given by Adorno and Weber. This dichotomy is counter productive because the separation of technology from art ignores the fact that art is technology, and the important and intricate relationships that art and technology have.


It is useful to identify the main analytical approaches which have been used in the study of the history of technology so that we may understand the multiple directions that analysis can and should take. The general approaches that have been adopted by historians of technology are: technological determinism, social (or socio-economic) determinism or constructivism, and the seamless web or systems model. In using these three approaches to classify general modes of historical analysis of technology one must be careful not to suggest that all accounts necessarily fall completely into one or another of these categories. Marxist historiography provides a classic example of this problem, and given that Marxist scholars have made up a large proportion of those involved in the history and sociology of technology in the past few decades, it is useful to bring this example to light. Although some of the rhetoric of Marxist analysis clearly draws on technological determinism, as exemplified by Marx's famous statement that "the windmill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill, society with industrial capitalist" (Chandler 1996), it is as well to remember that a central pillar of Marxist analysis has always been the study of the social relations of production. The study of the social relations of technology implies a social determinist approach to technology. In addition, we need to be aware that it is difficult to describe any unified Marxist approach to technology or to cultural theory. Adorno and Benjamin (of the Frankfurt school of critical Marxist theory), as I have shown above, arrive at very different views of the rôle and effect of technology on music. Adorno sees "real" music and technology as completely separate entities whereas Benjamin sees them as inseparable.

Technological Determinism

The technological determinism model is one of the most persistent approaches to music technology and has been in currency since the eighteenth century (Mayocchi 1995, p. 7). Broadly speaking, technological determinists claim that technology causes change in society, that the political apparatus reflects technology and that technological development is autonomous and separate from social forces. Indeed, Mayocchi claims that it was common until the late 1970s to argue that technological development "followed its own logic and natural laws". A result of this view is that technological determinists promote a teleological view of the process being addressed. Technological determinists claim, for example, that new styles of music are brought about because new technologies open up new creative possibilities. However, more often technological determinists take a negative view of technology. A central theme of Marxist technological determinism is that technology inevitably causes alienation or dehumanisation (see Blauner 1973; Habermas 1971; Marcuse 1972; Marx 1974). This dystopian view, as I have shown, has been an important theme in discussions of music technology. A further distillation of this approach which views culture and technology as a dichotomy occurs in Blauner's view that "real" work, that is low technology artisanal or craft work, is the only form of authentic self-expression obtainable through being engaged in industrial work. Blauner claims that craft based low-technology work practices preserve the authenticity of expression.

If Marxists argue in part along technological determinist lines, then Weber (1958a) was a more complete technological determinist. Weber's approach centres on the idea that the progressive rationalisation or routinisation (mostly through the agencies of technology, technocrats and technique) of the modes of music production detracts from the essential nature of music. The essential link between these theorists, for the purposes of this discussion, is not just the tendency towards worried pessimism about the effects of technology, but the tendency to identify a simple and direct causal link between technology, which is independent of social regulation, and a society which is the passive recipient of technological change. Weber's (1958a, p. 94) determinism and simple cause-effect constructs are manifest when he claims that it is the design characteristics of musical instruments that tends to determine the construction of musical scales:

Historically the rationalisation of tones normally starts from the instruments: the length of the bamboo flute in China, the tension of the strings of the kithara in Hellas, the length of the strings of the lute in Arabia, of the monochord in occidental cloisters. In their respective areas these instruments served for the physical measurement of consonances.

Although it is possible for musical instruments to influence the standardisation of scales, many instruments, especially stringed instruments, can and do allow non-standard tones or microtones. Therefore, it is not true that we can necessarily identify the instrument as the normal starting point of the scale standardisation process. It is not the case that musical instruments suddenly appear in their final shape: they are developed over many decades or centuries during which time many changes, even radical changes, may develop that are in response to cultural conditions, changes in the natural environment that affect the availability of the raw materials used in instrument making, or changes in the music itself which push instrument designers to facilitate new playing techniques (see Johnson 1989; Jahnel 1981). Viola da gamba maker Jess Wells (Peterson 1995, p. 31) illustrates, in an interview, this complex process of musical instrument evolution when he comments on the history of the viola da gamba:

In London in the 1500s it was illegal to play a violin within the walls of the city. The violin was considered a commoner's instrument which was not appropriate to any place but inns and street gatherings… The 'gamba was the preferred instrument. If you went to Italy during that same period the violin was the popular instrument. Different cultures had an immense impact on which instruments were developed and what kinds of music were written for them. The evolution of a musical instrument is not just a matter of the advancement of instrument building technology. There are a lot of variables. What were people interested in? How could an instrument be utilized in the music that was indigenous to an area? What other peoples and music did they come into contact with? What could the local king, duke, or their musicians play?

Further, Wells goes on to point out that there are significant differences in the design, particularly in string length, body size and depth, and numbers of strings, between viola da gambas made in England and those made in France during the seventeenth century. The process of settling on individual specifications for the design of musical instruments is, therefore, not a simple process with simple cause-effect relationships, nor can it be assumed that the process ever reaches a final destination. The simple cause-effect scenario which Weber portrays of technologically determined scale standardisation fails to account for the true complexity of the interaction between musical instruments and musical scales.

 Social Determinism or Constructivism

According to social constructivists (social or socio-economic determinists), it can be demonstrated that technology is not autonomous from society and that neither can it be totally responsible for determining our life styles. In this model, technology is determined by society and its economic, legal, political and aesthetic forces: an example is the classic socio-economic argument based on market-forces rationale.[5] What would be the point of developing a new technology that served no useful purpose and could attract no buyers? Research and development programs are expensive, and no business wants to commit itself to developing a product if there is no reasonable prospect of being able to sell it for a profit. Schmookler, in Invention and Economic Growth (1966), also adopts the classic social determinist account when he argues that inventions occur primarily in response to market needs or wants. Rosenberg's Inside The Black Box (1983, p. 8) also makes the social determinist case clear by stating that technological progress is stimulated by capitalism which "creates uniquely powerful incentives and institutions for accelerating both technological change and capital accumulation". Thus Rosenberg sees not just markets but institutions as having a central position in analysis. Rosenberg's and Schmookler's arguments are based on the assumption that economic and institutional imperatives are what drive invention and innovation but do not investigate how technology might be influenced by other technology nor how technology might influence the economic and institutional. Piore and Sabel's The Second Industrial Divide (1984) takes the view that it is not simply markets or institutions but also national objectives that dictate the path of technological development. Nations are seen to be in constant competition with each other in a global economy, where they each have to seek comparative productive advantages (through technological development) over each other, and if successful enjoy increased national competitiveness and wealth. Therefore a political dimension is added to the social determinists account.

In light of the above arguments, we are compelled to find ways of describing and analysing the active participation of the economic, cultural and institutional elements of society in the history of technological change. What we learn from the social determinist approach is that we must be careful to analyse the ways in which social institutions, government policies and economics play rôles in technology consumption, invention and innovation. Associated with the social determinist approach is the tendency to look for direct cause-effect relationships between social determiners and technology. For historians, it is insufficient to claim, for example, that the direct cause of the existence of the CD format of music storage is because it satisfies a consumer demand for high quality sound reproduction. The CD is not the only format that can satisfy this demand, so why are CDs and not DAT, ADAT or Minidisc formats, all of which are functionally similar to CDs, the industry standards? To find satisfactory answers to this question we must investigate less obvious, less direct relationships. We could ask questions such as what is the financial strength and marketing power of the owners of the patent rights to the technology, and how do these compare with the positions of its competitors? What are the costs involved in retooling the factories to manufacture the competing technologies? Are there any aesthetic considerations favouring one of the formats? How might publishers react to the differing abilities of these technologies to facilitate the pirating of their recording catalogues? Do any of the patent owners have financial interests in music publishing? Are any respected recording artists championing the cause of a particular format? There are other, surprising factors that might come into consideration. For example, Bell Laboratories in the United States suppressed the release of their highly sophisticated magnetic recording system for decades because they thought it might impact poorly on their main line of business, which was selling telecommunications services (Clark 1993). Cause and effect relationships in the history of technology have so many permutations, and indirect or obscure linkages, that narrow accounts cannot hope to piece together an accurate reconstruction of the past if they concentrate their analytical efforts on only the most apparent social or technological determinants involved. What is needed is an analytical framework that is sensitive to both technological and social determinants, removes teleological trajectories and accounts for the discontinuities and obscurities in a web of contingent variables. A way must also be found to develop an analytical framework which does not decontextualise technology from its social dimension but which at the same time preserves the ability to make structured, focused and informative analyses while preserving the determining rôle of technology too.

Seamless Web

In the mid and late 1980s, sociologists and historians, in an attempt to better understand technology in society, began developing the systems (socio-technical systems) or seamless web model of technology (Bijker, Hughes & Pinch 1987). More recently, revisionist economic argument using evolutionary economics and non-linear economic models claims that technology and the economy are part of a "complex system", a term taken from the technical language of non-linear mathematics (see for example Allen 1994). Following this revisionist economic approach Blauwhof (1994, p. 152) argues that "evolutionary economics has initiated a shift from equilibrium to a non-equilibrium perspective on economic development". The objective of the seamless web theorists was to put in place a model that was flexible and which could accommodate the unpredictable and contingent nature of the changing interrelationships between technology and society. In other words, a theoretical framework of analysis, remarkably similar to that which has emerged more recently in the revisionist economics literature, has emerged in the history and sociology of technology. The seamless web model removes the restrictions of generalising theories which cannot deal with the particularities of individual cases or come to terms with specific or idiosyncratic causes and effects. Instead of simplified generalisations, the seamless web addresses "messy" contingencies. Along with the seamless web model, there developed a non-teleological analytical framework, which spurned the mechanical world view which reductionist approaches embrace.

If we recall the list of questions which could be asked to explain why CDs and not other recording formats became and have remained the standard in the music industry, we would have a list of the kinds of questions that could be asked in the seamless web approach. This approach begins to expose the more intricate cause-effect relationships that may exist. The seamless web should not suggest a formless mode of investigation which ignores theory or general patterns in history. On the contrary, it involves a high degree of discipline and organisation to conduct such research. The strength of the seamless web approach as Bijker and Law (1992, pp. 5-6) argue "lies in its relatively unsystematic character" which makes this kind of history "less blinkered relative to sociologists and economists, to the relations between technology and its environment". Here they are arguing against a sociological or economic analysis of technology in favour of a social history of technology. They claim that the strength of good social history is that "it is driven by a rigorous concern with necessarily heterogeneous evidence". It is significant here that Bijker and Law are not just distinguishing between the social sciences and history, but also between the history of technology and the social history of technology. This approach warns researchers that the interface between the social and the technical is neither stable nor easy to find; it is a region of heterogeneous elements.

What is significant for the historical investigation of technology in the seamless web approach, in comparison with the teleological deterministic accounts, is the recognition of the "messy, complex, problem-solving components" that must be considered in an analysis, and that technologies "are both socially constructed and society shaping" (Hughes 1987, p. 51). This is the point which distinguishes Hughes' approach from the social construction of technology approach. No general rule can be applied to predict what the mix of this shaping should or could be. As Feenberg (1991) presents it, there is nothing to be gained by looking for a single trajectory of technology, or in thinking there is a unified scientific-technical rationale at work in technological change. What is also attractive to historical research in the "seamless web" model is that the seamless web is not always seamless; it is in fact a system that can take into account discontinuities, dead ends, failures and remote contingent relationships ignored by a generalising theories. The term "seamless web" has remained for good reason, despite this apparent discrepancy, because it describes the starting point for research. Once the analysis begins (on the assumption that there is a "seamless web") the task is then to find how the web is broken up in different circumstances to give rise to different technological artefacts (Bijker & Law 1992, p. 201). Originally, Hughes (1986) devised the term in reference to Thomas Edison whose research notebooks are "thoroughly mixed" with comments under "soft, overlapping" headings such as economic, technical and scientific, illustrating that Edison's thought processes dealt with a wide range of considerations that operated in a "seamless web". Hughes "found that system builders [specifically electricity grid builders] were no respecters of knowledge categories of professional boundaries" either (1986, p. 285 & 287); analytical categories like economics, finance, science and politics are integrated and interactive in the social construction of technology by, for example, managers, engineers and politicians. In addition, Law and Callon (1992, p. 51) argue that the web or network metaphor provides a "deterministically neutral" way of talking about the factors that help shape technology. The kind of neutrality sought is a framework that neither privileges technological determinism or social determinism while at the same time discounting neither.

There is an inherent ambiguity in using the term "deterministically neutral". Do conflicting determinants cancel each other out, or are we to assume that there is no point in seeking causal determinants? Hughes uses the term to signify his intention to be equally sensitive to technological determinant and social determinant in his analysis. However, he has not made his case as emphatic as he might because of a lack of discussion about the nature of determinism. Non-linear mathematical theorists, or more specifically chaos theorists, have outlined a more sophisticated kind of deterministic analysis which is best described as "non-reductionist determinism" (Gleick 1987; Kellert 1994). The ways in which chaos theorists have used the notion of determinism are most useful for historians, particularly if they subscribe to a historiography such as Hughes has proposed. In this approach the link between determinism and predictability is loosened. The simple cause-effect relationships which tend to be highlighted in reductionist approaches to analysis are replaced by an analysis of the subtle complexities of the system. It is important to note that chaos theory has been used to study the economics of technological change and that it too is a form of systems theory. Moreover, because it is a systems theory, it brings added depth to the analysis of socio-technical systems.

It is useful to take a step back at this point and examine how chaos theory has been used to explain socio-technical systems because it brings an new perspective to understanding systems. To explain why non-reductionist analysis should be used, Allen (1994, p. 588) offers the metaphor of traffic moving along a highway. He states that Newton's laws of motion cannot be used to predict when cars may accelerate, change direction, brake or stop because those things happen at the whim of each driver. This is despite the fact that at all times the traffic and drivers scrupulously obey Newtonian laws of motion. The reason for this unpredictability, despite the strict observance of Newtonian laws, is that traffic flow is a human system and not merely mechanical: people perceive choices and new possibilities some of which will be amplified and multiplied in the system because they are perceived as being successful. As this process continues, change continues and that change makes it possible for further change to occur in a continuous cycle. This self-perpetuating change is best described as a positive feedback loop and Çambel (1993) has argued that it is an essential feature of technological change: a successful product will receive positive feedback in forms like increased productivity, increased revenue, new markets and so on, and this feedback helps generate the necessary conditions for future change.

Uncertainty underpins human systems, in this case the music economy, because we cannot know with any certainty how each person or group will respond in any situation. Furthermore, Allen (1994, p. 588) argues that "human beings have evolved within such a system [a non-linear, evolutionary, socio-technical system] and therefore… the capacity to live with such permanent uncertainty is quite natural to us". Within this complexity, change is brought about by interconnectedness and the key is understanding rather than prediction.

Analysis or understanding of systemic complexity begins, in chaos theory, with the assumption that any set of historical conditions has a spectrum of possibilities to which it can move. Some of these possibilities can reasonably be predicted while others cannot reasonably be predicted. The predictability or inevitability with which a system will change towards one or another of those possibilities is therefore limited, although not necessarily without any level of certainty. In some cases short- and medium-term predictability may be quite high but long-term prediction would be difficult. The potential for a system to move in a particular direction is critically dependent on the interplay of continuously changing sets of determinants. Yet there may be relatively few variables interacting with each other which can be considered to be the key dynamics of change, and these few variables can cause enormous complexity and change (Kellert 1994). Therefore, the research need not deal with a vast array of variables to provide an adequate analysis of a highly complex system but, rather, must find the key variables which instigate change and complexity. Kellert (1994, pp. 98-114) summarises the benefits of this position by claiming that it is possible to understand a system without being able to predict its future by understanding patterns and connections rather than laws: he calls this "dynamic understanding". In short, technological change is not a function of simple linear processes, but a function of complex non-linear dynamics. The non-linear dynamics of chaos translate to a non-teleological analysis of history in which historical determinants are in a fluid and interactive state. A further consideration for historical analysis is that chaos theory has demonstrated that despite the complexity of possible variables and potential outcomes there are in all likelihood only a few determinants which are key drivers of systemic change and that, once found, they should be powerful analytical tools. The problem for the researcher is in finding which among the possible variables constitute the key dynamics of the system under historical examination.

What Hughes, Bijker, Law, Callon and Feenberg have commended to us is a non-teleological account of the history of technology. We can look at an example which is discussed in detail in Chapter 5 to illustrate this approach. The 1950s was a time when Australian music technology manufacturers were growing rapidly both in numbers of manufacturers and value of production. This trend was established in the 1920s, although it was disrupted by the Depression and World War II. Success was contingent upon many factors, including an ability to produce high technology consumer goods in Australia, protectionist import tariffs, a growing population, and rapidly growing and relatively widely distributed national wealth which generated great demand for consumer goods like radiograms and records. Australian music technology manufacturers were, therefore, enjoying a success which was underwritten by a delicate balance of diverse elements. Any changes in these underpinning elements could and did have far-reaching consequences. By the 1970s this industry was virtually dead. Many factors contributed to its decline, but two in particular deserve special consideration. Firstly, the earlier commitment and ability of Australian music technology manufacturers to developing and producing high technology goods was lost, meaning that in a short space of time their products became low technology goods and less attractive to demanding customers. This lack of engagement with state-of-the-art technology caused Australian manufacturers to lose position relative to the technical know-how of foreign manufacturers. A result and a cause of this situation was in part because they did not have the technical capacity to design the products or the manufacturing systems to produce them. Here we can identify the emergence of a negative feedback loop. Secondly, the Australian government worked hard at establishing a strong bilateral trade relationship with Japan. Because of their commitment to high technology electronic consumer goods manufacturing and innovation (particularly in transistorisation) Japanese manufacturers were able to swamp the Australian music technology manufacturers, as well as those in America and other countries, when their commitment to constantly changing technology was combined with expanding international trade possibilities. No one predicted this turn of events, certainly not the complacent Australian music technology manufacturers. It would have seemed an unlikely scenario to many because Japan had been an insignificant trader in music technology (and indeed generally) in the Australian economy and unlikely to, or even incapable of, contributing to so much damage, especially from the outlook of a well protected Australian industry supplying a hungry and captive domestic market. This thumbnail sketch of these events illustrates the contingent nature of the history of technology and the inherent instability of the historical, economic and commercial trajectories of technology that tend to be reduced in complexity in historical analysis. Indeed, views of the growth of the Japanese consumer electronics in global markets tend to concentrate on industry policy (Stewart 1991), transistorisation (Betz 1983) or lack of manufacturing sophistication in other economies (Johnston et al. 1995) but do not connect all of these in one seamless analysis.

If the above account resembles orthodox empirical historiography it nevertheless differs in important ways from other histories of technology that have not consciously applied these models I have been outlining. Ann Moyal's (1986) Invention and Innovation in Australia explains the history of technology in Australia mostly in terms of Australian colonial attitudes and technical education and, therefore, uses a socio-technical model. However, it ignores the vital rôles of tariff policies, population growth, and increases in average incomes and standards of living. Moyal's research fails adequately to illuminate the complexity and contingent nature of this history, despite the fact that it proposes to be a primer for the development of industry and technology policy making. Blainey's (1964) Technology in Australian History seeks to explain the take up of technology in Australia as primarily a function of the creation of staple industries which boost economic growth and distribution of wealth. Again, there is no attempt to draw wider socio-economic, institutional and technological elements into the analysis. Also, Schiffer (1993) in Cultural Imperatives and Product Development views the history of technology of the shirt-pocket radio as a result of "cultural imperatives". In other words Schiffer is arguing that people express the desire to have such a product, or that a group of influential people decide that such a product will be popular and should be manufactured and sold. This is not the kind of nuanced history that the seamless web approach can elicit and is totally inadequate as an explanation of the history of the shirt-pocket radio. Clearly, Schiffer's analysis is a variation of the market-forces approach and is another example of the limited range of heterogeneous evidence that histories of technology have tended to draw on.

Technological Evolution

The seamless web or systems model has been expressed as an evolutionary model and it is worth examining it from this point of view because it restates the seamless web approach in a different (biological or environmental) language. In particular, the need to see that technology can be a social shaping force is highlighted in this model, thus avoiding the tendency of some seamless web approaches to privilege social determinants. The evolutionary model of technology is one that has had currency since Marx who, influenced by Darwin's theory of evolution, called for an evolutionary critical history of technology. Marx saw invention as a social process in which a gradual accretion of knowledge and technique took place (Bassalla 1988, p. 21). Not only had the idea of "natural selection" been attractive to Marx and others, but another aspect of the Darwinian paradigm, the "survival of the fittest", has been attractive to liberal and neo-liberal economic and social determinists' who tend to put forward simple market-forces explanations of technology.

It must be recognised that the term "evolution" is a complex one. Evolution can be seen as an inevitable progression towards perfection; but this is a crude view of the paradigm. Reggiani and Nijkamp (1994, p. 96) have pointed out that there are at least two views of evolution: the gradualist or continuous evolution as formulated by Darwin, and the saltationist or discontinuous approach propounded by in Schumpeter. Reggiani and Nijkamp argue that both of these approaches need to be combined in the one analytical approach because it is the only way to understand the kind of complex system in which technological change operates. In other words, there is no reason not to evaluate the forces of continuity and discontinuity in the one analysis of the history of technology.

A sophisticated account of the evolutionary historical model of technology is that of O'Connell (1992), who argues that the analogy of evolution applies to technological development only in so far as the process is "half natural" and "half artificial". The process resembles animal breeding because "important parts of it are performed under the local control of one human will, but on a macroscopic scale it resembles natural selection because the ultimate fate of technological artefacts lies outside the control of any one will" (pp. 1-2). O'Connell's approach is based on Richard's evolutionary model of the history of science which O'Connell quotes:

[The natural selection method] guides the careful survey of central environments for the generation and selection of ideas – that is, those environments constituted by the specific problems of the individual scientist and his community; but it also directs the exploration of intersecting and neighbouring niches formed by other kinds of cultural concerns. That is, the model encourages the historian to attend not only to the logic and particular content of scientific theory developments but also to its psychology, sociology, economics, and politics (p. 2).

Taking the model further, O'Connell argues that a similar multiplicity of contingent variables to that which affect biological (and scientific) evolution is present in technological evolution. Importantly, in this model the effects of other evolving technologies, technical efficiency, local laws and economic conditions prevent the use of arguments based on deterministic assumptions about predicable trajectories of technological development because there is no clearly predictable or unified process occurring at the micro level of analysis. This formulation coincides with that of evolutionary economist Richard Nelson (1994, pp. 27-8), who has claimed that as a result of analysis of non-linear models of technological change a view of coevolution or parallel evolution is needed. He argues that running parallel to the history of technology are the histories of institutions, laws, education, science, culture and so on, each influencing the history of the others. Interestingly, O'Connell has also introduced the notion that not only can technology shape the social, but one technology may influence the evolution of other technologies.

The evolutionary model, as O'Connell presents it, attempts to account for discontinuity as well as continuity in the of evolution of technology. It seeks to deal with a broad array of historically contingent variables, both social and technical, but more clearly accommodates technological determinants, including the shaping effect of technology on technology. By offering a definition of technology in which the technical and the social are accommodated, and clearly articulated, it is possible to improve the neutrality of the language of the seamless web model and develop a more disciplined and structured, but non-mechanistic framework for analyses.


Technology is a pervasive element in music and so a proper understanding of its rôle in the production and reproduction of music needs to be developed. But to do this we need to understand what we mean by the term technology. The definition offered here is based on Foucault's definition of four types of technology, which includes not just hardware but also techniques, practices and knowledge, and which treats technology as being distributed (although not necessarily evenly) throughout the processes of production. Collectively and working as elements of a system, we can call this formulation an assemblage of technologies.

Within this assemblage, music and technology are not seen as discrete entities. Because each type of technology depends for its existence on specific modes of training and modification of people, we can say that each element of the assemblage can only ever be meaningfully analysed in relation to each of the other elements. We are compelled to say this because training and modification of people requires the involvement of each of the four types of technologies in order to be effective, and persist over time (Foucault 1988, p. 18). As I have shown in the introduction, this definition is important to the analytical framework of this thesis because it reflects the highly contingent social and historical relationships in which "machine" technology exists and because it puts forward a language that is neutral enough to avoid narrow determinism. It draws together the systems approaches – the seamless web, chaos theory and evolutionary theory – provides a language which is "neutral" or non-reductionist, helps isolate the key variables in technological change and maintains a non-teleological approach.

Technology has been seen by some researchers as consisting simply of machines and tools. Marx (1974, p. 352) identified only two types of technology: tools, which are worked by hand; and machines, which are powered by steam. Blauner (1973) used a similarly narrow view of technology in devising a four part definition which included craft technologies, machine tending technologies, assembly line technologies and continuous process production. The problem with these definitions, although the purposes of their investigations were different from those being pursued here, is that they isolate the machines and tools from the social and cultural elements of the production processes. In particular, they ignore the techniques, knowledge and other systems that are constructed in a society, and which make up an important part of the production process without which the machines and tools would not be useable or capable of producing a benefit.

Of course, the machines and tools definition of technology is not the only way in which technology, and music technology in particular, can be defined. There are many scholars in the history and sociology of technology who see technology as more than just "gadgets" or machines. Indeed, the Greek root of the word technology, techné, means belonging to the arts, crafts or skill (Hill in Mayocchi 1995, p. 3). Weber used the word technik, which means both technology (machines and tools) and technique. He saw technology as including both physical products and ideas (or intellectual devices). "Intellectual technologies" might include accounting methods, marketing strategies, music composition theory and ways in which products or services are assessed for their social value. This view of technology is well summarised by Ellul (1964, p. 4), who used the French word technique in the same way as Weber used technik:

The machine represents only a small part of technique… we could say not only that the machine is the result of a certain technique, but also that its social value and economic applications are made possible by other technical advances.

Schmookler (1966, p. 2) also enters this paradigm by stating that: "A method of producing a given good or service is a technique".

 The views of Weber, Ellul and Schmookler indicate that the technical or technological elements of the production process are a diverse set of variables and can include cultural and intellectual elements. If this is the case, then it is necessary to develop a system for identifying these variables, while at the same time taking into account the possibility that the variables may have complex and unpredictable relationships with each other. What must also be avoided is the tendency, common to dystopian accounts of technology such as Weber's, to separate technology and society (even if they do not discount the social influences on technological development). Accounts like these argue that technology is dehumanising or denaturing because society is not seen as technological and technology is not seen as social. We require a framework which goes beyond the technological versus social binary opposition and deals in a more nuanced way with the real complexity of the history of technology.

The following discussion will show how the history of music technology can be better understood if we see technologies of production and issues such as aesthetics, politics and economics as indissoluble partners in an assemblage of technologies by examining each of Foucault's four types of technology in turn. What is perhaps the most important aspect of the assemblage of technologies approach is that it not only reinforces the seamless web model but also provides the "neutral" language that the seamless web model requires in order to deliver what it promises. It is the "deterministically neutral" language that clearly distinguishes this approach from the social determinists who inevitably see the technical and the social as two different things. The "neutral" language explored here attempts to counteract this separation of social from technological while helping to keep us alert to the less obvious cause-effect relationships across a broad range of potential and heterogeneous connections. I now turn to a discussion of each of Foucault's four types of technology.

Technologies of production

Technologies of production are the implements or tools used to transform or manipulate elements in any production process (Foucault 1988, p. 18). In the music production and reproduction process this would include obvious things such as an analogue to digital converter, which as the name suggests can transform an analogue signal from an old master tape to digital code, to be stored on a hard disk recorder; digital recording software used to manipulate (edit) a recording by performing tasks such as cutting out unwanted parts and replacing them with sections from other recordings, or other parts of the same recording; correcting timing or tempo errors; or even changing the verse, chorus, or bridge structure of a song. One must also include traditional musical instruments in this type of technology because they combine the finger, lip and foot movements of a musician into music. Electronic musical instruments, records, CDs, and radios are all examples of technologies of production in the music economy. In addition, I will also focus some of the analysis on the technologies used to manufacture musical instruments and electronic music equipment. If we include technologies like radios, CDs and records we can extend, for the purposes of this discussion, Foucault's term "technologies of production" to include technologies of reproduction.

It is these kinds of hardware technologies that I seek to contextualise within the social and economic history of twentieth century Australia. If these technologies of production are successfully situated in the assemblage of technologies and are understood as having no meaning outside of that assemblage, then an appropriately "neutral" language has been developed with which to capitalise on the seamless web model.

Technologies of sign systems

Technologies of sign systems, which we might also call semiotic technologies, are symbols which offer meanings and significations in a society (Foucault 1988, p. 18). In the realm of understanding music and music technology these would obviously include the lyrics of songs. However, also included in sign system technologies are the various forms of music notation such as guitar tablature, waveform and piano roll type audio editors in computer programs, and the standard music notation system. Equally important are the semiotic technologies of performance that include gestures, postures, light shows, pyrotechnics, and fashion that have become increasingly important, since the 1960s. It is also possible to see an electric guitar not only as a functional instrument, or technology of production, but also a powerful symbol of rock music. Another example of a semiotic technology is the "sound", or the overall sonic style that is presented in a particular recording to signify its genre to the listener as being, funk, heavy metal, acid jazz and so on. These semiotic systems can be seen as technologies because they involve learned techniques and enable forms of production.

This classification of technology also provides a framework for the understanding of some of the semiotic organisations of music and music technology. This thesis is not directly concerned with the semiotics of lyrics but it is concerned with the semiotics of "sound", fashions, music subcultures and the ways in which technologies of sign systems can be used as signs marking such things as affiliations with a particular group. It will also be important to examine the ways in which commercial interests have identified how technologies of production can contribute to the organisation of these subcultures. An example of this kind of this approach is taken up in Chapter 8, where it is shown that in the 1960s record companies recognised that particular kinds of recording studio techniques and recording technologies were appropriate for psychedelic rock, and that a different set of technologies and techniques might be appropriate for pop or folk rock. In this way the record companies and producers could identify different types of demand in different subcultures or markets and provide them with specific kinds of "sounds".

Technologies of power

Technologies of power are the technologies that have the potential to influence the conduct of individuals. According to Foucault (1988, p. 18) they are the types of technologies that "objectivise the subject" or make individuals submissive to the conditions of domination by the hegemony. Technologies of power are a set of technologies (or practices) for the administration or regulation of a society. This is, at least in part, what Foucault has elsewhere called "governmentality". For the purposes of the music economy we can list three general sub-categories under the umbrella of technologies of power: governmental technologies, consumer technologies and organisational technologies. I shall discuss each of these in turn below.

Governmental technologies make up much of the superstructure of the music industry, and they include the central regulatory devices in any nation or any industry. In the Australian music industry some examples of governmental technologies are the Trade Practices Act and the Copyright Act. The importance of copyright is highlighted by the fact that the music industry is often referred to as one of the copyright industries. Copyright, by imbuing the economic status of ownership of music in individuals, companies, or other groups, makes it possible to commodify music and provides an environment in which a marketplace can form. Superimposed on the Copyright Act is the more general industry regulation device of the Trade Practices Act which is intended to place ethical restraints on the conduct of trade in Australia. The Trade Practices Act seeks to prevent unethical commercial practices such as false advertising and anti-competitive practices like price fixing. Of course, other governmental technologies like patent law, and even regulations such as customs and excise tariffs have played important organisational rôles in the music industry too and will feature in this thesis.

Consumer administration technologies, which are closely related to sign technologies, are technologies through which producers seek to control the behaviour of consumers in terms of how much they buy, what they buy, where they buy and even why they buy certain products. Consumer administration technologies are the technologies of marketing, public relations and advertising. Activities such as these are undertaken in the music industry by record companies, retailers, managers and agents, by unsigned bands working the suburban pubs, by industry advocates such as Ausmusic and State Music Industry Associations, and even government departments like Austrade. The general purpose of these technologies is to organise the market or markets to provide the economic base that sustains or even expands the industry, or an individual business's share of the market. These technologies can be seen as the means by which cultural activity in a society is financially underwritten and, therefore, given wide social distribution. The level of sophistication of these technologies is highly variable, ranging from the selling or giving away of T-shirts to organising media coverage of a new record, television advertising of a series of concerts, the contentious practices of "payola" and in "plugging" radio stations, and "hyping" in retail outlets.

Organisational technologies are the technologies that allow a business to administer itself. Included in these technologies are the practices of applying technology management techniques in manufacturing businesses, financial accounting, inventory control, human resources management, sales forecasting, quality control, and price analysis. Without these kinds of administrative practices, businesses would be dysfunctional: they would have poor cash flow, be prone to under or over production, be unaware of unpaid debts, be unable to identify potentially bad capital investments, tend to have inappropriate staffing levels and so on. In short, businesses or organisations would be unable to monitor their own situation in relation to issues such as solvency, market conditions such as consumer spending habits, and the activities of their competitors.

Technologies of the self

Technologies of the self are those practices that allow individuals, usually with the help of others, to function in a society by using their bodies and minds to regulate and facilitate their own conduct (Foucault 1988, p. 18). This technology of self-regulation is also an aspect of Foucault's "governmentality" and is closely related to the technologies of power. The main distinguishing feature between technologies of power and technologies of the self lies in whether the objective of the technology is in regulation of others relative to a hegemonic system (technology of power) or in self-regulation (technology of the self). Accounting, for example, could be practiced as either a technology of power or as a technology of the self. In the music industry, examples of technologies of the self are found in cognitive and motor skill activities such as learning to sing, learning the co-ordination necessary to facilitate the left hand in making rapid chord changes on the guitar, learning a number of basic drum patterns, knowing how and when to use a variety of signal processors in recording, and being able to imagine (through experience gained in the field) what the effects of the signal modification will sound like when they are used in a specific recording. Bourdieu (1968) claims that these conducts, or technologies of the self, are learned, whether in a formal institutional setting, or by informal means such as oral transmission, or through everyday trial and error (by operant conditioning).

Simply put, technologies of the self give us the ability to know how to behave in specific circumstances. In the context of the music economy, an individual knows how to act as an audience member at a heavy metal concert, which may be different from how that person would act at a James Morrison jazz performance in an inner city restaurant. Technologies of the self enable band members to behave appropriately on stage (which may involve a different set of behaviours for the bass player and the lead singer), or in a recording studio and in the offices of a record company. Individuals might also know that while it is appropriate to improvise exclusively in a minor pentatonic scale at a blues jam session, the same practice might be frowned upon, or even ridiculed, at a jazz jam session where a modal, diatonic approach might be more appropriate.

By examining ways in which the Greek Stoics prepared for a verbal improvisation, by learning helpful terms and arguments through rehearsal, Foucault (1988, p. 36) has shown that even a technology of the self such as the ability to improvise is a learned skill. It is interesting to note that rock and jazz musicians often regard improvisation as a skill that cannot be taught, yet clearly it is a skill that is developed through practice and experience, and is often based around well-known riffs (or ostinati). The Stoics' education could be likened to a musician knowing how to use various interval distances, scales, modes, chord substitutions and extensions, and standard chord progressions. As Bourdieu suggests, it matters little whether these are learned formally or informally. In fact, in popular music most learning does not occur in an institutional setting, but through oral transmission and by the "prestigious imitation" (Mauss 1973, p. 73) of successful recordings. The notion of "prestigious imitation" refers to the copying by a person of the successful behaviours of others, who in the eyes of that person have achieved both authority in that area and the confidence of that person. Importantly, there is in this conception no need for the prestigious rôle model to be a "star" performer; the rôle model may in fact be a teacher, a friend, or even a colleague.

Another technology of the self of particular interest to popular music, which is discussed by Foucault, is the confession, the ability to "show the truth about oneself" (Foucault 1988, p. 36), or, in popular music, at least giving the illusion of showing the truth about oneself. Frith (1986, p. 267) argues that "rock fans have… the belief that listening to someone's music means getting to know them, getting access to their souls and sensibilities". Here we might argue that a successful rock performer is seen to confess the truth about him or her self to the audience, and in doing so makes it possible for the audience to believe that it has come to know the performer.

Technologies of the self can also influence the way we listen to music at home, in contrast to the more public listening space we occupy while listening to the car radio in peak hour traffic. Here, we might consider Adorno's (1973, pp. 197-201) categories of listening, expressive-dynamic and rhythmic-spatial modes, to understand that listening can be done in different ways to meet different ends. Hence, these are constructed modes of listening, or listening techniques. Adorno argues that great music incorporates both of these modes of listening. It is probable that many more modes of listening could be distinguished than the two mentioned by Adorno and that restricting those categories to functions of expression (namely singing in Adorno's formulation) and rhythm ignores the environment in which music is heard.

Also of concern for this thesis are the technologies of scientific know-how and of theory that have been developed during the twentieth century. These devices are the schematic and systemic intellectual technologies that guide scientists and engineers. In the broadest sense, these devices are elements of scientific methodologies. Of relevance here is the adoption in the twentieth century in the physical sciences of mathematical modelling of theory, particularly in electronics. Constructs like Ohm's law and quantum theory have enabled research and development to move quickly and efficiently because of the disciplined and systematic approach that individuals and groups of scientists can bring to their work.

The assemblage of technologies in the studio

It is useful to draw together the four types of technologies and present them as an integrated system. A hypothetical example of the social contextualisation of a technology of production will briefly demonstrate the inter-connectedness and interdependence of the technological assemblage of the popular music industry, and how the rôle and effect of technology in popular music might be usefully charted. It would be impossible to chart every possible connection and contingent relationship, therefore we simply need to regard this description as a road map which charts only the main roads.

Let us take the case of a recording engineer at the end of a recording session with a band which has just signed its first contract with a record company and which has been recording a rock-abilly track for release as a single. The drums, bass, guitar and vocals have been recorded, seemingly to perfection, but the sound is not representative of the rock-abilly genre. The engineer, who has been in the recording industry for twenty years, realises that there is no "slap" or "slap-back" echo in the mix and so adds in 50 milliseconds of delay through an effects processor to the overall mix and suddenly the track sounds as if the band were playing in a bathroom: the sound is thicker and there is a "periodic and repetitive echo" (Anderton 1983, p. 117). Everyone now agrees that the sound is right for rock-abilly and that the record company will agree to the song's release.

The hypothetical case demonstrates the successful application of a technology of production tool to translate a recording into a recognisable rock-abilly song. But an analysis of the rôle of the production tool, as described above, would be superficial unless a comprehensive, detailed and contextualised description of what occurred in the recording studio was made by also asking what rôles the technologies of sign systems, power and the self played in that process.

We can ask ourselves why the engineer felt compelled to take responsibility for helping the band to find the right sound, or rather how the technologies of the self and power influenced this situation. The answer is that the engineer knew that it was appropriate behaviour for engineers to take on a significant amount of responsibility for the quality of the recording, especially for a relatively inexperienced band and this notion has been reinforced often during twenty years of the engineer's work experience. The engineer knows that there are economic advantages for the record company that result from this behaviour and that it makes the recording process more efficient. This situation may be so well understood that it may even be the case that this rôle is legally formalised in a standard contractual agreement, an example of a technology of power being imposed by the hegemony. The engineer had also learned that 50 milliseconds of delay produces a sound regarded in the industry as a standard for slap echo, whereas 25 milliseconds of delay produces a different sound called "chorus" and so on (Anderton 1983, p. 117), this knowledge is a technology of the self and the sound a technology of sign systems. The engineer also knew how to operate the effects unit, a skill that has been learned through reading the unit's users' manual and through the experience of using that unit and others similar to it regularly for a long time, another example of the influence of a technology of the self. Finally, the engineer works on the assumption that minimum standards of production quality exist, and that record companies will not employ an engineer who is not a consistent producer of high quality results, a further but more subtle form of a technology of power. These standards equate (more or less) to the standards of the anticipated audience, or at least the record company's measurements of those standards, thus providing some guarantees of the commercial viability of the "product": a technology of power.

Clearly the technologies of sign systems, power and the self are central components in shaping how and why certain technologies of production are used in the production of popular music. To account for technologies of sign systems, power and the self is to provide a more sharply defined social dimension to an analysis than can be derived from explanations based on linking technologies of production and sign systems only. It is also clear in this example of technologies of sign systems, power and the self how difficult it can be to clearly separate them from each other. This lack of clear distinction highlights how technological artefacts in the assemblage can appear as different types of technology at the same time. As I have shown with electric guitar, which is a technology of production, it can also be a symbol of rock music, so that it is a technology of sign systems.

Of course, a hypothetical scenario could just as easily be made up for an executive in a music technology manufacturing company or a similar person in an importing or retail business endeavouring to find the next product to produce or stock. Similarly, a sketch could also be made for a CD, guitar or stereo system customer. The purpose here is to illustrate the diffuse and interactive nature of variables that affect the final outcome of the use of a technology of production. It is also essential to see the technologies of production as inseparable from the creative elements of music.

It would be an ambitious task to do all that this analytical framework promises in just one research project. However it is still possible, by refining the scope of the analysis, to make a useful contribution to the understanding of the relationship between technology and organisation in the music economy. In this thesis the analysis will fall most clearly on the rôles and effects of the technologies of power and the self in relation to the technologies of production. This is not to say that the technologies of production will not be contextualised in relation to technologies of sign systems, only that, given the nature of the primary sources examined for this project, which are heavily economic and statistical, it is sensible to take this line of approach. It is also clear that future research could easily adopt a different focus to make up for, or add to, the analysis given in the following chapters.


I have shown that a history of music technology needs to apply analytical methods which can deal with a wide and diffuse set of intersecting and heterogeneous historical contingencies, thus avoiding not only teleological analysis, but also the temptation to look only for simple cause-effect relationships. Technology does not exist in an autonomous state, sealed off from social and cultural influences, yet neither is it the case that social and economic factors completely determine the shape and nature of technology. The seamless web approach illustrates the kinds of analyses required to make a history of technology a meaningful historical enterprise. It is clear from this approach that cultural and social theory, such as technology transfer theory, cultural imperative theories like Schiffer's (1993) outlined above, and audience reception theories alone are insufficient to explain the history of music technology in Australia. An understanding of the economic context and the global historical context within which the Australian music economy has been situated must be placed alongside social and cultural explanations and technological considerations.

Foucault's definition of technology illustrates the point that technologies of production cannot be considered as separate and autonomous from music or culture. In this chapter, it has been argued that the ways in which music is made are at once technological and social. I have shown that different modes of organising music businesses and ways in which individuals who work in the music industry conduct themselves are also examples of or depend on technology. It is possible to see music theory, playing technique, composition and singing as technological too. The point of this scenario is that it is possible to recognise an assemblage of technological components that pervades the production and reproduction of music. This situation reinforces the seamless web model of analysis and the need to treat all the elements in this assemblage (at least at the start of the analysis) with equal regard in an intellectual schema that does not necessarily privilege any one part over any other part of the assemblage. Therefore, the analytical framework does not just see music and technology as part of a web of contingent variables, but as part of an assemblage of technologies which makes dichotomous treatments of music and technology impossible. Furthermore, each of the four types of technologies can be subdivided for greater depth of analysis.

In the following chapters I will apply this kind of analysis to the history of the relationship between technology and organisation in the Australian music economy. It is not possible to document every possible interrelationship and every possible effect in this analysis because of the constraints of space. Indeed, the value of such endless description is questionable because a point must be reached when no additional advantage is brought to the analysis by continuing to isolate less and less important cause-effect relationships. However, the most important of these relationships or interactions will be identified and mapped out at three levels of organisation: the level of policy-making, the level of the firm and the level of the consumer or audience. Some key dynamics in the Australian music economy have been government and business responses to global economic conditions such as the 1930s depression, the 1950s consumer boom and the economic uncertainty precipitated by the oil crisis in the 1970s. In addition, I will show that government interventions such as the War Precautions Act, protectionism throughout most of this century, and trade arrangements with countries like Germany and Japan have also been key events. Cultural and intellectual movements such as democratic idealism in the 1920s and the 1960s, modernism in the 1950s, and social activism in the 1960s have all played leading rôles in the shaping of the history of technology in the Australian music economy.

Conditions such as those just mentioned will be plotted against a micro-economic matrix which includes the import and export of music technology in Australia. In this process it will be possible to see changing international trade relationships and balances of trade in music technology. It will also be possible to see the changing capacity of Australian music technology producers to make products for the Australian and international markets. With these figures, comparisons between the Australian music industry and the broader scope of Australian industrial and economic activity can also be made. It is possible, for example, to chart significant peaks, troughs and shifts in the shape of the Australian music economy, which in turn direct attention to periods of change. I will also be able to provide a quantitative basis for claims about social and cultural movements that influenced the history of technology in the Australian music economy.







Between Federation and the immediate post-World War I years, five main factors shaped the Australian music economy: the change from acoustic to electric recording technology; new practices in business organisation in Australia and overseas; the emergence in the 1920s of a change in consumer behaviour – based around the simultaneous emergence of mass production, wider distribution of wealth, consumer credit and mass marketing – which I have called proto-consumerism[6]; protectionism; and the increasingly global communications networks which have been features in the history of music technology in Australia throughout this century. It can be said therefore, that although new technologies of production (electric recording, communication networks) were important in helping to shape the Australian music economy, the critical influences of the technologies of power and the self (business practices, proto-consumerism and protectionism) must be recognised in that process too.

The change from acoustic to electric recording technology gave a critical technological impetus to the Australian and global music economies. Until the advent of electric recording technologies, gramophone music, whether on cylinder or disk, could not compete with piano rolls and live music because of the poor sound quality produced by acoustic recording. The development of electric recording was part of a cause-effect cycle that included the gradual extension of electricity into domestic and industrial use through the growth of electricity supply grids and the growing number of uses for electricity. The pioneering science and engineering of Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Emile Berliner and Guglielmo Marconi opened up the possibilities for the use of electricity and products that relied on electricity to work. These were exciting technological developments and a popular enthusiasm, which manifested itself in a popular modernity, flowed from those developments, often relying on the novelty value of the products, and on the perceived wonders of electricity. Indeed, Bruce Johnson (1994) has argued that a popular form modernity was developing in Australia by the 1920s. Jazz, according to Johnson, was a "musical code" for modernity, with modernity signifying progress and technology. There was also a sense of wonder and excitement in the popular press and among its readers for the brilliance of the new, modern, electric technology of radio broadcasting. Lesley Johnson (1988, p. 12) argues that amateur radio making was part of the popular science movement in the 1920s. The linking of jazz and new technology, including new acoustic musical instruments, gramophones and wireless, is important because, as I will show below popular modernity in Australia was a key dynamic in music technology consumption.

For the music economy the simultaneous advent of commercial radio broadcasting and electric recording is the key dynamic. Commercial radio played musical records and exposed listeners to a wide variety of music, not just music produced in Australia or Britain. I will show that these new stimuli acted to increase sales not only of radios and records but also of musical instruments and the growth of new kinds of music related businesses. These new businesses included record companies, advertising agencies and copyright organisations. The new commercial activities reflected fundamental changes in the architecture of the Australian music economy. This broader process of "industrialisation" of the music industry is one that will be traced throughout the remaining chapters.

Changes in the modes of industrial organisation in Australia, and around the world, are important because in the period from Federation until 1930, the style and use of organisational techniques in Australian manufacturing and government set the scene for much of the rest of the century (Anderson 1987; Hill 1988; White 1992). Conservative management, risk aversion, poor marketing skills, expensive manufacturing processes, a lack of ability to produce sophisticated products and inadequate engineering know-how are all problems that can be shown to have existed at the turn of the century in Australia, but became more evident by the 1970s (Butlin 1986). I shall also show that naïve understandings of intellectual property laws hindered the industrialisation of the Australian music industry, while in a few specific instances the astute use of intellectual property was critical to the formation the modern Australian music economy.

It is equally important to look at how these kinds of organisational techniques have changed and been adapted to meet the needs of complex technological and economic conditions around the world, and this section provides a reference point from which such analysis can begin. Similarly, we must take account of the combined effects of Australian disaffection with Germany and German products because of World War I in turning Australians to American products. The emphatic demonstration to Australia, through America's pivotal rôle in the outcome of the war, of the benefits of a closer relationship with America because of its military and industrial capacity was impressed upon Australians.

Further complicating this scenario was Australia's increasingly ambivalent relationship with Britain. Australia had developed a number of separate relationships with Britain in trade, in culture and in political attitudes rather than a unilateral pro-British stance. This more diverse set of relationships is most clearly shown through the lack of substantially increased trade in music related goods between Australia and Britain immediately after the war. British musical instrument makers had not developed a strong reputation and in contrast with America, the focus of technologies of production in Britain had not moved decisively enough towards the new electrical opportunities that would readily allow the development of high quality gramophones and wireless broadcasting (Game 1976). Therefore, it was sensible for Australia to look towards America both for new music technologies and to fill the vacuum left by Germany's decrease in market share. Yet in the 1920s, amid much discussion, Australian politicians and bureaucrats were drawn to the British [BBC] model of wireless broadcasting which eventually resulted in the formation of the ABC alongside commercial stations.

Australian manufacturers were forced to adapt to new market conditions by diversifying into gramophone and wireless production in the 1920s, especially when, as it must have seemed, the wireless and the gramophone might reduce demand for traditional musical instruments. This desire to diversify represents a recognition by Australian producers of the important link between mass entertainment and mass communication technology. The ensuing increase in domestic production capacity resulted, for the first time, in the possibility of exporting Australian-made music technology, as well as the potential to address the imbalance between imports and domestic manufacture of music technology. However, it will also be shown that these kinds of developments did not occur in isolation from broader trends in Australia's economy and society.

Proto-consumerism, which came to its zenith in Australia during the late 1920s, was a critical part of the history of music technology. Increasing living standards, the growth of a popular form of modernity and renewed popular enthusiasm for democracy in the aftermath of the war all contributed to proto-consumerism. Popular modernity and a renewal of enthusiasm for democracy can also be seen at a second level of organisational analysis, that of the level of the household or consumer. It is important to also note that many of the constituent parts of this proto-consumerism such as consumer credit and increasing amounts of disposable domestic income can be seen as foreshadowing the consumer boom in the 1950s. The combined effects of modernity, democracy and higher standards of living promoted the growth of the Australian music economy and the beginnings of the introduction of Australians into the orbit of American consumer culture and commerce. For many people this new cultural orientation was perceived as a threat to the fundamental Britishness of Australia and may have given considerable impetus to the proponents of the BBC broadcasting model over the American free-market model.

The rise of American-derived popular entertainments in Australia preceded the emergence of the Australian recording and broadcast industries, which were clearly stimulated by the new American technologies and cultural forms. However, rather than using the technologies necessarily to produce mirror-image American cultural products, Australian "stars" and Australian content were being developed for Australian audiences and later for export audiences as well.

Australian attitudes to protectionism and foreign trade, were important elements in the Electric Age. It was not surprising that a nation being exposed to the world on its own for the first time, or at least feeling as if it were being exposed for the first time, would seek to buffer any shocks to its economic system by reducing the threat from outside. Import tariff barriers were the buffers of choice to both Australian music technology manufacturers and the Federal Government. It is important to keep in mind that these trade barriers formalised a view of Australian manufactures as primarily import replacers rather than full participants in an international market. A result of this outlook was the fostering of management practices which tended to remain, as they had in pre-Federation Australia, focused on British management models rather than the new American models, to the long-term cost of Australians. On the other hand, the feeling of security provided by tariff protection was an incentive to Australian musical instrument makers and wireless manufacturers to enter into, or continue in, their chosen lines of business with the knowledge that they had a reasonable chance of success without being swamped by large American, German and British manufacturers. Yet, as I will show below, despite protectionism, from Federation until 1930 Australian music enthusiasts favoured foreign producers, particularly Germany and the United States, for the satisfaction of their demand for both traditional musical instruments and new technologies like the gramophone and wireless.

Another factor affecting the history of music technology in the early years of this century was the growth of global mass communications networks. As mass communication technology became more important to the music industry a number of formats, including player pianos, cylinders, record disks (both acoustically and electrically recorded), and wireless came into competition with each other as well as with traditional musical instruments. Commercial recording meant that Australians heard more music from overseas and many jazz musicians learnt to play songs by listening to American recordings, but visiting American jazz musicians claimed that Australian jazz musicians in the 1920s had developed a style that was different from the American style (Bisset 1979, pp. 17-20). As a consequence of these technologies, Australians were developing closer links to the United States and the growing popular music industry there. Jazz and ragtime recordings, and then commercial radio broadcasting, meant that the Australian focus on Britain as the source of cultural products shifted to some degree to America.


I begin the analysis of the micro-structures of the Australian music economy in 1903, rather than 1901 because the statistical figures for 1901 and 1902 are not available. Accounts for 1903 on their own do not shed a great deal of light on music technology in Australia at the time because of their relative lack of detail. For example, no separate figures are available for gramophones, or "talking machines" as they were known in the accounts, because they are lumped together with photographic equipment. As a result, it is better to use 1903 as a bench mark and begin by making direct comparisons between activities being conducted in 1903 and 1911. Although the discussion of the 1903 and 1911 statistics is in large degree descriptive it underpins the more detailed analysis of the decades leading up to the World War I and, therefore, sets the parameters of the discussion in the second half of this chapter.

Pianos were the most important musical instruments in Australia in 1903 representing 68 per cent of the value of all traditional musical instruments brought into Australia in 1903.[7] German made musical instruments dominated the Australian market, amounting to just over 70 per cent of the value of all instruments imported (Fig 1). It is not surprising that Germany had such a prominent rôle in Australian musical instrument consumption. The reputation of German instrument makers was high and was impressed on Australians during the 1879, 1880 and 1888 Sydney and Melbourne Exhibitions where German musical instruments, especially pianos, won a number of first prizes (Tampke & Doxford 1990).

Figure 1.

In the years prior to World War I Germany was in fact Australia's biggest trading partner outside the British Empire (Harmstorf & Cigler 1985). Germany was also the main receiver of Australian musical instrument exports, taking 26 per cent of the total, but at a total value of less than £30 it was an insignificant amount of trade (Fig 2).

Figure 2.

This represents a characteristically poor musical instrument export performance for the period. Australian musical instrument exporting was ad hoc, and, like most Australian manufacturing at the time, constituted an import replacement industry aimed at supplying only the domestic market rather than at exporting. Furthermore, the costs of transporting instruments to Europe and America were prohibitive and the relatively high wages in Australia also contributed to making Australian manufacturers uncompetitive internationally and reducing the incentive to export (White 1992, pp. 214 & 235).

What can be seen in the 1903 figures is the heavy dependency on imports to satisfy local demand and a remarkable dependence on German music technology over American and British products. In the medium term, the dependency on Germany was most notable, but in the long term it was the poor export performance by the local manufacturers that is important to note. The lack of exporting activity has been a feature of music technology manufacturing in Australia throughout this century and dramatically highlights the inward-looking nature of an industry which developed as an import replacer and not as an exporter. This is an issue which Stewart (1991) has identified as a long term problem in Australian industry policy, but which other small protectionist nations were able to overcome in the second half of this century.


By 1911, little had changed: Germany had just under 70 per cent of the import market, but British imports had risen from around 13 per cent to almost 23 per cent (Fig 3). The improvement in Britain's market share was no doubt assisted by the introduction in 1907 of tariff duties which discriminated in favour of British goods (Tampke & Doxford 1990).

Figure 3.

Pianos remained important to Australians and represented 63 per cent of imported instruments (Fig 4). Although this looks like a slightly poorer performance than in 1903, it must be pointed out that gramophones are included in the calculations for the first time at this point.

Figure 4.


Figure 5.

Figures for imports of gramophones reveal that in 1911 America and Britain dominated and that Germany was less well positioned (Fig 5). This was something of a reversal of the situation in traditional musical instruments above (Fig 3). This scenario is interesting because it suggests that the capacity to produce traditional musical instruments was not necessarily tied to the capacity to produce more state-of-the-art technology like gramophones. For the moment though, it is best to only flag this apparent division between high technology and low or medium technology manufacturing capacity, and deal with the issue in more depth later as more reliable evidence of this tendency arises.

In 1911, it becomes possible to calculate the ratio between the value of production in Australian musical instrument factories and the value of imports (Fig 5). The result is a marked domination of imports over locally manufactured goods. Imports took about three quarters of value of the sum of imports and local production, in keeping with Australia's generally unfavourable international trade performance at the time (Lougheed 1987, p. 191, & Butlin 1987, p. 133).

Figure 6.

We can say, based on these figures, that the capacity of domestic producers to act successfully as import replacers was limited, despite it being their main rôle. However, this situation meant that there was room for the industry to expand while still maintaining its import replacement rôle, because Australian manufacturers could only increase their relatively small share of the domestic market as protection levels increased. However, a question arises about the success of the policy of increasing market share through increased protection: although the 1907 tariff increased import duties by an average of 33 per cent, affording a substantial protection, Australian manufacturers still had difficulty in attracting customers (Anderson 1987). In light of the high standards of manufacturing that were achieved in Australian musical instrument manufacturing at the time (Game 1976, p. 212), and the high level of protection, it seems that the most likely reason for this poor performance was a lack of marketing skill combined with consumer prejudice in favour of European, British and American music technology. An advertisement placed by Allan's in the Age 20 January 1913 suggests conservatism in retailing too. The advertisement announces that Allan's sells Bechstein, Lipp, Ecke, Feurich, Vincent and Thurmer pianos because; "Every piano that we feature has a reputation of over 50 years behind it". Allen's focus, as revealed through their advertising, was firmly set on European – but especially German – instrument makers and almost totally excluded Australian makers.

We must be careful not to concentrate solely on the manufacturers and merchants in assessing the Australian music economy in 1911. The 1911 census provides information about the customers for musical instruments. While there were 1,201 (0.026 per cent of the population) musical instrument makers, tuners and repairers in Australia, the number of professional musicians and students that they served was only 1,600 (0.035 per cent), and the number of music teachers 6,779 (0.148 per cent). The high number of teachers relative to professional musicians, suggests (not surprisingly) that amateur musicians – of the middle class or with aspirations to be middle class – were significantly more numerous than professionals and constituted the most important sector of the musical instrument market. Thus, it can be argued that the desire to acquire foreign instruments, and indeed foreign products generally, despite the high costs incurred through high tariffs, was very much part of middle class Australian attitudes (Kingston 1988, pp. 231-3). In summary, the relative lack of change between 1903 and 1911 shows a stable, but unspectacular music economy in Australia; a pattern that also reflected slow growth of GDP and living standards for that period in Australia (Butlin 1987, p. 133; Shergold 1987, p. 226).

Exports of music technology, however, grew very strongly between 1903 and 1911, to the point that nearly £900 worth of pianos and nearly £400 worth of other traditional musical instruments were exported (Fig 7).

Figure 7.

Although this growth in exports must be seen in a positive light, it has to be pointed out that the exports had a very narrow geo-political focus with 100 per cent of gramophones and 68 per cent of musical instruments being sent to New Zealand (Figs 8 &9).


Figure 8.


Figure 9.

However, an advertisement in the Bulletin on July 10 1913 displays a proud claim by Beale and Co., which had a large and sophisticated plant in Sydney, that they exported pianos to: "New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, New Caledonia, Mauritius, South Africa, India, and on the continent of Europe". Furthermore, in an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald on 22 June 1925 Beale trumpeted their success as an exhibitor at the Wembley Exhibition in London in 1924, where the Queen had decided to buy a Beale piano. Not only did the Queen bolster Beale's reputation in Australia and Britain by her purchase, but the advertisement shows that Beale's success was built on more than a foundation of good manufacturing technique, but on what for an Australian musical instrument maker was a bold marketing initiative. The advertisement also reveals that Beale were still maintaining their market presence around the world with "branches throughout the Commonwealth". This suggests that the bigger and more sophisticated manufacturers could be exporters if they had the audacity and skill to instigate a well conceived marketing strategy. Furthermore, a manufacturer like Beale and Co. was likely to have an output too large to be sold only in Australia and this too would be an incentive to continue such an aggressive marketing stance so they could maintain their growth rates. However, an analysis of the scope of export recipients, when viewed against the small value of exports, indicates a generally unadventurous and timid approach to exporting, even if individual firms like Beale and Co. were more active (Figs 8 & 9). This was an unspectacular start to the century, and it remained to be seen whether Australian manufacturers could expand into bigger and more important markets. In 1911, it certainly looks as if, in theory at least, sufficient business, technical and political interventions could be marshalled to make this expansion.


In turning to the macro-analysis of the period from Federation to 1920, the first point to make is that Australian musical instrument manufacturers such as Fincham's, an organ manufacturer in Melbourne, did not experience full recovery from the 1890s depression until around 1910 (Matthews 1969, p. 92). Despite the slow recovery, the number of musical instrument factories (those employing four people or more and powered by means other than "hand power") rose sharply from 10 in 1906 to 16 in 1907, prompted, at least in part, by increased tariff protection. The number of factories then grew steadily to 20 by 1910. However, while the number of factories and the market for musical instruments and gramophones showed an upward trend through this period, Australian manufacturers appear to have suffered. Extra competition from new manufacturers appears to have kept profits relatively low by limiting each producer's market share. In fact, some factories closed in 1911 and 1914, while the total output remained flat until 1919 due to the effects of the war. Importantly though, Australian consumers were reluctant to give up their desire for European instruments, and demand for imports remained high. In retaining this desire for foreign instruments, Australian consumers denied local manufacturers the opportunity of taking a slice of the strong import market. It is unfair to blame only consumers for this situation because, as noted above, Australian manufacturers appeared not to have the marketing skills to attract more domestic customers, meaning that many potential customers did not know about the Australian manufacturers, or if they did, did not know about the possible benefits of buying Australian instruments. Further assisting the generally favourable attitude by Australian consumers to German musical instruments was a strong bilateral trading relationship which existed between Australia and Germany. This strong relationship meant that German musical instrument manufacturers were seen as reliable business people as well as producers of quality instruments (Tampke & Doxford 1990).

By 1920 the number of musical instrument manufacturers in Australia had increased to 37, which represents significant growth from 20 in 1910 (Fig 10).

Figure 10.

However, the growth in factories was still not matched by a similarly healthy growth in their total production value. The total value of production in 1911 was just over £190,000 which averaged about £10,000 of production value per factory per annum, compared to a total of £385,223 in 1920 or about £10,400 per factory, a modest increase. Protectionism, although creating jobs for instrument makers in the new factories and, indeed, encouraging factories to be set up, did not necessarily encourage significant increases either in productivity or in marketing finesse because it insulated manufacturers from what Stewart (1991) sees as the positive effects of international competition. Therefore, Australia's protectionist policies were inefficient because the manufacturers did not have the incentive to actively develop a market for Australian-made instruments which, as I will show, were in many cases equal to German instruments but not subject to import tariffs. Neither did the industry receive the impetus to develop sophisticated manufacturing processes or industrial research and development programs which would help minimise their manufacturing costs and improve their ability to develop new products with which to service changes in demand. Manufacturing was a relatively minor contributor to wealth creation and employment in Australia during the pre-war years due to its low productivity. However, the poor levels of productivity appear to have also been due in part to the small domestic market that prevented the development of economies of scale (White 1992 & Forster 1970).

Surprisingly, because of the amount of German instruments imported annually, World War I had a relatively small impact on the consumption and production of music technology in Australia. Levels of imports fell slightly in 1914 but by 1916 this drop had turned around and gradual increases were experienced for the rest of the decade. Similarly, the number of factories decreased slightly at the start of the war but rose to 27 by 1918. Exports of Australian musical instruments continued at low levels and fluctuated inconsistently in a pattern broadly similar to the overall export performance of Australia during the 1910s, again highlighting the limited scope of the Australian manufacturers international markets and marketing ability (Butlin 1987, p. 133).

1906 saw the introduction of the Industry Preservation Act, the product of lobbying by the busy and successful protectionist movement in Australian industry. Instrument manufacturers were active in lobbying the Commonwealth Government to increase import duties as a way of protecting the local instrument making industry. As I have already shown, Australian instrument manufacturers were struggling to compete with imported instruments, with little sign of any improvement in the situation despite their having products which the manufacturers believed (with some justification) to be as good as or better than the imports. A letter from Fincham's to the Royal Commission into import tariffs in 1906 illustrates the position that local industry took on the issue of tariffs:

We beg to point out the injury being done to the industry of organ building in the Commonwealth. In the states of Victoria and New South Wales alone the industry has suffered during the past two years to the extent of more than £10,000. The tariff as at present practically admits all [organ] parts free. All parts can be made in the Commonwealth, and when made will stand our climate better than the imported article. During the forty-five years our business has been established we have not found it necessary to import other than raw material. In view of the recent developments the industry will be ruined unless full protection is granted for all parts without exception (Matthews 1969, p. 102).

This argument helped convince the Royal Commission of the value of import tariffs to protect the local industry.

Wages were an important issue during the first decade of this century and increases in wages might be expected to have affected the music industry by increasing the cost of production. The landmark Harvester Judgement in 1907 effectively set the minimum wage for workers, and by 1914 the "living wage" rose to 8s 6d per day for unskilled workers and 9s per day for people involved in "heavy work" (Aplin Foster & McKernan 1987). At Fincham's though, organ tuners were paid 10s per day, "or more according to ability", as early as 1909 (Matthews 1969, p. 89). In addition, Fincham's unsubstantiated claim that it paid 30 per cent higher wages than "another factory", implies a certain amount of competition for the best of skilled labour among the top musical instrument manufacturers (Matthews 1969, p. 89). If competition for skilled labour was strong among musical instrument manufacturers, then high wages bills may have contributed to the lack of success that the local industry experienced, despite high import tariffs, relative to its overseas counterparts whose wages costs were lower. An examination of newspaper advertisements in the Age on January 1 1913 and the Argus on November 3 1913 shows that "Australia's own piano", the Renardi, cost around £36 while some cheap German imports by Neufeld and Knauss cost £32 and £39 respectively. This suggests that even with near price parity it was hard to sell Australian pianos. Indeed, the Renardi was the only Australian-made piano that appeared in retailers' advertisements among a plethora of European, but especially German, pianos.

Not all the blame for poor sales success can be laid at the door of lack of marketing skills. The Australian economy was going through a period of relative instability in its recovery from the 1890s depression. The standard of living in Australia (measured by personal consumption per head) rose by over 17 per cent between 1901 and 1907, before falling and then reaching another peak in 1913 at almost 25 per cent above the 1901 level. After 1913 the standard of living fell again to levels below the 1901 standard until the end of the decade (Shergold 1987, p. 226). This instability in standard of living was also accompanied by wage increases and inflation. Inflation rose to very high levels in 1912 and eroded much of the buying power that wage increases might have otherwise given to workers, and this was reflected in a general decrease in demand across the economy, including the music industry (ABS 1993, p. 581; Lougheed 1987, p. 191).

A more fundamental problem for Australian manufacturing was the modelling of Australian industry and technology development on British practices (Hill 1988b; Moyal 1986). Hill has argued that the British commitment to iron technology and steam power meant that Britain did not move quickly enough to adopt electric power for its industries, and this put it at a disadvantage compared to the Americans who were in the vanguard of electric technology. This situation was significant for Australia not only because Australian industry had also failed sufficiently to see the advantages of electricity, but because the models for engineering education in Australia were British too (White 1988, p. 249). Australia did not have the technical and scientific resources to make the change when it became apparent that Australia was at a disadvantage. Furthermore, as American businesses grew through mergers and acquisitions to develop control over markets and prices (a strategy used to avoid prosecution under the Sherman Anti Trust Act for forming cartels), they also discovered increasing returns to scale. In Britain on the other hand, the concern was for "marginal economics" and small family based businesses and so increasing returns to scale were not found as they were in America (Ormerod 1994, pp. 52-6). The American's ability to develop increasing returns to scale was also dependent on the co-ordination of finance and investment in manufacturing by the Government: the military-industrial complex. This level of co-ordination was also missing in the British industrial model. Therefore, as Britain lost its position in the industrialised world – although it still had great industrial capacity – Australia was fated to follow suit, but from a lower starting point, unless it could adopt more appropriate models. These fundamental weakness in Australia's capacity to manufacture and utilise technological know-how, despite protectionism, necessarily put Australian music technology manufacturers at a disadvantage.

Although the music industry was taking its time to build up economic momentum in the years immediately after Federation, a great deal was happening on the creative side of music in Australia. Australian singers were quick to begin commercial recording. In 1903 Ada Crossley became the first known Australian recording artist when she cut a cylinder in America for Victor (Brisbane 1991, p. 137). This was only a year after Caruso had become the first major recording artist in the world when he recorded for the Gramophone Company in Milan (Gelatt 1965, p. 323). In 1904, another Australian singer, Peter Dawson, began a remarkable recording career with the Edison Bell Company. He eventually recorded 3,500 titles, which resulted in thirteen million disk and cylinder sales (Brisbane 1991, p. 137). Dawson (quoted in Game 1976, pp. 145-6) shed light on the slowness of the recording industry to take off in Australia, and on the relatively primitive state of production and attitudes to copyright in the early Australian acoustic recording industry. He also reflected on the changes introduced by the electric recording era:

They [acoustic recordings] were made straight on to the wax cylinders, and were sold without further treatment. To record them I used to sing into about eighteen or twenty horns. Obviously we could only make that number of records at a time. If a record were popular I used to sing the same song for days… then came the great revolution – the disc record. For a long time a British concern known as the Gramophone and Typewriter Company (which later became known as His Masters Voice Company) had been trying to push the sale of records. But the public was slow in being convinced. Gradually, by the end of 1905, the disc record gained favour. My first contract was for a flat rate of £50 a year. When I signed it I thought I was made for life. There were no royalties for me until the electrical process came into being six years ago [about 1925], but I will admit that the retaining fee was substantially increased as the years went by.

An interesting sales strategy used at Allan's music shop in Melbourne also illustrates the simplicity of the recording process and of unsophisticated attitudes to copyright. When Allan's ran out of a particular record they would send one of their staff, who was a good singer, to a back room to record the song with piano accompaniment performed by another member of the staff onto a blank wax cylinder, while the customer waited: "The results achieved, while most satisfactory at the time, were ludicrous in comparison with modern electric recording", according to a former employee, George Sutherland (Game 1976, p. 143). Although a good arrangement for the customer and Allan's, it seems unlikely that the publishers and record companies would have been pleased to lose income through this kind of practice, and therefore an incentive existed for the recording industry to become better organised and more systematic at exploiting its copyrights. Piano rolls presented a similar convenience in the recording process, but produced a superior quality sound compared to acoustically recorded records. Australian piano rolls were produced in Melbourne by The Anglo-American Player Roll Co. and G. H. Horton and Co. in Sydney, both of whom could quickly produce popular songs cut by their own in-house pianists (Brisbane 1991, p. 195).

It took until 1910 for the first Australian cut cylinders to be put on sale in Sydney, although records imported from Britain were being sold in Australia from at least 1906 by the Sterling Record Company (Brisbane 1991, p. 137; Read & Welch 1977, p. 145). However, it seems certain that cylinders were being sold in large numbers in 1904, because Allan's reported that they had to increase their shop floor space then to keep up with demand for phonographs (Game 1976, p. 147). If phonograph sales were high then it is reasonable to assume that people were buying cylinders to play on them. It must also be remembered that the first public demonstration of the phonograph was conducted in 1890 in Melbourne by Professor Archibald. This demonstration would almost certainly have contributed to the creation of demand for phonographs and recordings. The Argus on 28 June 1890 enthusiastically reported the event, while illustrating the main drawbacks for the listener of the acoustic recording process:

The effect [of the phonograph] may be described as generally resembling the sound of music heard at treble the usual distance, or through a door ajar; and the extent to which the quality of the various sounds was preserved was most wonderful. The applause of the audience was unstinted, and many ladies and gentlemen remained to make closer acquaintance with the extraordinary piece of mechanism which gave such results (Game 1976, pp. 142-3).

The drawbacks for the listener, it would seem from this report, were not enough to dampen enthusiasm for this technological curiosity and therefore some demand must have existed even in the 1890s. However, during the 1920s radio stations preferred to use a piano or player piano for music programs rather than gramophones because of the inferior broadcast quality of gramophone records (Geeves 1993, p. 32).

A wide range of instruments were imported into Australia from Europe. The range of instruments sold by Allan's included organs, especially Estey organs, Boosey brass instruments, various woodwind, banjos, mandolins and guitars from Lyon and Healey in Chicago; German and French violins, music boxes with interchangeable steel disks; and Edison phonographs, which Allan's claimed "brings home the marvels of modern science with striking force, and it is with mingled feelings that one listens here in Melbourne to the comic song that is sung on the stage of an American or London variety hall". Furthermore, Allan's stocked between eighty and one hundred pianos in 1900, illustrating the popularity of the instrument. The stock list is also notable for the number of German brands relative to English and French brands. The list included high priced pianos by Bechstein of Berlin, John Brinsmead and Sons of London and Erard of Paris; and lower priced pianos from Lipp and Son of Stuttgart, Julius Feurich of Leipzig and Carl Ecke of Berlin. The most popular piano at Allan's was the Thurmer, which was built to suit Australian climatic conditions by German company Thurmer Meissen (Game 1976, pp. 139-40). Interestingly, the absence of Australian brands further illustrates the marginal status of Australian instruments in the minds of consumers and retailers.

In drawing together the period from Federation up to 1920, what is striking is the extent to which import tariffs were showing every sign of being able to help the Australian music technology manufacturers to grow and prosper for some years to come. Both numbers of Australian manufacturers and levels of their output were increasing over the period, despite the growing demand for imported music technology. An additional set of problems related to the alignment of Australian engineering and management models with those used in Britain, a country with a failing manufacturing base and declining presence in state-of-the-art technology. In adopting British models Australia was consigning itself to a similar fate. The alternative of looking to America, with its electrical engineering capacity and new industrial model which was ready to begin contributing to the growth of the profitable electrical goods industries, appears not to have been seriously considered. American practices were less available as "cultural options" than were British practices and America was not part of the established Empire trade block. Australia had at this point already set the pattern of technological and organisational lag which has characterised Australian manufacturing since.

The insulating effects of Australian protectionism and a lack of recognition of the value and rôle of abilities, such as engineering and marketing skills, meant that Australian manufacturing had some serious but apparently solvable problems to examine if it was to prosper in the long run. Finally, the under-use of copyright, a central organisational tool in the music economy, hindered the growth of a local recording industry by not generating the income needed for reinvestment in the industry. Without this reinvestment Australian record producers languished in the realm of acoustic recording as the world moved on to electric recording processes.




It is useful to interpret the statistics for 1921 in light of the ways in which Australia had reorganised international relations in the aftermath of the war. The crucial rôle of the United States in the outcome of the First World War, and anti-German feelings that persisted after the war in Australia worked together to help produce a fundamental realignment of Australian trading relations (Harmut Teßmer 1983; Tampke and Doxford 1990). This realignment was clearly manifested in the Australian music industry. Despite the cessation of the war three years earlier, no musical instruments, including gramophones, came to Australia from Germany in 1921 (German goods were not officially permitted to be imported into Australia until August 1922). The 70 per cent share of the Australian musical instrument market that the Germans had enjoyed prior to the war was shifted to America, which in 1911 had had only a 5 per cent share of the Australian musical instrument import market (Fig 11). So clean was this shift in the sourcing of imports from Germany to America, that the share of the Australian market held by Britain (which in other industries dominated Australia's imports) did not increase as might otherwise have been expected; indeed, it fell below its 1911 level.

Figure 11.

Imports from the United States increased substantially across the whole economy, which illustrates a growing trend towards Australian trade alignment with America and the success of American business models compared to those used in Britain. Between 1911 and 1921, Britain's share of Australia's overall imports fell from 50 per cent to 47 per cent while America's share rose from 14 per cent to 22 per cent (Lougheed 1987, p. 196).

Musical instrument imports continued to be dominated by the piano, including the player piano, but the trend towards other instruments continued. Pianos took 53 per cent of the import market, down 10 per cent on the previous decade and the popularity of other musical instrument, not including gramophones, rose to nearly 26 per cent, or 8 per cent better than in 1911 (Fig 12).

Figure 12.

The beginning of the jazz age gave new emphasis to instruments like banjos, clarinets and drums, and explains much of the rise in popularity of musical instruments. Indeed, in the Age as early as January 1913, the Richmond Furnishing Company in Melbourne were advertising the Renardi piano on the basis that it was the ideal piano for playing rag-time. The 1921 census reported that although there were similar numbers of musicians and students compared to 1911, there were only 5,471 music teachers in Australia (0.099 per cent of the population), which was 1,308 less than in 1911, a drop in percentage terms from 0.148 per cent. This situation shows a significant drop in demand for domestic music skills because the player piano and gramophone were replacing musicians in the home. It also indicates that with the jazz age the impact of informal music training was beginning to show. This trend away from traditional instruments, must have been worrying for manufacturers of pianos in Australia, even though protectionism and demand across the economy were growing strongly (Shergold 1987, p. 236). No doubt the trend also helped to persuade many musical instrument manufacturers to diversify into gramophone and shortly thereafter into wireless production. At issue here is the changing ratio of market shares of pianos, "other" instruments and the new electrical instruments; pianos were less dominant, although still an important element in the growth of demand.

Apart from the dramatic realignment of imports from Germany to America, the most notable change in the economic landscape of music technology in Australia in 1921 was the lift in levels of exports. These figures make it possible for the first time to develop meaningful comment on the export destinations of Australian-made music technology. The main destination of Australian-made musical instruments was still New Zealand, which took 62 per cent of the exports of traditional musical instruments and 87 per cent of gramophones (Figs 13 & 14). Britain took nearly 14 per cent of traditional musical instruments, and less than 1 per cent of gramophones, and the United States only 2 per cent of traditional musical instruments and no gramophones.

Figure 13.



Figure 14.

The 1921 figures show that although music consumers were looking to new horizons and eschewing traditional European sources, Australian manufacturers remained fixed on the Empire, again highlighting their conservatism and lack of vision. This narrow geo-political export horizon was reinforced by the preferential trade arrangement within the Empire and also by the difficulties associated with exporting over the long distances to North American and European markets: this is, in part, what Blainey (1977) calls the tyranny of distance.

An important change in the Australian music economy was the composition of the exports. In 1921, 77 per cent of the exports were gramophones and only 19 per cent pianos (Fig 15).

Figure 15.

These figures represent a complete reversal of a piano-dominated export performance only a decade earlier. This reversal suggests that the future for Australian music technology manufacturing could be in the new products of electric technology which could be assembled more quickly than pianos and were smaller, and therefore cheaper to ship overseas. Further motivation to enter the gramophone market was that the piano's share of the local music market continued to shrink. The shrinking market meant that some piano makers would have to diversify or suffer lower profits. Gramophone manufacturing appears to have offered a good business solution for the opportunistic manufacturer. Indeed, Wertheim's, a large Melbourne-based piano maker, had diversified and was also making gramophones, records and sheet music (Game 1976, p. 212). It is also worth noting that although Britain had not moved quickly into electricity based technology it had maintained, or slightly increased, its share of gramophones imported into Australia relative to the more forward-looking Americans (Fig 16).

Figure 16.

In addition, the ratio of imports to Australian production of music technology had improved to the point where Australian production was just over one third of the total value of domestic production plus imports, representing a healthy improvement on the 1911 performance of just less than a quarter share (Fig 17). It is clear that Australian music technology manufacturers were reaping some benefits from a further 33 per cent tariff increase in 1920 and were experiencing steady gains in output in line with the overall performance of manufacturing in the economy (Lougheed 1987, p. 191).

Figure 17.

However, it was not just that another 33 per cent tariff increase was granted. The Industrial Preservation Act 1921, or "anti-dumping" legislation as it was known (which allowed an extra duty on goods imported from countries with devalued currencies, which included Germany), was benefiting the local musical instrument manufacturers by placing a further obstacle to German and any other cheap imports which might be "dumped" in Australia (Teßmer & Bremen 1983).

Now that protectionist trade policies were well set, standards of living were increasing, and demand for musical instruments was growing courtesy of the popularity of jazz, the ground was set for the Australian music technology industry to capitalise on its potential to satisfy growth in the music economy if it could overcome its inherent problems of high costs, low productivity and poor marketing skills (Shergold 1987, p. 226). Growth could also be stimulated if the industry could capitalise on improvements in recording and broadcasting technology that would stimulate consumer demand, by presenting more appealing and practical products to a wider market.


The growth of parliamentary democracy across the western world during the electric age and Johnson's (1994) argument for the beginnings of a popular sense of modernity are of central interest to the history of mass communications technology in the 1920s. After the war Australians, British and Americans were showing renewed enthusiasm for democracy. However, Sir John Reith, the first general manager of the British Broadcasting Commission [BBC], commented in 1922 that culture should be guarded by the state and that the state should adopt the rôle of "civilising the masses… [thus] preventing revolt from below", betraying a suspicion of popular democracy (Scannell & Cardiff 1991, pp. 9 & 383).

The élite position espoused by Reith, as I will show below, was accommodated to a degree by Australian politicians and bureaucrats when setting up the division between commercial or popular and state funded or high culture radio broadcasting. In addition to the British model of broadcasting there was an interest in the free-market attitudes to broadcasting emanating from America. As Johnson (1988 pp. 15-17) has argued, the wireless became a popular symbol of democratic participation in the 1920s because radio came to be seen as "a commodity freely available to all in the marketplace". Indeed, populist politicians sought to benefit from this fusion of democracy and technology by appealing to the popular democracy constituency. Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes had an apparently unqualified optimism about wireless: "Wireless is a miracle… an achievement of man most likely to influence his life and the future" (Walker 1973, p. 10). In Queensland, the Theodore led Labor Government set up the Community Radio Scheme to facilitate mass distribution of education and information – especially to regional areas. This scheme was only partially successful though and it was gradually scaled down (Benson 1990, pp 102-5).

There is need to exercise some caution here. Although commentators have linked technology and democracy in the early decades of this century, radio was also used to suppress political dissent in Australia. Johnson (1988, pp. 187-93) argues that communists, unionists and other radicals were largely kept out of political debates on the ABC and in many commercial stations. It is also worth keeping in mind that even up to 1923 only 34 per cent of Australians had electricity, meaning that most radios had to be powered by cumbersome and unsightly batteries. Of this 34 per cent, only a fraction had what today might be considered pervasive consumer electrical items like radios, radiators, vacuum cleaners, irons and fans (Murray 1978, pp. 14-15). If these household technologies were not pervasive then we need to be careful not to overstate the links between the democratic spirit and technology. At the same time though, as Australian families became smaller and disposable incomes higher (Reekie 1993, p. 30), and as Diggers returned with new knowledge of cultural life from Europe, a confidence swept Australia in the 1920s (Kirkpatrick 1992). These "confident years", as Kirkpatrick calls them, born out of new cultural sensibilities and higher disposable incomes did predispose Australia to a rapid growth of radio penetration in a broader cross section of society. Arising from this ferment was the growing popular desire in Australia, as in America, to be "modern", which included not only such things as listening to jazz and utilising modern technology, such as radio and the gramophone, but also a popular enthusiasm for science which included amateur broadcasting and wireless engineering (Williams 1994).

Governments in Australia and elsewhere did welcome wireless communication because of the obvious advantages of fast long-range (narrow-cast) communications in activities like shipping and international trade. The first commercial radio broadcast was made by KDKA in Pittsburgh in 1920 and by 1922 there were thirty licensed radio stations in the United Sates and over 500 stations a year later, illustrating the prospects for world wide growth in this industry (Lubar 1993, p. 215). The rapid growth of radio broadcasting prompted governments to regulate the radio manufacturing and broadcast industries in the name of public interest. Indeed, by 1919 President Wilson realised through his experiences organising the American "war effort" that a co-operative arrangement was necessary if American industry, and in particular the radio industry, was to meet national objectives in the 1920s and beyond. Sobel (1986, p. 26) states that:

What was involved in 1919 was nothing less than the creation of what President Dwight Eisenhower would later call 'the military-industrial complex,' the first element of which was to be a national wireless corporation.

Sobel (p. 26) describes a co-operative or "a national triad" of banks, government, and corporations which organised to meet this and other national industrial aims.

Important for the Australian music industry was the fact that along with the success of the American corporations went the growing ability of the United States to market products globally. This was in contrast to the position of Britain, whose industrial weaknesses were also exposed by the war, and additionally weakened in the post-war years because of the "forced disposal of assets" needed to finance their involvement in the war. The financial weakness of Britain was compounded by a lack of scientific and technical know-how in electrical engineering which made it very difficult for industries to adapt to electrical technologies and left them tied to the old technologies of steam and steel (White 1992, p. 188; Hill 1988 p. 250). Although Britain clearly did have some capacity to move in new industrial directions and did produce gramophones and wireless sets, there were limits on the speed and extent to which it could move compared to America. The clear lesson for Australia was that the American success was based on strong and clear policy directions from government and equally strong and clear organisational strategies in industry. This was in stark contrast to the levels of organisation and policy direction generally experienced in Australia at the time.

Radio broadcasting came to Australia in 1919 with a public demonstration in Sydney by AWA. The influence of radio was more immediate than that of the gramophone on Australian music. In 1924, the first Australian radio station, 2FC, owned by retailer Farmer and Company (Reekie 1993, p. 166), opened in Sydney and became Australia's first commercial radio station. Australian Musical News commented from a high culture position that:

One of the best signs in the broadcasting boom is that after all, the advantage that is most sought from it is that of hearing music in one's own home… Some of the music may not get us very far yet, but even at this early stage experience is beginning to show that radio is exerting a tremendous influence towards a cultivated musical taste (Game 1976, p. 158).

The introduction of the broadcasting of music is perhaps the crucial event in the history of technology in Australian music in the first half of this century. Radio was to become, as I will show in the following chapters, a principle determinant in the shaping of the economics and marketing of the music recording industry.

A variety of responses to the arrival of radio ensured that radio broadcasting around the world in its early years had different appearances in different places. In Australia the influence of the BBC, which was formed in 1922, was clearly discernible. The enthusiasm apparent in the above statement by Hughes was not as unguarded as it might seem, nor was it uninformed by British influences, and the Australian Constitution, which gave the Federal Government control over telegraphic, telephonic and "other like services" (Moyal 1985, p. 109). By 1923, regulated broadcasting had commenced in Australia. The government adopted a different tack from the American free-market approach and introduced the "sealed set regulations" in an attempt to place a firm regulatory grip on broadcasting by giving people access to one station only. "Sealed sets" were radio receivers in which only one radio station could be received. People paid a subscription fee to the station to which the set was fixed, in a fashion broadly similar to contemporary subscriber television services. The regulations, however, were a failure, as amateur radio enthusiasts could easily "fix" the sets to pick up other stations and could therefore listen to stations for which they had not payed subscriptions. Between 1 August 1923 and 30 June 1924 only 1,400 sealed set licences had been issued (Miller 1993, 42-3; Geeves 1993, p. 34). By 1924, the government relented on the sealed set regulations and began issuing broadcasting licences (class A and class B licences – roughly equivalent to state funded and privately funded stations respectively) thus allowing some broadcasting to be open to market-forces. In 1929 the government relinquished all class A licences and set up the Australian Broadcasting Company [ABC] as an alternative to the commercial (previously class B) stations (Potts 1989, p. 15; Brisbane 1991, pp. 196-7). Therefore, although it took some considerable amount of time for the Government to sort out its ideas about radio broadcasting, it had shown a willingness to be flexible and creative by not copying uncritically either the British system or the American free-market system.

It is necessary to appreciate some of the commercial implications of radio and gramophone. Between 1920 and 1921, radio receiver sales in America rose from zero to annual sales of $12.2 million; by 1926 they had reached $206.7 million. In addition, by 1920 gramophone sales were at $105 million a year, indicating that at least in America gramophones were still a good business to be in (Sobel 1986, p. 49; Lubar 1993, p. 174). Clearly, the commercial potential for the new technologies in Australia was good too. In 1913 Amalgamated Wireless Australasia [AWA] was set up, with a board of directors made up of equal numbers of federal government officials and representatives of commercial interests. Similarly, Standard Telephones and Cables (Australasia) [STC] opened for business and sought to capitalise on the potential of the electrical goods industry in Australia (Potts 1989, p. 15; Muscio 1984, pp. 231-32). The productive capacity of AWA was protected by the acquisition of a bundle of patent licences from Marconi and Telefunken, major investors in AWA. The vitality of the Australian electrical goods manufacturing industry in the 1920s was such that virtually every piece of broadcasting equipment could be designed and manufactured in Australia, mostly by AWA, which also showed a commitment to research and development, even if it was only a modest commitment by American standards. Geeves (1993, p. 7 & 51) has reported that AWA had set up the Marconi School of Wireless to train technical staff and in the 1920s had successfully conducted collaborative research programs with government and other commercial partners.[11] When Brisbane's 4QG was built by AWA in the early 1920s, all but about £1,000 of the construction budget of £33,552 was spent in Australia (Walker 1973, p. 4; Benson 1990, p. 20) and the 1928 Tariff Board estimates showed that Australian radio manufacturers had a 60 per cent share of the domestic market (Forster 1964, p. 110). The benefits of government intervention and co-ordination with industry are clearly demonstrated here even if such outcomes have not normally been the result of Australian industry policy.

The final years of the 1920s saw the setting up of the Australasian Performing Rights Association [APRA] to collect and distribute royalties for records played on radio. This was another step towards shaping the Australian music industry into its modern form by learning to maximise economic benefits from the advantages of new technology and the exercise of copyrights, although by current standards it was still a primitive arrangement. In 1929, APRA collected (and distributed to the copyright owners) a set fee of £7 each week from radio stations who wanted the right to play up to 66 hours of recorded music per week. However, W. J. Maclardy of 2BL claimed in 1926 that copyright organisations "continually harassed and irritated broadcasting companies by their unjust and unreasonable demands" (Geeves 1993, p. 46), clearly illustrating the unsophisticated view of copyright which prevailed at the time. The overcoming of such attitudes, to the extent that APRA began collecting royalties, was a significant step forward.

Concern was also shown for the radio technology patents held by AWA. A Royal Commission was set up in 1926 to investigate AWA's patent monopoly and its restraint on free trade. The Royal Commission, in the final analysis, had little effect on AWA which maintained its patent monopolies and was able to negotiate with the government to receive 3s per year from each listener's licence as a patent royalty, but agreed to waive the royalty claims on valve receivers for five years (Geeves 1993, p. 53). However, because copyright and patent laws are about creating monopolies, it is important that the AWA investigation raised the complicated issue of the inherent conflict between the benefits of patent monopolies and free trade. Importantly, the spotlighting of the patent conflict showed the benefits of close ties between government and industry, and the development of more sophisticated attitudes to intellectual property which AWA's European investors had. In 1926 George Taylor, president of the Association for the Development of Wireless in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, argued at the Commonwealth Radio Conference for the establishment of the Royal Commission saying that "Australia which has led the world in some of the primal discoveries of radio, was one of the most backward nations in the use of radio [patents]" (Geeves 1993, p. 46). If Australians were capable of ground-breaking industrial research and development then it was sensible to capitalise on it through the execution of patent rights.

Moreover, with foreign companies like Philips and STC ready to contest AWA's position in the Australian market, the legitimate use of intellectual property law to foster Australian industry (even if it did mean higher prices) needed to be integrated into the Australian music industry as a rational extension of existing protectionist regimes. Moreover, I would argue that intellectual property monopolies, along with tariffs, exchange rates and import quotas, should have been central elements to protectionist policy-making much earlier because it may have helped stimulate more concern for the generation of patents in Australia at a time when there was a reasonable capacity to generate them. Indeed, I will show in later chapters that the lack of this patent generating ability has been an obstacle to post-World War II music technology manufacturing in Australia. Although it is clear that politicians, bureaucrats and business people attended to these issues mostly on an ad hoc basis, rather than as a unified policy package, it is important to note that an increase in awareness that these kinds of organisational tools were available and could be effective had occurred. Therefore, to some extent, the AWA investigation showed the potential of a more thoughtful approach to intellectual property issues for helping establish a more appropriate business environment in which the Australian music industry could function.

An aspect of central importance in the 1920s was the intense competition between the formats for listening to music in the home. In the early 1920s the gramophone cylinder, the vertical cut disk and the piano roll were available. In 1923 piano rolls cost 7s for popular songs and 8s 6d for classics at Allan's (Game 1976, p. 170). Records that were cut acoustically in the same period could cost between 4s and just over 17s depending on the style of music and the type of record (Brisbane 1991, p. 137). Although records and piano rolls were in a similar price range, there was a marked difference in sound quality between the two, with rolls providing the better sound. This made it difficult for the acoustic records to compete beyond their novelty value. By the mid 1920s electrically recorded disks and radio (both of which were superior in sound quality to acoustically recorded records and cylinders, and provided more flexibility than the piano rolls) entered the fray. The quality and practicality of this new technology stimulated demand for recorded music and opened a new era in music consumption in Australia. It is important to recognise that the competition between all the formats, or rather the competition between patent-owning industrialists to provide the best, or most marketable, product was conducted not so much in Australia as in Britain, Europe and especially America, where commercial research and development was well organised, well funded, highly focused on commercial outcomes and underwritten by government policy.

Overall, the competition between radio, gramophone and player piano appears to have been good for the industry in Australia with the value of Australian production climbing for most of the decade (Murray 1978, p. 147). However, the period from 1927 to 1930 was a rocky time for Australian musical instrument manufacturers with businesses coming and going as output leveled off while the industry stabilised its ability to sell and the Depression hit. The total value of production from these factories peaked at about £1.5 million per annum in 1927 (more than double the average output per factory in to 1911), and began to fall leading into the Depression. The good performance between 1920 and 1927 coincided with the introduction of wireless broadcasting and manufacturing in Australia, but was also partly driven by increases in exports of gramophones which rose from £7,418 per annum in 1925 to £27,077 in 1926, while exports of traditional instruments remained stable.

However, not all of these gains can be attributed to competition between formats. Tariff increases in the mid 1920s were contributing to this growth, but as I will show below, other factors were also important in stimulating demand. The 1920s was also a time of marked industrial growth in Australia. A lack of imports from Europe, due to a lack of shipping, meant that more goods had to be manufactured in Australia. This provided an opportunity for Australian manufacturers because some demand for European and American products would have remained unmet without an Australian manufactured substitute (Forster 1964, pp. 3-4; Johnston et al. 1995, p. 228). In addition, White (1992, p. 235) has argued that in the 1920s the ratio of population size and average income allowed many Australian consumer goods manufacturers to go "beyond the minimum threshold of efficient technology and therefore [achieve] significant factor-productivity increases", thus making possible increased economies of scale, and some form of mass production and mass marketing in the domestic market. Electricity was also beginning its spread into suburban houses in Australia in the 1920s, which made the use of such products as gramophones and wireless easier and more convenient (Murray 1978, pp. 14-15). It is therefore clear that the strong development of the music technology manufacturing sector in the mid 1920s resulted from a broad spectrum of contributing elements: the co-evolution of technologies of production (gramophones, wireless and electricity grids) interacted with technologies of power (tariffs, mass production and mass marketing) to facilitate these changes.

Imports of music technology rose sharply after 1922, which indicates a sharp rise in demand, consistent with or greater than the rise in imports across the whole economy and the rise in local instrument production at the same time. The demand for upright pianos more than doubled in 1924 compared to a year earlier and so did demand for player pianos. Although demand continued to be strong for most of the next five years, it was demand for gramophones and records that sustained the most consistent growth during the whole of the 1920s, especially from 1926 to 1930, after which demand fell off leading into the Depression. In 1930, the value of gramophone imports was almost £275,000 compared with £343,000 for all traditional musical instruments. This could be seen, in part, as a response to the improved sound quality achieved by the electric recording process. It is important to see these statistics in a broader perspective, since demand is not stimulated by technical novelty and improved product quality alone.

Consumer credit, or hire purchase, was an important stimulant to demand for music technology when it became common in the 1920s. The Sydney Morning Herald in 1927 clearly captured its significance:

Of late there has been tremendous growth in…the time-payment system of buying… Today the operations of the system are not confined to any one class or section of the people, they are widespread. It is no longer popularly regarded as pernicious; few are ashamed to admit that they take advantage of the facilities it offers;… and the great proportion of the purchases made by its means are not clothing, nor furniture, nor general household goods, but motor cars, player pianos, wireless sets, electric carpet sweepers, and jewellery (Forster 1964, p. 9).

Credit facilities which had been available to middle class Australians for some time, were now more widely available and that boosted spending. Indeed, between 1920 and 1927 personal consumption in Australia increased by 75 per cent (Shergold 1087, p. 226). It was easier to spend money, money could be spent before it was earned, and there was a growing array of attractive consumer goods available for purchase.

I have shown earlier that some companies involved in the manufacture of instruments in Australia were prepared to diversify, building pianos, gramophones and wireless sets for example. However, not all of these diversifications were successful. An example of an unsuccessful restructuring in Australian music technology manufacturing occurred in 1925 when the World Record Company [WoCord], the first Australian company to record, press and retail its own records, began operations in Brighton, Victoria. They produced shellac on cardboard acoustic records, gramophones, wireless sets and had their own radio station, 3PB. Unfortunately, WoCord was unsuccessful and closed in 1926 (Bisset 1979, p. 30).

Tellingly, there were at least six record companies operating in Australia during the 1920s. Four of them – HMV, The Gramophone Company, Columbia and Parlophone – were British; and one – D. Davis and Co. – was American (Bisset 1979, p. 30; Murray 1978, p. 182). As if to further underline the preparedness of foreign companies to exploit Australian markets, in 1926 HMV opened a recording studio in Sydney (Murray 1978, p. 182). These foreign companies were ready and able to take advantage of the arrival of electric recordings in Australia and to fund the beginnings of the Australian recording industry as the technology became too expensive and sophisticated for small entrepreneurs to easily enter the industry. The main point here is that there was an increasing level of sophistication of products and manufacturing processes as the global music economy was moving on to higher levels of "industrialisation", a process which Australian manufacturers had to keep up with. WoCord can be seen as an early indicator of the troubles which would increasingly hamper Australian music technology manufacturers as the levels of sophistication of products and manufacturing technique increased. Perhaps WoCord's attempt to enter the increasingly complex music industry was scuttled by its dependence on the soon to be superseded acoustic recording process and through an inability to re-equip for the electrical process. It would be a long time before the back room recordings like those done at Allan's with acoustic gramophones would again be possible in a commercial sense.


Through the period from Federation to 1930 a number of key variables have been shown to be of prime importance to the history of music technology in Australia. Electric recording and commercial radio broadcasting technology are the first of these. With the key technical discoveries made by people like Marconi, Edison and Bell, the way was clear for electrical goods to be developed. However, it took until the 1920s for electric music technology to begin to make a sharp impression on the music economy. Until the simultaneous existence of electrically recorded music and commercial radio the music industry was little like its modern version. A recording industry based on the corner stone of popular music recording barely existed and even in its embryonic state survived to a large extent because the gramophone was a technological novelty. The spread of the electricity grid to homes and factories was important in assisting this process. As electricity expanded, its uses spread from heating to light and then to radio and gramophones, and it became common place, at least in middle class Australia, by the 1930s.

Not the least of the effects discussed in this chapter was that of competition between the various formats of music reproduction. In this contest the poor quality of acoustic records and cylinders, and the lack of flexibility of player pianos saw those formats lose out to wireless broadcasting and electrically recorded music while the overall levels of demand for music technology increased. Not only did these technologies win out but a stimulation of demand for traditional musical instruments was prompted by changes in the range of ways in which people enjoyed music. In particular, music became a more private and passive domestic phenomenon within the confines of the nuclear family, based around listening to recordings rather than live music performance.

Technologies of power and the self, such as organisational techniques at industry and at government policy level, have been key elements in the analysis undertaken in this section. I have shown the development of what were to become chronic problems in the Australian music technology manufacturing industry, such as poor marketing skills, an inability to produce sophisticated products and lack of appropriate engineering know-how, were all manifest during the early decades of the century. Although some of these weaknesses appear to have been overcome to some degree in the 1920s, the high levels of protection, as I will show in later chapters, simply masked those problems. In reality, there was still a gap developing between what Australian manufacturers of music technology could do, or wanted to do, and that which was state-of-the-art and which some of Australia's major competitors were able to do at the time. I have also shown that intellectual property laws were for the most part looked upon with a naïvety that meant cultural and technological production in the Australian music economy were not fully exploited to the economic advantage of either producers or performers. Despite this situation, AWA had demonstrated that the exploitation of intellectual property monopolies was possible, and indeed beneficial, in establishing big and stable industries in high technology areas.

The effects of World War I have also been shown to have played important rôles in the growth of demand and the production of music technology in Australia. One result of America's concern for its own well-being, both economically and strategically, was the formation of a new breed of corporations with the ability to sell to the world. The effects of this situation must not be underestimated as key events affecting the Australian music and mass communications industries. American initiatives were important to Australia because of the increased ability of America to export its technology and cultural products, and of Australia to receive them. Furthermore, the abilities of America to produce and export new music technology were in marked contrast to Britain's and Australia's capacities. If Australia was in a weak position in terms of production and exporting, what was the point in looking to Britain, which was in the process of losing its ranking as an industrial power, for industrial models? It was better to realign and adapt ideas from the United States which was moving ahead industrially. However, while most of the Australian music technology manufacturers languished, much of the music arriving in Australia came thorough the conduit of American technology, namely the gramophone and wireless, and it is not surprising that much of that musical content was itself American. In particular, jazz, which was "musical code" for modernity, helped to orient the Australian audience towards modern consumer products like the wireless and the gramophone, and the new techniques of listening which they required.

While American technology and content were arriving in Australia, it is also true that Australian producers of technology and content were making Australian products and music, even if their output was overwhelmed by imports. It was not the case that Australians necessarily produced carbon copies of American music and technology: Australian jazz musicians were, for example, playing a particularly Australian style of jazz. Moreover, the latest in piano construction technology was being adapted to Australian conditions, and Australia was largely self-sufficient in wireless receiver and radio station production, even if the production technology and techniques were insufficient to generate significant enough productivity gains to make most Australian manufacturers competitive against international producers in export markets.

Proto-consumerism has been shown to have a complex history which included growing standards of living, consumer credit, popular expressions of modernity and a popular enthusiasm for democracy. Democratic ideals were often reflected in the consumption of popular music and the free use of radio broadcasts and records which created a sense of democratisation of access to culture, and in particular to music, even if that sense of democratisation was in some respects illusory. Similarly, popular modernity as a technology of the self helped people organise their consumption habits, with radio in particular functioning as a symbol of modernity. However, the scope of luxury goods spending was extended to a broader cross-section of people by consumer credit, a technology of power which made it appear easier to afford luxury items.

The effects of increased living standards, consumer credit, mass production, mass marketing and proto-consumerism fostered an increasingly common attitude that new technology, and in particular wireless broadcasting, was a mark of democratic practice and popular empowerment. Here there was a dilemma for the Australian government in deciding what kind of broadcasting system to adopt, a conflict between the desire of the government to regulate and censor as a public trustee of high culture, and the desire to make broadcasting a commercial free-market for popular culture and give it a democratic appearance. This also underlined a tension between adopting the British model of regulation and the American model of free enterprise. Importantly, Australia's cultural and political orientation was becoming less unilaterally pro-British and a compromise between the American and British models was eventually made.

For Australian music technology manufacturers, protectionism was the most enduring feature of the first thirty years of this century. Tariff levels and the range of protective devices increased constantly throughout this period. Technologies of power like "anti-dumping" legislation, "trading with the enemy" legislation, and even patent and copyright laws were used to protect the Australian music industry. Not only was Australia attempting to become more self sufficient in manufacturing, and specifically in producing import replacements, but AWA and the government saw that patent laws could guarantee AWA's profits from manufacturing. This scenario fostered confidence and provided the conducive environment for AWA to invest in research and development programs to the point where Australia was mostly self sufficient in radio technology design and manufacture. It was patent protection, principally, that made it difficult for foreign companies to undermine the business and research objectives of AWA but tariffs played their part too. Copyright was also beginning to be used as a protective device by the 1920s: the establishment of APRA and the systematic collection and exploitation of royalties from the broadcasting of records was a key aspect of this change of view.

Finally, I have shown that global communications networks, although not as pervasive, efficient and diverse as in the latter twentieth century, were nonetheless critical in the development of the architecture, size and scope of the Australian music economy. It was not until the 1920s, when electric recording technology coincided with commercial radio broadcasting and other critical socio-economic factors, that a critical mass appears to have been reached. At this point demand for records and radio seemed to be self-generating, and Australian consumers began to be drawn deeper into an international global market for popular music and its related technologies.






Australia's music economy was affected by a number of key dynamics throughout the 1930s and 1940s: improvements in radio broadcasting technology, the general shape of supply and demand in the economy, new kinds of commercial organisation, the continuing influences of protectionism and the growing global mass communications web. Together, these elements provide a focus of attention which places the technologies of the self and power (commercial organisation and protectionism) in an interactive relationship with the technologies of production (radio technology and the global communications web).

It is helpful to begin discussion of the Electronic Age by outlining the web of key variables for this period. Radio technology had improved markedly since the 1920s; radio receivers were smaller, more robust and produced better quality sound. However, the dominance of the music technology market by electrically recorded disks meant that it would be difficult for the radio industry to compete unless radio manufacturers and radio stations could improve the sound quality of broadcasting to a level which rivalled that of electric recordings. Without this technological development radio audiences and therefore the advertising revenue that could be earned by commercial stations, would be limited. The main point to be taken here is that a positive feedback loop had developed in which radio research and development fed benefits into the commercial side of radio, and that commercial success in turn stimulated industrial research and development.

Unlike the 1920s, the 1930s and 1940s did not see a steady focus on the introduction of new technological developments in the Australian music industry. Technological changes were of course continuing, but most technological advances in recording or radio were consumed not by the music industry, which was suffering poor record sales around the world, but by the military and other industries. Magnetic recording, electric record players, the concept of high fidelity sound, microgroove records and jukeboxes all surfaced during these years, but markets for recorded music and the industrial capacity to produce things like record players and musical instruments were badly affected by the Depression and the war, both of which will be central foci in this discussion. Nevertheless, the emergent Hollywood talkies would by the late 1930s onwards would help to foster singing stars and record sales. Performers such as Nelson Eddy, through to Perry Como and Dean Martin, and on to Bill Haley and Elvis Presley were all beneficiaries of the convergence of cinema and music, and extended their popularity across the world by using both media.

Supply and demand in Australia, and in particular in the Australian music economy, were dominated by two events during the 1930s and the 1940s, the Depression and World War II. During the Depression unemployment, low wages and lack of consumer confidence were the key elements which combined to produce a lowering of demand rather than supply in the music economy. For example, there were 3,000 unemployed cinema musicians in May 1930, even though there had been a total of only 2,354 musicians in Australia in 1921. Not only was the Depression hitting cinema musicians, the arrival of "talkies" had begun to push both solo pianists and orchestras out of cinema employment too. Therefore demand for musical instruments was depressed well before the full force of the Depression hit in 1932 (CBCS 1921; Brisbane 1991, pp. 212-13). The apparently good outlook faced by the Australian music industry in the mid to late 1920s was completely reversed by the Depression. The industry was to be further disrupted by the outbreak of World War II in 1939. During the war the most notable economic feature, as far as this project is concerned, was the depression of supply. The National Security Act, and war provisions like essential industries, reserved occupations, and conservation of foreign credit, were key elements in the restraints placed on the manufacture of luxury goods including music technology.

Modes of commercial organisation such as management and marketing techniques were important considerations in the history of music technology in Australia during the 1930s and 1940s. The use by radio stations of audience surveys, the exploitation of intellectual property monopolies by AWA, and the failures of Australian music technology manufacturers to see the advantages of adopting American rather than British models in manufacturing are among the central dynamics which shaped the Australian music economy during the 1930s and 1940s. These modes of organisation developed at the same time as the ways in which the radio helped form some of the distinctive characteristics of urban family life and relationships to technology in Australia. These are the technologies of power and technologies of the self which are central elements in the analysis conducted in the following two chapters.

Protectionism continued, as it had been since Federation, to be an important element in Australian economics in the 1930s and 1940s. Although Australia was becoming less reliant on Britain and more on the United States in international trade, it still followed a manufacturing policy which formulated Australian manufacturing production as an import replacement activity rather than an export oriented activity. Tariffs rose steadily during this period and additional protection was afforded by currency devaluations which effectively made imports, especially from America, more expensive than Australian produced goods. The end result was an uneven growth in Australia's openness to the world in terms of ability to export and import. Technological and cultural consumption in Australia was beginning to move further away from the inwardly focused music manufacturing sector towards foreign products. The gap between more inwardly focused manufactures and more outwardly focused consumers in Australia would become more evident in the 1950s and 1960s, but it is important to recognise the emergence of this trend in the 1930s and 1940s. Therefore, within the assemblage of technologies change was being promoted partly by friction between two elements: technologies of power (protectionism and business management) and technologies of the self (forming consumer demand).

Mass communications technology became increasingly important to the music industry because of the record companies' and radio broadcasters' growing financial significance and ability to influence demand for recorded music. This situation came about, in part, through the synergies that developed between these two sectors of the music economy. Part of this change was driven by the considerable improvements in the practicality of radio and recording technologies both as consumer goods and as tools of production. As mass communications technology improved, so the global communications network was extended and became more pervasive. As a result, Australia was increasingly drawn into the global net and became less isolated from the world, more outward looking and less focused on the Empire. The results for Australia were fundamental changes in the outlook of Australians. Not only were Australians increasingly exposed, and attracted, to American cultural products; they were also exposed to the fall-out from fundamental changes in American attitudes such as the new enthusiasm for global free-trade. Consequently, a certain amount of decisiveness, which was missing in American foreign policy and foreign relations prior to World War II, became evident. This new decisiveness in global affairs meant that the ubiquitousness of American values, which became very obvious in the post-war years, could begin to find a stronger foothold in Australia. The result was a simultaneous increase in imports to Australia of American mass communications technology and products of American popular culture, and an increase in demand for those products.

Overall, there was little encouragement for the Australian music industry in the 1930s and early 1940s, particularly in the light of restricted consumption and production of musical instruments, although the radio industry continued to grow in importance and strength. However, once the war ended in 1945, the possibilities for the expansion of the Australian music industry which were evident in the 1920s quickly rematerialised in the consumer boom of the 1950s. Furthermore, although consumers and Australian producers were at odds with each other within the assemblage of technologies, it is clear that the momentum in the assemblage was building to the disadvantage of the local industry through the combined effects of protectionism, the ubiquity of the global communications web and its American content, and the increased utility value of radio and records.



In 1931, with the lowest point of the Depression only a year away, the Australian music industry was already impoverished. Imports of music technology, which had peaked at a value of around £1.5 million per annum in 1925, amounted to only a little over £250,000 per annum in 1931.[12] If we accept that in Australia the level of imports is an index marking the general level of consumer activity, we can say that there was only a minimum of demand for music technology in the Australian music economy in 1931. However, some lasting alterations to the nature of the music technology market can be seen to have occurred during this time. The pride of place enjoyed by the piano in Australian homes was now apparently irreparably damaged and, as McQueen (1986, p. 115-6) has argued, the radio was beginning along the final path that would lead to the displacement of the piano as a centre piece in Australian homes.

Ehrlich (1985, p. 209-11) claims that the "collapse of domestic music-making" in the 1930s in Britain was driven by the new electronic music technology. He argues that technological innovation profoundly changed the relationship between musicians and audiences, with the link between demand for music and the simultaneous employment of musicians being broken. Musicians who could find employment in recording, broadcasting and film studios were the ones whose employment was enhanced by the new economics facilitated by electronic music technology. Music was being increasingly delivered by electronic technology which delivered reproduced music, rather than a live performance delivered by musicians. Therefore, it can be said that the interaction between musician and audience was being increasingly mediated by the new technology in what was a fundamental change in the economic structure of the music economy.

Pianos constituted only 4 per cent of all the music technology imported into Australia in 1931 (Fig 18). Other traditional instruments made up about 21 per cent of these imports, gramophones about 21 per cent and wireless almost 52 per cent.

Figure 18.

The relative costs of different items were undoubtedly important in creating this scenario. At a time when the average weekly wage for men was 90s (CBCS 1932, p. 778), even a cheap piano was expensive. In 1928 Allan's was selling a cheap piano for £175 (and an equivalent player piano for about twice that amount), whereas in 1931 a four valve electric plug-in wireless cost £39 10s and a three valve set £16 17s 6d (Game 1976, pp. 210-11). Gramophones, however, appear to have been very difficult to sell. Indeed, a survey of advertisements in the Sydney Morning Herald on 9 and 10 June 1931 reveals only one commercial trader advertising gramophones, which had been reduced from £35 to £3 10s. Some of the glamour and utility of the gramophone appears to have been lost to the wireless in Australia by the 1930s. Indeed, there was a global slump in gramophone and record sales. Between 1929 and 1932 American record sales fell from 150 million to 6 million and gramophones from 987,000 to 40,000 (Mayocchi 1995, p. 32). It was not only the depression that was an influence here, but also competition from sound movies and radio which had an important part to play.

We must consider that size and convenience, rather than just glamour, might also have been factors that contributed to the success of the wireless. The convenience of the wireless lies in the fact that music could be listened to at home without the expense of having a night out at a concert or purchasing a piano. Since the late 1920s wireless was being promoted as the provider of news, sport and drama as well as music. Eric Palmer wrote in the Daily Telegraph on 30 September 1927:

I Am a Radio

I am a University, in your room.

I am an Opera sung by your fireside.

I am an orchestra to set your feet a-dancing.

I am a band to enthuse your musical soul.

I am an orator, whose eloquence holds you still.

I am a violin recital, rendered by a master at your side.

I am a statesman, conferring with you on the nation's needs.

I am a diplomat, voicing a foreign friendliness.

I am a doctor, coming to your home without charge.

I am a banker, watching your laid-away pounds.

I am a leader of industry, analysing the economic trend.

I am a newspaper, describing the events as they happen.

I am a drama, played in your parlor.

I am a debate, where you hear both sides of the day's problems.

I am a football game, with thrills by the score.

I am a boxing championship, with a seat at the ringside.

I am a governess, teaching your children each day.

I am a scientist, revealing wonders that you knew not of.

All these am I, and more.

I am a patriot, kindling anew your love of country.

I am a preacher, re-awakening your faith in human nature.

Yet, poor, foolish men just call me RADIO (Johnson 1988, pp. 44-5).

Palmer's poem celebrates the radio as more than just the sum of its program content, because it transported the world into the living rooms of Australia. Indeed, the radio mediated the flow of information from the wider world into the home. The radio world Palmer described was more than sterile information: it was life itself, delivered into the living room by an intimate friend. At a time of great turmoil, the information that radio had the potential to provide may have helped people develop a sense of social cohesion, a virtual community across the continent – a national audience – which traditional musical instruments could not do. Certainly, Palmer's radio world was reassuring, knowing, caring, well-organised and safe. Despite this warm appeal, radio still had the aura of technological brilliance which elegantly expressed contemporary modernity and the advertisers were keen to capitalise on that brilliance. An advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald in June 1931 invited potential customers to "critically compare [the radio's]… tone, range, selectivity, volume, and appearance".

The United States continued to dominate Australia's music technology import market with almost 52 per cent of wireless imports, about 42 per cent of the gramophone market and nearly 27 per cent of the traditional musical instrument market. What is most significant, however, is the return to prominence of German products, particularly traditional musical instruments, with a 29 per cent share of the market (Fig 19).

Figure 19.

This performance exceeded both the American and British shares. The accounts show that the greatest contribution to the German performance in traditional musical instruments was made by items such as music boxes, metronomes and sundry musical instruments, other than pianos, which accounted for over £12,000 of Germany's almost £20,000 total.

It was still less than ten years since German goods had been allowed back into Australia and the Germans had been finding it difficult to recover their pre-war markets. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, German merchants could not find enough people sufficiently skilled in English to assist them in redeveloping business contacts in the English-speaking world. It is also clear that German merchants had lost knowledge of business practices and conventions in Australia. Indeed, German trade delegations came to Australia during the 1920s to study and prepare manuals on doing business in Australia (Tampke & Doxford 1990, p. 212). Neither did the rising spectre in the 1930s of Nazism, and lingering anti-German sentiments from World War I, assist German instrument makers. Anti-German sentiments were aroused when the Brighton City Council in Melbourne, bought three German pianos in 1927. The council was labelled as "unpatriotic" and as having caused a "grave affront to the citizens". In another incident an applicant for tariff protection against German musical instrument imports went so far as to claim that "during the war the German piano factories had manufactured munitions and had therefore caused many casualties to the British forces" (Tampke & Doxford 1990, pp. 212-14). Clearly, the road ahead for German music technology makers who wanted to sell in Australia was going to be a difficult one.

It is significant that the newest technology – wireless or radio broadcasting – was most closely associated with the new industrial might of the Americans (Fig 20).

Figure 20.

Although Britain and Germany were significant industrial powers at that time, and both had healthy shares of the market for wireless in Australia (about 22 per cent and 10 per cent respectively), it is clear that the comparative advantage afforded by the organisation of American industry, government and finance was paying a dividend to the American economy, at least in terms of trade with Australia, at the expense of the older European industrial powers. America dominated the market for radio, which was the largest section of the music technology market in Australia. Radios represented 52 per cent of the total of music technology imports and American radios made up 52 per cent of all imported radios. Given that radio broadcasting had been around for almost a decade in 1941, a sufficient time for other nations to make significant advances in their capacity to produce this kind of technology, the Americans had clearly profited from their high level of organisation, co-operation and early entry into the consumer electronics market.

It is worthwhile reflecting on the fact that of all the records imported into Australia from the United States and Britain in 1931 nearly 83 per cent were from the United States (Fig 21).

Figure 21.

This represents an overwhelming domination of the Australian market by American recordings. The positive correlation between American industrial strength (especially in exporting the new mass communications technology) and the success of American exports of cultural products such as records (and also movies) is one that must be considered seriously (White 1978, p. 7). As I argued in Chapter 3, American mass communications technology appears to have been an efficient conduit for American cultural products. However, we must be cautious not to make exaggerated claims about American cultural and economic imperialism, and technology transfer. I have already shown that Australian musicians were active in adapting American musical styles to create Australian versions of American music, and that Australian manufacturers were active in adapting music technology (especially pianos) to Australian conditions. Furthermore, while consumer demand for American products, might mean market domination, it does not necessarily mean "cultural" domination of Australia by America. Keeping these points in mind, questions of cultural imperialism and technology transfer cannot be seen as one dimensional, involving a strictly passive reception in Australia of American cultural imports or that they simply became substitutes for British or Australian culture. Rather, despite the inequitable cultural and industrial relationship between Australia and America, an interactive exchange was taking place. This exchange process was a multi-faceted one in which much new technology and new music which came to Australia were in varying degrees transformed by Australians (like radio station managers) to suit the cultural circumstances in Australia. Such an example was soap opera production in Australia. The ideas and much of the early content for soap operas came from America and Britain, but Australia eventually produced its own soap operas and went on to export them as well. A similar situation developed with radio broadcasting technology which was found by the Australian Radio Research Board to need modifications to eliminate disturbances by lightning discharges, which occur at a relatively high rate in Australia. Not only were these discoveries used in Australia, but they were then transferred to America and other countries (White & Huxley 1975).

Exports of Australian-made music technology dwindled to negligible levels again in 1931, indicating that Australian manufacturers were still concerned primarily with import replacement. Almost 90 per cent of musical instruments and 96 per cent of gramophones were exported to other parts of the Empire, and in particular New Zealand. Despite the fact that this situation partly reflected the favourable trading conditions within the Empire and the relative ease with which exports could be sent the "short" distance to New Zealand, it was clear, given the low levels of exports, that there was a continuing narrow geo-political focus for exports. This provides further evidence of the rather passive and unadventurous attitude to exporting which prevailed in the Australian music technology manufacturing sector in 1931 (Figs 22 &23).

Figure 22.

Figure 23.

Further support is lent to my argument that Australian manufacturers were still import replacers by the fact that while exports remained low the ratio of imports to local production had significantly improved from 1921 (when local producers took almost 39 per cent of the market) with local producers accounting for 81 per cent of the total value of imports and local production (Fig 24). This result does not include radio sets imported or produced in Australia because no consistent figures are available for radios in Australia at the time. Had figures for radios been included it may have altered the ratio more in favour of local production.

Figure 24.

Nevertheless, it is clear that local producers were becoming better at import replacement than at any time since Federation, despite the Depression. Local producers had gained market share and if they could maintain this they would be in a strong position in the future and with the potential to become genuine exporters by building on their local markets.

Although there was little comfort in the fact that in 1931 there were only 46 factories making musical instruments, compared to 55 in the record year of 1927, and that the total production value was only about 39 per cent of what was achieved in 1927, it was a considerable achievement that music technology production in 1931 was actually greater than a decade earlier, with three more factories and 4 per cent greater output. The result was an average output of nearly £12,600 per factory in 1931 compared to £12,900 in 1921 and £10,000 in 1911, a reasonable effort during the Depression. This situation suggests that the gains the industry had made in the 1920s were not totally wasted by the Depression and that in respect of market share they were in a good position. Without the rapid consolidation achieved in the 1920s, the industry may have simply disappeared with the Depression.

In 1931, the structure of the Australian music economy had changed in important ways compared to a decade earlier. The Depression was having a profound effect by stifling demand, yet local manufacturers were earning a healthy share of the Australian market. It is not surprising that a well-protected manufacturing sector should achieve such a good result, and this success was, at face value, a good advocate for a continuation of protectionism. However, despite these positive effects, a fundamental weakness in the Australian construction of industry protection continued. An inwardly focused manufacturing sector would, as I will show, lose touch with the latest advances in product design and manufacturing techniques from overseas. This weakness occurred at the same time as Australian consumers were becoming more aware of, and drawn to, foreign produced high technology, causing a widening gap between Australian consumers and Australian producers. The change in demand needed to be met by a change in manufacturing capacity if the local music technology manufacturing industry was to continue to capitalise on its protected position and keep its customers.


In the 1930s, government interest in radio in Australia retained some of the earlier attitude of the state-as-cultural-guardian which was developed in the 1920s, but government also introduced new broadcasting initiatives. In 1932, the Commonwealth established the ABC through an act of parliament. Significantly, the legislation stated there was a need "to establish and utilise in such a manner as is desirable, in order to confer the greatest benefit on broadcasting, groups of musicians for the rendition of orchestral, choral and band music of high quality", which implies a concern for the music and broadcast industry rather than just cultural or moral concerns (Mackay 1957, p. 66). Although what was meant by "high quality", "desirable" and "greatest benefit" is unclear, it is reasonable to assume that the founders of the ABC were still committed to the value of "high culture" to the national moral health report card. Music available to ABC listeners was therefore prescribed to some extent by interpretation of what the government bureaucrats in the ABC as well as the minister responsible thought to be high quality (Miller 1993, p. 47). In 1934 the ABC's chairman, W. J. Cleary, called for the ABC to broadcast "the finer things in life… [and] to find interests other than material ones, to live by more than bread alone" (Johnson in Miller 1993, p. 44). The division of high culture and low culture was mostly a division of the audience into "high brow" and "low brow" rather than a division between ABC and commercial because even the ABC produced less than one quarter of its content for the "high brow" audience (Miller 1993, p. 46). Indeed, a great increase in the ABC's audience, and sales of radios, occurred in 1934 when the Test Cricket was broadcast from England for the first time (Miller 1993, p. 44). Although much debate took place in the 1920s about the shape of broadcasting in Australia, from which the ABC and commercial systems eventuated, by the early 1930s the debate crystallised as radio ceased to be regarded simply as a technological marvel. Instead, radio came to be seen as something separate from the gramophone and central to everyday life. Johnson (1988, pp. 2 & 128-32) claims that radio glorified everyday life and that concerns about radio shifted to anxiety about content and audience. The question occupying policy makers was how to distribute and regulate content.

Radio networks such as the Macquarie Broadcasting Services and British Australian Programs began to produce, record and broadcast their own dramas such as Dad and Dave and Scott of Scotland Yard from 1939 onwards, when legislation to preserve Australia's foreign credit prevented similar dramas from being imported. Not only did radio dramas attract good advertising revenue, but profits could also be earned by selling the programs overseas. By the 1940s, typical costs in the production of Australian-made radio dramas were: script £4; recording and processing £8 10s; pressing £2 10s; and overheads and production £6. On the other side of the ledger, an episode could be sold for £8 to £10 in New Zealand and £10 to £12 in South Africa in addition to local sales (Walker 1973, p. 60). Although these radio "soap operas" were American innovations, we see here a direct financial, cultural and employment benefit for Australia in an adapted Australian cultural product, which was being sold both locally and as an export.

Music technology producers and merchants in Australia were experiencing less success in the 1930s than were the cultural producers. It has already been mentioned that imports of music technology into Australia had declined markedly by 1931, in comparison to the mid and late 1920s, and reached their lowest point in 1932. A cluster of reasons contributed to the low level of imports of music technology, and, for that matter, imports in general during the early 1930s. The Australian pound was devalued in 1931, making imports more expensive, and the basic wage was reduced by 10 per cent, causing average consumption per head to be at its lowest since 1918 (Aplin, Foster & McKernan 1987; Shergold 1987, p. 226). In 1931 unemployment rose to over 16 per cent and continued at around this level or higher until 1934, peaking at 19.71 per cent in 1932 (Withers, Endres & Perry 1987, p. 152). Also contributing to the overall poor condition of the Australian music economy was the fact that exports, which were already at minimal levels in 1931, continued to fall until 1934 and then remained virtually unchanged until 1940. Following this economic downturn, the number of Australian musical instrument factories declined to 30 in 1935 (Fig 25). Therefore, both importers and manufacturers suffered during the 1930s.

Figure 25.

No real growth in the levels of music imports was experienced until 1934, which coincided with the rescinding of the 10 per cent wage cut by the Arbitration Court. A year later, the Commonwealth basic wage was increased by 5s per week, GDP was recovering to early 1920s levels, and by 1939, when general levels of demand had flattened, the possibility of some recovery from the Depression by the music industry was becoming possible (Aplin, Foster & McKernan 1987; Butlin 1987, p. 133). Conditions could have been much worse for the Australian music industry, despite Bisset's (1979, p. 47) claim that unemployment among musicians was twice the national average during the Depression. The popularity of dance halls and dance bands provided some employment, and so did the establishment of the ABC Orchestras from 1932 (Brisbane 1991, p. 219).

What is curious about the profile of musical instrument manufacturing in Australian in the 1930s, is that although Australians were buying fewer imported pianos compared to other traditional musical instruments, gramophones, and wireless sets, Australian piano manufacturers remained fairly constant in number, only experiencing relatively small fluctuations over the decade. In 1934, there were 32 musical instrument factories in Australia and all were piano manufacturers; in 1935 there were 29 manufacturers, all but one (a record manufacturer) were piano makers; and again in 1936 and 1937 there were 31 and 34 respectively, all of which were piano makers. This apparent stability, however, gives a false impression: the total value of production of Australian instrument manufacturers was in fact in rapid decline until 1934 and continued to decline more slowly until 1936, before remaining constant until the end of the war (Fig 26).

Figure 26.

It seems that the profit in making pianos in Australia reached its peak in the 1920s. Restructuring by piano manufacturers such as Carnegie – which started diversifying in 1927 into radio manufacture under the Fridgidaire brand, and later into electrical wholesaling – and Wertheim's – which was struggling and went into partnership with Allan's in 1929-30 as the Australian Piano Company in an unsuccessful last ditch effort to remain in business – underlined the losing battle that piano makers were fighting (Game 6, p. 213). It is not clear how many musical instrument manufacturers diversified. However, what can be said is that the number of manufacturers was growing at a rate faster than the rate of growth in the value of the collective output of all the instrument factories and faster than the total value of musical instrument imports from 1935 onwards. This suggests, in view of the fact that average values of output per factory declined from £12,600 in 1931 to £5,400 in 1940, that some of those who survived were engaging in other activities to generate the revenue to support their businesses, and that management structures were, temporarily at least, flexible and responsive to changing economic conditions.

Significantly, Beale and Co., with its relatively sophisticated global marketing arrangements, was the only major piano manufacturer to survive the Depression in good shape. In fact Atherton (1990, pp. 40-4) claims that Beale and Co. was at its most prolific during the 1930s. The Concord Piano and Player Piano Co., and partners Paul Zenker and Carl Schultes (who were also major piano makers in Australia), all went out of business in the 1930s and Carnegie survived only until 1947. Underlining the changing times, there were 67 wireless manufacturers and the value of their production in Australia (which is not included in the figures for musical instrument factories) was £2,640,000 or an average output of £39,400 per factory in 1937: a significantly healthier position than the collective results for gramophone and traditional musical instrument factories. It is clear from these figures that wireless manufacturing was profitable for those bold enough to go down that path and remain competitive with the Americans.

In 1933, the Census (CBCS 1933) showed that the number of musical instrument makers, repairers and tuners, which had been over 2,000 (0.03 per cent of the population) in 1921, was now only 1,293 (including "musical record makers"), (0.02 per cent of the population). This reflects the fall in the number of factories and value of production of musical instruments in Australia during the worst years of the Depression. The number of music merchants, which had been 1,256 (0.023 per cent of the population) in 1921, was now only 219 (0.003 per cent of the population). With such a small number of dealers it is clear that the retail sector of the music industry was in a poor state, perhaps a worse state even than the manufacturing sector. Although the decline in the number of music teachers continued – the census shows 4,540 teachers (0.069 per cent of the population), a decline of 931 compared to 1921 (down from 0.142 per cent) – it was less than the decline between 1911 and 1921, indicating that people were still actively learning to play traditional musical instruments, even if they were not buying new instruments. It also suggests that the practice of playing music in the home was still primarily a middle class pursuit, with those taking lessons being relatively insulated from the effects of the Depression on domestic expenditure.

During the 1930s, the Australian music economy grew to include commercial and tax payer funded broadcasting systems, and also a radio manufacturing sector. However, what is equally important is the move by Australian piano manufacturers to reorganise and diversify their businesses to meet the changed demands of economic life. This reorganisation by Australian manufacturers was only a faint shadow of the organisational complexity of the American "national triad" and the large American companies such as General Electric and RCA but, in view of what I will show in subsequent chapters, it is important to recognise that some in the Australian music manufacturing sector sought to adapt organisationally to changed economic conditions and to depart from previously existing organisational models, even if that will did not last.

Legislative instruments used by the Federal Government to regulate the broadcasting industry were of great importance during the 1930s. The instigation of the ABC and commercial structures shows a degree of self-assurance and creativity in policy-making that was to be lost in the post-war years. With this new model the broadcasters could produce "high brow" and "low brow" programs around which people could organise much of their social and family life. News, music, sport and drama were all received in the home and led to new kinds of listening. The seven o'clock news, the test cricket broadcast or the dance music show superimposed some new organisational structures on people's domestic lives. The radio was a centre piece in the living rooms of urban Australian households. Indeed, the radio had replaced the piano as both the focus of entertainment and as a dominant item of furniture in the home; it was controlled by fathers and husbands in the evening listening to news and sport, but during the day wives and mothers took control to listen to dramas and music (Johnson 1988). Indeed, Johnson claims that advertisements for radios tended to depict idyllic middle class family scenes which were focused on the radio, thus reinforcing the nuclear family structure and the primacy of the radio within it.

As a technology of sign systems, radio signalled a new and positive direction for consumers. Because of radio's power to convey information and high quality sound, the gramophone and traditional instruments, with their relatively narrow uses, looked pale and anaemic. Palmer's poem and newspaper advertisements at the time suggest that not only was radio a sign of the new and of the marvels of science, but also a sign of humanity and community; it was accessible culturally, intellectually and financially, and it did not discriminate when disseminating its information. Radio was a personable, reassuring, democratic, even caring house guest. The gramophone, on the other hand, lost its place in popular leisure pursuits, and now served a different market to radio. A market where people sought to control their own programming: it was, a more élite market which would in the 1940s begin to develop into the high fidelity sound market.

The 1930s were, therefore, a time of cautious consumption and relatively slow technological "progress". Radio helped organise the increasingly nuclear and urban family life in Australia. Information, news, sport, drama and music were delivered into homes and organised or filtered at two levels: first by bureaucratic and legislative processes, and then by parents. Marketing and manufacturing luxury goods like musical instruments, gramophones and radios were difficult because of low consumer confidence and ability to purchase as a result of the Depression. However, tariffs and fortuitous currency devaluations assisted Australian manufacturers. More important was the ability and preparedness of some Australian music technology manufacturers to effect organisational change, particularly diversification: a key change in the history of Australian music technology. I will leave these conclusions for the moment and move to the war years before making a more detailed set of conclusions that draw the whole of the Electronic Age together.





In 1941, the Australian music economy was in a much better condition than ten years earlier despite World War II, but a significant recovery from the Depression was still some time away. Although there was still only limited activity in local production, exporting and importing of music technology there were some significant changes. Japan – which was mobilising to attack Pearl Harbour – was beginning to show up in the accounts as a beneficiary of Australian musical instrument import consumption (through its export of products in the category of music boxes, metronomes and the like) with a 4.81 per cent share of the total traditional musical instrument import figure. More curious is the fact that Germany was still a source of music technology for Australia even though Australia had declared war on Germany in 1939. German military band and orchestral instruments, music boxes, and gramophones arrived in Australia in 1941. It is difficult to explain this situation, except to suppose that these items had been ordered and shipped out of Germany on the eve of the declaration of war and took two years to arrive on Australian docks. Perhaps they were even the private belongings of German Jewish refugees who began settling in Australia in small numbers from 1933 (Harmstorf & Cigler 1985, p. 141). The rôle of the United States as the major supplier of wireless and wireless parts to Australia continued, with the Americans supplying nearly 57 per cent of our wireless imports. However, Britain had a much more significant position as an exporter to Australia than it had a decade earlier which suggests that some advances in British manufacturing had taken place. Indeed, Britain, according to Game (1976, p. 276) had improved its ability to produce high quality traditional musical instruments. It was now supplying 35 per cent of wireless and wireless parts, nearly 70 per cent of gramophones and accessories, and 65 per cent of traditional musical instruments (Figs 27 & 28).

Figure 27.

Figure 28.

Despite the above figures and any changes that might have taken place in British manufacturing, Britain's main rôle was still to supply Australia with older technologies like the gramophone and traditional musical instruments, where it took a 65 per cent share of the import market (Fig 29).

Figure 29.

Britain was still losing status as an industrial and economic power, and on top of those weaknesses mentioned by Hill, White, Moyal and Ormerod in chapter 3, Murphy (1973), Kirby (1981) and More (1989) point to a number of other key factors in this loss of status. The greatest single weakness, leaving aside the restrictions of war production, was the widening gap between Britain, the United States and many European countries in technical and organisational skills. Britain was relatively slow to adopt new industries and technologies, including electronics, and this was compounded by a lack of up-to-date skills in marketing, manufacturing, engineering and government economic management which were evident elsewhere in the world. The result was an inefficient and over-protected economy which tended to produce expensive old technology goods. The need for appropriate skills or knowledge in an economy is well summed up by Lamberton (1994, p. 25):

The essence of comparative advantage is to be found in R&D activity, technology transfer, the management of information in the innovation process, joint ventures, networks, business intelligence, language capabilities, TRIPS (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights), and the like.

Lamberton's equation is a complex one, it deals in knowledge (intellectual technologies), and, critically, it involves sophisticated modes of organisation. The equation adequately describes the American model but not the British or Australian model.

In contrast to Britain and Australia, America was bringing the techniques of scientific management to bear on their commercial research and development programs. Bell Laboratories in America was a constant source of successful electronic invention and innovation in mass communications and recording technology. The Americans and Germans realised, unlike the Australians and the British, that "the idea of hiding behind so-called national advantages, such as land, location, a skilled and energetic workforce, or natural resources [had] become untenable" (Steele 1988, p. xvii). Successful companies in America set up research and development departments, hired skilled engineers and funded them as part of their normal operating cost (Roussel et al. 1991). No historical research has been done on technology management in Australia in the 1930s and 1940s, but it is safe to assume that with rare exceptions such as AWA the Australian position in manufacturing research and development reflected the British position. I shall return to this line of argument in Chapter 7 and explore its implications for Australian music technology manufacturers in more detail.

In an increasingly internationalised economy where the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the Anglo-American Trade Agreement of 1938 (with which the Americans sought to loosen the hold of preferential trade within the British Empire) were helping to develop global markets, the need to keep up with state-of-the-art technology and organisational modes was accentuated if comparative advantage was to be won (Kirby 1981). In this environment, British exports to the world dropped markedly (Murphy 1973). Australia, with its British economic models and consequent protectionist policies and poor organisational skills (although glimpses of innovative management were seen in the 1930s), did not invite manufacturing success either. With America a well-established leader in radio and electronics research and development, and quickly becoming an enthusiastic free-trade advocate after years of protectionist policies and the most powerful economy in the world, the challenge to modernise industrial organisation in both Britain and Australia along American lines was clear. I will return to this point in Part 4 when the effects of these weaknesses become more obvious in the Australian music economy.

Already in decline in 1931, the piano continued to decline in 1941, making up only 8.81 per cent of the total music technology import figure. If pianos were no longer pre-eminent, then radio was becoming more entrenched as the major source of musical entertainment in Australia with a 65 per cent share of the import market, compared to about 52 per cent in 1931 (Fig 30).

Figure 30.

Parallelling the import trend was the fact that there were now 77 wireless manufacturers in Australia and by 1950 there would be 129. Also, the value of Australian radio production was increasing markedly, reaching a peak output value of £10 million in 1949. Interestingly, the market share held by gramophones had dropped below that of non-piano traditional musical instruments by almost 5 per cent. It is not clear why the gramophone was doing so badly, but as I have shown in previous chapters radios had a clear price advantage over pianos, player pianos and gramophones, and this combined with their versatility dulled enthusiasm for other products.

Radio continued, as it had in the 1930s, to be seen as cutting-edge technology and advertisements for radios emphasised new technological features. The AWA Radiola was advertised in the Sydney Morning Herald on 1 May 1947 as having incorporated "many post-war technical improvements"; in the same edition the Stromberg Carlson claimed to be taking advantage of "new-type speakers" and "new electronic principles applied during the war". These were early warnings of the increased levels of the embedded information, or knowledge, in radios which would become a feature of post-war production. Australian manufacturers had to make sure they had that knowledge if they were to continue to prosper.

The ratio of local production to imports of music technology was still exceptionally good in 1941: imports made up only 27 per cent of the total and local producers 73 per cent, although the level of production in 1941 was considerably less than it had been in 1931 because of the war effort (Fig 31).

Figure 31.

In comparison to 1931, when local producers held an 82 per cent share of the Australian market, the local industry was holding a strong market position. Despite the fact that people were forced to buy Australian products because of shortages, at least they were being exposed to Australian technology, and manufacturers had the opportunity to instil new patterns of demand in Australian consumers once the war restrictions were lifted. Indeed, I will show in the next chapter that a kind of technological chauvinism developed in Australia by the 1950s, which, in part, can be traced to the market dominance maintained in the 1930s and 1940s by Australian radio manufacturers. The negative element in the production equation was that average consumption per head in the Australian economy was in decline – in fact, it was back to Depression levels – and so the market for luxury goods such as radios, and particularly pianos, was severely limited (Shergold 1987, p. 226). The question, which will be answered in the ensuing chapters is: what would happen when these restraints on demand were removed? Would Australians remain loyal to the local manufacturers, or would they flock to the glamorous American and European imports?

Exports of Australian-made music technology in 1941 were considerably higher than ten years previously. The war was good for exports of Australian-made music technology. The value of exports of music technology was just over £200,000 in total, about the same as imports, meaning that the unusual situation of a balanced current account on music technology had been achieved. However, given the low levels of activity, this was not such a remarkable achievement. Most of the value of exports was accumulated from wireless and wireless parts, suggesting that much of it was for military uses rather than for home entertainment. The armed services were major consumers of radio broadcast receivers during the war, purchasing 20,000 receivers on top of more strategic military radio communications needs (Mellor 1958, p. 494). New Zealand continued to be the main recipient of Australian-made gramophones, buying about £30,000 worth, but only about £40 worth of wireless sets. This geo-political export horizon needed to be expanded if significant gains were to be made in music technology exporting.

Although exports had grown significantly, there was no return to the golden days of the 1920s for Australian musical instrument manufacturers. The value of Australian musical instrument production in 1941 was £259,885 – half the 1931 value of £579,294. The Australian music technology industry was not an essential industry to the war effort, and was starved of labour and other resources, so its ability to manufacture and export was severely limited. Radio manufacturers were an exception, and they thrived during the war. After achieving a total output of £560,000 in 1931, radio production rose to £3.5 million in 1941 and to almost £7.3 million in 1945. Radio equipment was essential to the war effort and the development of a radio manufacturing industry was greatly assisted by its value to the war effort. Unfortunately, that momentum was lost by 1950 as the withdrawal of military consumption left a vacuum (Fig 32).

Figure 32.

An evening-up of the ratio of records imported from America and Britain was evident in 1941, with the Americans having a 56 per cent share and the British a 44 per cent share. It is possible that the war, and the very real threat to the welfare of British civilians that it posed, turned Australians, particularly those with family and friends in Britain, away from an American cultural focus and back to nostalgia for Britain. Under these conditions, the desire to buy records of popular British singers and entertainers such as George Formby, who toured Australia in 1946, and Vera Lynn was strong (Brisbane 1991, p. 262). A key point in this change was that whereas the total value of records imported from America and Britain was £10,323 in 1931, it was reduced to only £3,977 in 1941. Significantly, the full weight of this decline was borne by the Americans with the value of their share reducing from £8,532 in 1931 to £2,232 in 1941. It is important to note that the swing to a more British focus in recorded music was accompanied by an increase in levels of British music technology imports. This provides further support to the claim by White (1980) that the origins of music technology imports had a positive correlation to the origins of music recording imports. The changed ratio of record imports also indicates that the process of what White (1978 & 1980) calls the "Americanisation" of Australian culture was inherently unstable, as indeed, was the Britishness of Australian culture. So unstable was this process, that White's term "Americanisation" appears to be inappropriate as a historical generalisation for twentieth century Australia. Clearly, Australians consumed much American and for that matter much British cultural output, but Australian cultural orientation was not decidedly American or British when measured over three decades of music consumption leading up to the 1950s. It was, therefore, uneven across time and across cultural domains.

It must also be kept in mind that while there was an apparent swing towards a British cultural orientation during World War II, fears were being voiced in Australia that some kind of defence against the Americanisation of Australian culture should be mounted. In 1942, as a result of the Gregory Committee an Australian content quota of 2.5 per cent was placed on radio broadcasting. Given the Australian predilection for industry protection this was, it seems, an easy position to adopt. Indeed, the words of the Gregory Committee, in justifying its decision are remarkably consistent with the rhetoric of industrial protectionists of the time:

We are of the opinion that if such a percentage is imposed it will not only give encouragement to present composers in this country but will also stimulate other Australians to develop their latent talents (Breen 1993b, p. 123).

The key changes in the Australian music technology manufacturing sector in 1941, compared to a decade earlier, were driven by war conditions, and in particular by the essential industries provisions. These provisions took resources away from most music technology manufacturers which prevented them from maintaining pre-war production levels. However, for radio manufacturers circumstances were different. The war was good for these manufacturers and they experienced substantial growth as they met growing military as well as private demand for radio's versatility. The issue that needed to be settled in the post-war years, as it had been in 1931, was whether or not this momentum would be maintained. Judging by the abrupt decline in the value of radio production in 1950, a secure future could not be guaranteed.


For the music industry, the "spin-offs" of technological developments related to the conduct of war included better quality and more reliable electronic components, and magnetic recording tape. However, as indicated in Chapter 3, much of the development of the US electronics industry during the 1930s and 1940s can be traced to a co-ordinated effort by central government, major financial institutions and private manufacturing enterprises that resulted, among other things, in the formation of RCA. RCA was effectively granted a monopoly in electronics manufacturing in America, so that it could quickly create a financially sound business. Once well established, the monopoly was broken by the application of American anti-trust laws to stimulate competition and efficiency in the American electronics industry. By the 1930s, the American international telecommunications web enabled American economic interests to exert influence around the world (Sobel 1986, pp. 10-94). In turn, this American technological or communications web helped to funnel American technology, ideas and cultural content into Australia at a growing rate.

During World War II government interest in radio was more direct than in the 1930s because better communications in the battle field, more reliable intelligence and the broad dissemination of information had become principal concerns. The increasing importance of radio broadcasting was illustrated by the fact that in 1941, only 25 per cent of Americans learned of the attack on Pearl Harbour from the radio, whereas in 1942, 73 per cent of Americans said that radio was their main source of war news (Lubar 1993, p. 227). A similar dependence on radio also developed in Australia during the early 1940s (Potts 1989, p. 69). Clearly, the war had created a strong research focus and a healthy economic climate for the electronics industry in Australia and America, which meant that the industry was in a strong position to prosper globally in the post-war years. Also, given that the music industry was developing a dependence on mass-communications technology, it would be able to ride on the back of the prosperity of the communications industry.

Political use of communications technology increased in the years leading up to and during the war, supporting Attali's (1987) claim that recording sound is a profoundly political act because it stock-piles memory and manipulates information. Radio and recording technology demonstrated a formidable capacity to influence the ways in which people could be made to behave in the 1930s. Hitler, for example, used radio to great effect in Germany by broadcasting his speeches. So powerful was radio's ability to communicate that in 1938, Orson Welles's infamous War of the Worlds broadcast caused people to panic (Potts 1989, p. 23). In Australia the persuasive effects of radio were demonstrated as early as 1934, when Ben Chifley used radio broadcasts as an election campaign tool, saying in obviously populist tones on radio that: "Scores of thousands of Australian men and women are hardly getting enough to keep body and soul together [due to the Depression]" (Clark 1987, p. 455). Further evidence of the political use of broadcast and recording technology is illustrated by the sale of recordings of Churchill and Lloyd George speeches to a British audience eager to be informed and reassured (Jones 1992, p. 26).

Government intervention was also important in improving the recording capacity of the Australian communications industry when non-essential imports were banned in 1939 to help conserve foreign credit: the withdrawal of American radio dramas resulted in the establishment of local production companies to produce local shows, and thus the Australian recording industry began to function on a more "industrial" basis by producing content, selling that content and broadcasting it (Potts 1989, p. 70). The effect was an unintentional form of protectionism and the long-term outcomes were far reaching. By the 1980s Australian music recording studios were world class and produced not only recordings by Australian bands but recordings by major American and British bands.

By the mid 1940s a new organisational tool, surveys of radio audiences, were being used by the Anderson and McNair survey organisations. The first McNair survey claimed that: "The prime object of the publication of the surveys is to assist in the building of popular programs and station audience and it is our strong recommendation to all stations using them that they should be accepted for this purpose rather than for aggressive competitive selling" (Mackay 1957, p. 171). Audience surveys served to help stations find a greater demand for their advertising space and more listeners by identifying the needs of both the advertisers and the audience. It must also be considered that advertising agencies such as George Patterson and J. Walter Thompson were exerting an important influence on the radio industry as well. Indeed, Johnson (1988, pp. 158-61) suggests that these two agencies controlled 50 per cent of commercial radio's prime time programming in 1946 and paid close attention to surveys such as McNair's. Therefore, audience surveys were clearly being used for "aggressive and competitive" selling by the commercial radio stations, whose commercial function, at the most basic level, was to sell their audiences to advertisers. This situation represents a new stage of commercial rationalisation in the Australian music industry beyond that which was achieved in the 1920s, and a further use of American models of business practice. Of particular importance to the analysis of the rôle of radio in the music economy was that this new way of organising business activity helped produce a structure which would privilege popular entertainment.

An examination of radio station programs in the Age on April 2 1946, shows a variety of light and serious music programs, dramas, news, quizzes and programs like "Health Talk", "Shoppers' Session" and "Housewives' Association". There was a great range of programming options being taken to draw targeted audiences to the stations. This was in contrast to the more sombre programming in the 1920s. 2FC for example, revealed in the Sydney Morning Herald on October 14 1925, that it could offer listeners news and serious music programs beside Stock Exchange, and shipping and mail news. The Sydney Morning Herald on February 1 1935 showed that a range of stations were broadcasting a more popular collection of music, news, talk, and drama, plus special interest programs for women, children and even model aeroplane enthusiasts. Furthermore, although the conservative 2FC still provided Stock Exchange reports it now broadcast dance music and schools programs, showing that it too had taken a much less serious approach. These programming changes show an evolutionary process through the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s in which the audiences appear to have gradually been provided with more popular entertainment.

At the end of the 1940s, the electronic mass communications industry was much more sophisticated than it had been during the 1930s. The technology was more robust, high fidelity sound was being demanded, and audiences, broadcasters and advertisers were developing more inter-relationships with one another, making navigation through the music economy difficult. Furthermore, the rôle of governments in broadcasting changed from that of regulator or steward, to a more active user of the medium. Most important for the long-term future of the electronics and mass communications industries globally was the growth in their markets and the financial strength they had achieved. Of great importance to Australia was the continuing and subtle change to an Australian nationalism less strongly tied to Britain, and the tentative opening of some trade links to countries outside the British Empire. White (1981, p. 149) argues that this new sense of nationalism spilt into the manufacturing sector where some managers began to think about trading outside the Empire and called for the Australian economy to be "self-contained". Even "loyalist" Prime Minister Menzies commented that although he remained loyal to Britain, Australian interests were separate from Britain and realised that British concerns with Europe could be at the expense of Australian interests (Rickard 1988, p. 199). This process, which was observable as early as the 1920s, helped open the door to American music technology and popular culture as Australians more actively sought out cultural and other products from outside the Empire. I do not wish to argue that this meant a necessary diminution of British imports, just that Australia was becoming more open to a wider range of influences and that America was well placed to take part in exporting to Australia.

Once the Anglo-American Trade Agreement was struck, the American dollar and not the British pound was underwriter of the international economy. Furthermore, the post-war enthusiasm of the Americans for free-trade and breaking down the old protected Empire trading block meant that American manufacturers were gaining better shares of world markets and could take advantage of their greater economies of scale. However, these economies of scale were also the product of the faster pace of technological change in America, particularly in transport and communications, which put downward pressure of prices, and, subsequently helped make bigger markets (Ormerod 1994, p. 54). A result of this was that American goods were cheap compared to British and Australian goods, and the world, including Australia, looked more towards America for economic leadership (Kirby 1981, p. 70). With this increasing growth of American importance in economics, technology and culture, American popular culture, including jazz, was now able to find an even more sympathetic market in Australia than in the pre-war years (Potts 1989, p. 52).

An important assistance to Australian manufacturers in combating America's increasing domination in manufactured consumer goods was the devaluation of the British pound relative to the American dollar in 1949, which forced the Australian currency also to be devalued to maintain its relative position to the British pound, thereby increasing the cost of imported American goods (Aplin, Foster & McKernan). I will show in Chapters 7 and 8, that the devaluation did help to keep some local market share for Australian music technology manufacturers but because it did not address the fundamental weaknesses in technical and organisational know-how, Australian manufacturers were destined to continue to lose ground to foreign manufacturers in the long run. This loss is not surprising given the sheer scale of American expansion and the fact that it was based on such a complex set of fundamental building blocks: mass production, mass marketing, mass communication, strong financial backing, vast economies of scale, advanced industrial research and development, advanced management techniques and a government which was keen to assist the expansion.

The crucial rôle of the Americans in the war, as in World War I, illustrated to Australians the benefits of a strong alliance with America, and the conduct of the war in the Pacific only served to heighten these sensitivities in Australia. Moyal (1985, pp. 174-6) claims that the rôle of Australia in supplying the Americans with a base for communications in conducting the Pacific war was crucial in displaying with particular clarity the relative backwardness or "technological nakedness" of Australia in communications technology. Australia was overly dependent on overseas communications technology during the war and in particular needed to develop its capacity to produce and develop communications equipment on a large scale.

The late 1940s saw the Australian music technology industry recover from the Depression after surviving World War II as a non-essential industry. After 1941, the value of imports of music products rose rapidly until the end of the war, after which time they fell away, only returning again in 1948 and 1949 to levels experienced just before the Depression. Things were worse for Australian producers, who experienced a lean time from the onset of the Depression until 1947, when the value of local production began to recover. However, by 1948 local record pressing plants were operating well and pressed 3.5 million records, about four times the pre-war figure. EMI pressed records in Sydney for HMV, Columbia and Parlophone, producing a catalogue of 11,000 titles (Brisbane 1991, p.267). In all likelihood, most of these recordings were American or British rather than Australian, although Australian records were being produced.

The microgroove 331/3 RPM disk which was released in Australia in 1948, gave very high quality recording and meant that "Hi Fi" record players were now in demand and this added a new stratum to the market profile. It must be pointed out, though, that demand for high fidelity sound did not suddenly occur in 1948. I have already shown that in the 1930s claims about clarity and tone were being made about radios. Those kinds of claims were continuing as an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald on 17 May 1947 clearly shows. His Master's Voice radios were touted as "true-to-life" and as offering "purity of tone and quality reproduction". In particular, the advent of the 331/3 RPM microgroove records and Hi Fi renewed consumer interest in gramophones.

In 1942, the National Security Act was passed by parliament to help bolster the war effort by signalling "reserved" occupations and "essential" industries. As a result, component parts for radio makers, both amateur and professional, were diverted to the services, restricting the activities of both commercial and amateur radio makers (Williams 1994, p.101). As late as May 1947, an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald for His Master's Voice radio illustrates the point:

Although sets are in short supply, we are doing our utmost to overtake demand, without in any way modifying the high standards of materials and workmanship which have made 'His Master's Voice' Radio deservedly famous.

Your nearest accredited retailer will gladly record your name on his priority list.

Therefore, as they had in the 1920s when lack of shipping created scarcities of products in Australia, local manufacturers had an incentive to attempt to produce some of those goods themselves if the basic materials were available.

In 1942, American servicemen began to arrive in Australia, bringing their military bands and musicians, but not enough musical instruments to go around. Allan's was given the contract to supply the Americans with the extra instruments they needed and by 1944 Melbourne was exhausted of all its new and used instruments (Game 1976, pp. 256-7). Indeed, Game has documented how managers from Allan's even went to America in a failed bid to find new supplies of instruments for the Americans in Australia. This addition to local demand was so great that it may have gone beyond the capacity of local producers to satisfy it. Interestingly Game makes no mention of any attempt by Allan's to find a solution to this problem with Australian manufacturers. It may have been the case that local manufacturers were too severely restricted by the essential industries from being able provide instruments, but it seems odd that the possibility was not canvassed. It is also possible that the decision by Allan's reflected something of a colonial attitude to musical instrument acquisition that did not allow the firm's conservative managers to realise that the solution, or even part of it, might be found in Australian factories. Indeed, advertising placed in the Argus and the Age by Allan's since the 1920s indicates a strong bias to foreign made instruments and an almost complete detachment from the local musical instrument manufacturing industry.

By 1950, the total value of Australian music technology production was rivalling the record year of 1927, marking a welcome return to buoyancy. The number of factories making music technology in Australia grew in the early years of the war, but in 1943 ten factories (mostly piano manufacturers) went out of business. In 1945, when the war ended, the number of factories grew again, reaching a record of 64 in 1949, with an average output of £16,800 each, a higher average than had been achieved in the 1920s. Of the 64 factories, eight were gramophone makers, one fewer than the highest for gramophone manufacturers which was achieved in 1931. More significantly, there were 136 radio manufacturers by 1949 compared to 77 in 1941, and they produced nearly 300,000 radio sets and an output of almost £10 million. Despite the fact that these levels of growth would be lost by 1950, this situation represents the beginnings of an important structural change in the Australian music industry. This change can be seen as a decisive response by Australian manufacturers to a fundamental shift in the pattern of demand by Australians. Part of the cause of this new demand was the ascent of radio, which is in line with Ehrlich's (1985) thesis that a new music-musician-audience relationship which was technologically mediated, as outlined in Chapter 5, was becoming more entrenched in the 1940s. However, what is also important, but less spectacular, was that in 1949 there were fifteen manufacturers of "other musical instruments" compared to only three in 1931, a fivefold increase which underlined an important change in the types of musical instruments needed for contemporary popular music: like guitars, saxophones and drum kits.

During the mid 1940s, two important Australian musical instrument manufacturers began operations. In 1944, Bill May established Maton guitars in Melbourne because he was concerned about the poor quality of imported guitars. Maton began making acoustic guitars, but by 1949 was also making the first electric guitars in Australia (Atherton 1990, pp. 83-6). In 1946 C. E. Davis, who had been an apprentice at Beale and Co. and had been working in a factory making aircraft equipment during the war, set up shop in Sydney making pianos, the first of which was sold for £144 10s (Atherton 1990, p 48). Although both of these businesses enjoyed long-term prosperity, it is only Maton which continues to operate in the 1990s, underlining the division between the piano and other musical instruments in a music industry becoming more focused on guitar-based styles of music, and on the resultant fundamental changes in demand in Australia. The inaccessibility of the piano, to a changing market, in terms of cost, size, playing technique and portability is at issue here.

Exports of music technology peaked in 1941 and 1942, with exports of radios and radio parts being the major contributor, and continued at a strong rate again from 1945, reaching significant levels (of up to £500,000 a year) at the end of the decade. This export performance mirrored the overall export performance in the Australian economy immediately after the war, indicating a general return to higher manufacturing levels across the Australian economy once war production was scaled down or ceased (Lougheed 1987, p. 191). Importantly, the contribution by radio manufacturers signals that the conditions were developing in which Australian manufacturers could now consider making a more concerted effort than they had over the previous twenty years to participate in the high technology end of the music technology manufacturing spectrum.

Economic and social indicators show that the Australian economy was not only regaining strength in the immediate post-war years, but was beginning to show signs of a prosperity not experienced since the mid and late 1920s. GDP, which had shown only modest growth in the 1930s, was booming by 1950 (Butlin 1987, p. 139). Personal consumption, and therefore general levels of demand and capacity to spend, were growing rapidly, offering great hope to luxury goods producers, and in particular, to the music technology industry in Australia (Shergold 1987, p. 226). The consumer boom that was foreshadowed in the 1920s was about to become a reality in Australia. Growth in retail trade for hardware, radio and musical instruments grew by about 12 per cent from 1948 to 1949 and the number of retail outlets in the same category increased from 5,191 to 5,418 (Forster & Bridge 1987, p. 230). In addition, whereas in 1925 there were only 61,059 radio listeners' licences in Australia, there were 2,029,073 such licences in 1950 (Vamplew 1987, p. 390). With a total population of 8.3 million, one in four people had a radio licence, which suggests that because there was a need for only one licence in each home, nearly all Australians who wanted to enjoy radio could do so (ABS 1981, p. 725). These conditions were also a reflection of a number of other important developments in the economy, including the fact that unemployment was under 2 per cent for all but two years from 1942 to 1950, and that the minimum weekly wage had almost doubled from 1940 to 1950 (Withers, Endres & Perry 1987, pp. 152 &155).


The gramophone was no longer a sign of modernity by the 1940s; only radio could assume that status in the Electronic Age. However, radio was not just a sign of brilliant science: it was perceived as a more friendly, human technology, a benevolent bearer of information. Radio still functioned, as it had in the 1920s, as a technology of the self through which family members could organise their home life. Arranging evenings to fit in with listening to the seven o'clock news and other programs was a part of modern family life in the 1930s and 1940s. That radios were smaller, more robust and produced better quality sound was important because they were being seamlessly incorporated into the decor and fabric of the family home. The fact that technical improvement continued also made life easy for the marketers, who had the skills to manipulate such information and make their products more attractive.

There was, however, a brake on the music economy in Australia during the 1930s and 1940s. The brake was not on the ability of technologists or scientists to innovate, nor was it on the capacity of people to enjoy music; rather, it was on the capacity to produce luxury goods; the availability of the raw materials, including labour; and the capacity to purchase them. Not all of these restrictions affected the Australian music economy throughout the twenty years in question; in fact, two sets of restrictions operated, one a result of the Depression and another as a result of the war. The Depression tended to place restrictions on the ability to purchase: as I have shown, the 1930s were a time of low demand for items of music technology in Australia. High unemployment and low wages were not the conditions in which musical instrument manufacturers could prosper. Radios and gramophones were still luxury goods that many people on low incomes could not afford, except after some considerable savings effort, although just after the worst years of the Depression, many did make the effort to have the new technology in their homes, especially radios.

During World War II, non-essential industries could not command supplies of materials or labour due to the concentration in Australia on war industries. This situation placed a set of restrictions on the ability to produce rather than to consume, in a reversal of the Depression pattern. As a consequence, the output of Australian musical instrument manufacturers, which began to decline markedly in 1930, remained in a depressed state until 1947 (despite the fact imports of similar goods had been growing in most years since 1935, and growing strongly since 1941), by which time war restrictions were being eased. Once the brake was taken off by the cessation of war through the gradual relaxing of war restrictions, the economic trajectory that appeared to be developing in the late 1920s appeared to re-emerge. Most significant by the 1940s, was the gradual emergence of a whole set of conditions such as low unemployment and increasing wages which contributed to a high standard of living in Australia, and the possibility of heightened levels of consumer spending, especially on luxury and entertainment goods and services, which had not been seen since the 1920s.

I have also shown that in the background to this period in Australian history, the influences of subtle changes in the attitude of the Australian government to the regulation of radio, with less emphasis on the moral stewardship of Australians and more on the economic stewardship of the Australian broadcast industry, were key dynamics. In addition, I have shown that rationalisation in the commercial radio industry facilitated the commercial benefits of the new communications technology, by using organisational tools such as audience surveys and developing its local capacity to produce popular entertainment.

Protectionism in the form of tariffs, war restrictions and, to a lesser extent, currency devaluations continued to channel Australian manufacturers along the road of import replacement. Despite steady growth in the numbers of music technology manufacturers operating in Australia during the 1930s and 1940s there was a failure to develop export markets and I will show in the next two chapters that this fostered an insulating effect around Australian manufacturers to the point where they could not help but continue to lose contact with state-of-the-art technology and manufacturing systems, and place Australia in danger of becoming a technological backwater. An important aspect of this line of discussion is that even though Australian music technology manufacturers might have been less sophisticated in the use of advanced manufacturing techniques, engineering, marketing and other management skills compared to other foreign manufacturers, Australian consumers – because of the speed of communications and pervasiveness of mass communications technology, regardless of its origins – developed their tastes along international lines and eventually lost interest in unsophisticated Australian products.

I have shown, particularly during the war, that the global mass communications web brought Australia closer to the rest of the world, and in particular to America, at the expense of the historical links with Britain and the Empire. An important aspect of this change in Australian outlook was the continuing orientation of Australian cultural consumption not only towards American technology but also towards American popular culture such as jazz and Hollywood movies. Significantly, a reciprocal facility was developing for Australia to export cultural products such as radio drama to the world. The development of the capacity for radio drama production – an unintended result of war restrictions – encouraged the establishment of a more globally focused recording industry in Australia. However, whereas the recording industry had an attractive mass consumption product which was suitable for much of the Western world, the music technology manufacturers were no longer in a position to produce sophisticated goods suitable for the increasingly globalised music market.

During the Electronic Age, the assemblage of technologies in the Australian music economy was dominated by technologies of power. War-related legislation, American free-trade enthusiasm, government regulation of radio broadcasting, and the use of audience surveys and advertising agencies had the most profound effects on the Australian music economy. As a result of these technologies, Australian perspectives became increasingly sensitive to American influences; radio broadcasting crystallised into the basic structures (with the exception of FM and public broadcasting) which remain today; the Australian recording industry became not just an important presence in Australia but an exporter of cultural products; and some Australian music technology manufacturers moved tentatively and briefly towards adopting an American styled model of high technology goods manufacturing. All of these elements have been shown to be vital ingredients in the development of fundamental changes to the architecture of the Australian music economy during this period, and for preparing the way for the boom years of the 1950s and 1960s.





In terms of music technology, the 1950s and 1960s resembled the 1920s more than the two decades between. As I have shown, during the 1920s the variety and sophistication of available music delivery systems increased from the simple acoustic gramophone and piano roll to include electrically recorded disks and wireless broadcasting. At the same time as the sophistication of these delivery systems increased, the demand for music technology also expanded. Similarly, the 1950s and 1960s saw expansion of available delivery systems to include transistor radios, stereo radiograms, portable record players, tape recorders, compact cassette tapes and music broadcasts on television. Again, as in the 1920s, increased demand for music technology was associated with the expansion of available delivery systems.

Within the transistor age five important historical dynamics can be identified: the development of transistor technology, mass communication technology, the rise of consumer culture, the rise of pop music cultures and protectionist industry policy. In terms of the assemblage of technologies approach, it is the case once again that the technologies of production (transistor technology and mass communications technology in this section) have had an influence on the Australian music economy, but of equal importance is that technologies of power and the self (consumer culture, popular music cultures and protectionism) have been critical elements too.

The first of these dynamics, the development of transistors and transistor based consumer durables, was given great impetus by the large investment made by the American government through its position as the major purchaser of American-made transistors. As a result of this investment, the industry quickly achieved financial strength, and stability in America. In addition, the growing sophistication of the industry's ability to organise itself through the application of appropriate organisational technologies in response to global market and production needs, such as the growing ability to influence consumer behaviour in ways that were beneficial to the industry, was vital to the success of transistor technology (Lubar 1993). The increased utility of transistor-based consumer electronics, in the form of increased portability, reliability, function, and lower price, made them more attractive items for ordinary consumers. Finally, the development of transistors also depended on the necessary scientific and technical innovations in America and then in Japan, which made transistors technically possible.

Consumerism existed in a cause-effect cycle in Australia which was fed by rising and better distributed wealth which dramatically pushed up demand for consumer goods. Also feeding growing demand was population growth, which had the effect of creating a much larger consumer market in Australia. Australia's population rose from 8.3 million in 1951 to 10.6 million in 1961 and 12.4 million in 1969 through the effects of migration programs and the baby boom (ABS 1981, p. 725). This meant that the potential market for music technology grew considerably. The major contributor to population growth was the migration to Australia of Europeans and Britons who brought new musical tastes and attitudes which assisted the growth and increasing diversification of demand in the music economy. Australia also became more urbanised during the 1950s and 1960s, reaching an urbanisation rate of around 85 per cent by the end of the 1960s (ABS 1992, p. 16). With this pattern of population growth and urbanisation, an urban and suburban rock culture similar to that seen in Britain and the United States emerged.

The third of the three key dynamics, the rise of popular music cultures, operated in a cause-effect cycle which included changes in the dynamics of the nuclear family structure. In the 1960s, teenagers were becoming more mobile, and, therefore, more open to influences from peer groups rather than just their parents. For the first time a significant teenage market, which had achieved considerable independence from parental influence and had more money to spend, was emerging: it was capable of articulating its demands, and capable of being identified and exploited. It is also true that an influx of migrant youths, and growth in the spending capacity of youths in Australia, contributed to this cycle too.

The consequences of an increasingly sophisticated and efficient communications net were many and various in Australia during the 1950s and 1960s. The most significant was that Australian cultural consumption continued to be more and more incorporated into a global popular culture market. Two important results ensued from this process. One was that Australian cultural products remained at the margins of world and local markets, while at the same time foreign cultural products gained easier access to Australia. More significant was the fact that Australian music technology manufacturers, particularly radio/audio manufacturers, were not just marginalised but decimated. Unfortunately for Australia, foreign manufacturers found an enthusiastic market in Australia yet reciprocal access to foreign markets could not be exploited by Australian manufacturers. Local products were expensive and were at best derivative of foreign products, or at worst, less sophisticated than those in demand in both the global and Australian markets.

The other major variable throughout this period was protectionism. The 1950s represent for the Australian music technology manufacturing industry the zenith of protectionist achievement. The 1950s were the "golden" years of Australian radio/audio and musical instrument manufacturing. With barriers to imported products placed around a growing, increasingly confident, cash-laden market where people were hungry to consume, it looked, prima facie, as if a healthy music technology manufacturing industry would emerge in Australia. As a result, a temporary paradise was created for Australian music technology manufactures. There was a cost, however, and it was extracted, as I will show, in the 1960s when complacency, particularly in the radio/audio factories, made Australian manufactures too inefficient and lacking in technical know-how to compete against foreign manufacturers. It was the Japanese in particular they had trouble competing with, in terms of price, despite the protectionist barriers, and in terms of the utility and technical spectacularness of their products.


In my examination of the first year of the decade of the 1950s, I again seek to elucidate the micro-structures of the Australian music economy in 1951. In doing so it will become apparent how the architecture of the music economy had altered since 1941, thereby better preparing for the macro-analysis undertaken in the second part of this chapter.

It is useful to begin this discussion with an overview of the important changes in the Australian music economy since 1941. To start with, the topography of demand for music technology in Australia had significantly changed in 1951 compared to a decade earlier, when the war exerted great influence over the nature of demand. The dominance of radio importing had diminished with radio imports taking only 23 per cent of the total for music technology imports although radios were being imported to about the same value as they had a decade earlier, while the demand for pianos was significantly restored with a 35 per cent share of the import market (Fig 33).[14] These figures suggest that a certain amount of suppressed demand for pianos and, perhaps other expensive luxury goods, had been unleashed once the austerity measures of the war years were removed and consumer confidence increased. The 1950s, as Rickard (1988, p. 227) assesses it, was a time when the "home was more than ever the citadel of the family" in an increasingly affluent, consumerist society which was concerned with upward mobility. Parents had increasingly high expectations for their children particularly in education and in this environment it is reasonable to argue that part of the middle class aspirations of Australian families included learning to play the piano. The resurgence in demand for pianos shows that the argument put forward by McQueen (1986), which perceives the historical demand for pianos being inversely proportional to demand for radiograms, must be viewed cautiously. What we have here is not a simple act of replacing the piano, which would imply the eventual extinction of the acoustic piano in Australian homes, but a shift of rôle and meaning for the piano as a sign system. Within the new sign system the acoustic piano still played a rôle in domestic cultural life, but a rôle that was diminished and changed by the increasingly spectacular abilities of new technologies such as radiograms, which were powerful and attractive symbols of suburban modernity (Fig 33).

Figure 33.

Traditional musical instruments other than pianos became the largest group of imported music technology with 41 per cent of total imports. Jazz increased in popularity during the war, partly because of the influence of American servicemen and musicians, and with this popularity the demand for instruments such as guitars, drum kits and saxophones increased. It is difficult to fully document this increase in demand because the only reliable index is the value of imports of these kinds of instruments. Unfortunately, the official accounts only provide detailed figures from 1947 onwards. However, it is worth considering those figures here. Imported percussion instruments were valued at £7,402 in 1947. This value rose rapidly to £21,242 in 1949 and decreased slightly to £18,577 in 1951. Similarly, stringed instruments, excluding violin family instruments, increased in value from £4,521 in 1947 to £18,577 in 1951 and £27,581 a year later. Wind instruments increased from £17,998 in 1947 to £80,714 in 1952. The importance of these figures is that they show a significant increase in the use of these kinds of instruments. These small, accessible and affordable instruments of popular music were powerful signs of the post-war years. The popularity during the war of American jazz and, indeed, the ubiquitousness of American values, including a renewed fervour for democracy, made more accessible instruments like guitars attractive. People could participate in the production of their own music, even if it was of American origin, and, above all, overtly display their participation in the new and optimistic world that post-war Australia offered.

In 1951 not only had the mix of music technology changed, but, just as importantly, so had the places of origin of those technologies. With the increasing spread of the industrial capacity to manufacture electronic music technology in medium sized countries like the Netherlands, Canada and Switzerland, Australia, despite its geographic isolation, could have had the chance to develop similar capacities. Britain continued to be the major source of traditional musical instruments, supplying 38 per cent of the total import bill, although this was only about half its share in 1941. Not surprisingly, with the war now over, Germany had considerably improved its share of the non-piano musical instrument market, increasing it share from 4 per cent to 18 per cent between 1941 and 1951 (Fig 34).

Figure 34.

Germany had also increased its market share for pianos in the same period from 4 per cent to 13 per cent. Notably, the United States had dropped from a share of almost 14 per cent of the traditional musical instrument market in 1941 to nil in 1951. This fall in demand for American instruments is difficult to explain, but what can be said is that the situation was very different in 1961, when the Americans took a 27 per cent share, indicating that the poor showing was only temporary and therefore not the result of any enduring problems. Britain replaced America as the main supplier of pianos to Australia, again highlighting Britain's rôle as a producer of old technology, and that there was a divide between low technology and high technology oriented manufacturing nations.

America took a dominant position in the gramophone import market with an 82 per cent share in 1951 (Fig 35). Not only had America taken a dominant position but the gramophone had undergone some important technical improvements since the 1940s and could better compete with radios. This situation suggests that the American's technical superiority and ability to move quickly to capitalise on new technological advances was a critical advantage. However, a number of smaller nations such as Switzerland contributed to the "other" importers' 14 per cent share of the market. This indicates that although the Americans had a clear lead it was possible for small nations to develop the capacity to manufacture these instruments and to enter the international gramophone market.

Figure 35.

A somewhat similar situation in the imports of radios to that which we have just seen with gramophones also existed. Although the United States retained its dominance of the radio import market, with a 17 per cent share, it was very much lower than the 57 per cent share it enjoyed in 1941 (Fig 36). Conditions appeared worse for the British radio manufacturers, who had dropped from a 35 per cent share in 1941, to a 3.5 per cent share in 1951, supporting the argument that Britain was poorly positioned to easily engage in high technology manufacturing. Significantly, 16 per cent of imported radios were obtained from a variety of small nations such as the Netherlands and Canada. Again, this spreading of sources underlines the growing diversification of Australia's trading partners at the time, and reflects the spreading industrial capacity in electronic goods manufacturing around the Western world which Australia was nevertheless missing out on.

Figure 36.

Some questions arise here. Why was there a divide between high technology oriented and low technology oriented manufacturing countries? How were the smaller nations able to enter the high technology manufacturing realm? Small countries, which were able to focus clearly on gaining a place in modern manufacturing by adopting sound industry policy with sophisticated protectionist policies, as well as "best practice" in management and manufacturing processes, were able to enter the high technology realm and lessen the dominance of the traditional industrial powers (Stewart 1991; Anderson 1987; Betz 1993; Roussel et al. 1991). Stewart has singled out Japan, South Korea and Taiwan as countries with similar highly focused and clear industry policies, who set out to nurture selected infant industries with protectionist policies, then encouraged exports once they were established: this, she points out, meant that those countries avoided, to a large extent, the problem of lack of competitiveness which has characterised Australian manufacturing and that "there is no reason to believe that, in consultation with industry, Australian officials could not make similarly sensible choices" and policy to those made in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan (p. 263). If they possessed the appropriate organisational skills, and industrial research and development know-how, these small nations could design and produce high technology goods efficiently enough to compete with the large industrial powers in the global market. It is also clear that if Switzerland, Canada and the Netherlands could enter the global electronics market it should also have been possible for Australia to do so, unless there were obstacles peculiar to Australia which prevented such a move.

Hill (1988, p. 254) argues that Australian firms have not had the focused industrial "knowledge generating" research and development capacity of America, Germany and Japan. Rather, he claims that industrial research and development in Australia has been done in the universities and the CSIRO which are "remote from industrial demand and application" and that:

Consequently, while the USA, Germany, Japan and the rest of the industrialised world put massive investment into new technology for the post-war leading edge high technology industries… Australian research concentrated on isolated scientific excellence; and managers, government officials and politicians became increasingly confirmed in a generally conservative attitude to the need for new ideas and products.

The declining rôle played by Britain in high technology manufacturing suggests some explanations for Australia's position. In previous chapters I have argued that Britain had inappropriate organisational structures for the globally focused high technology industries and a focus on heavy manufacturing industry. However, it also had deficiencies in technical education structures. This produced a gap, which had been growing since early this century, between its ability to engage in high technology industry and the ability of other more appropriately structured industrial nations to produce high technology products (Hill 1988). I also argued in the previous chapter that Australia had largely modelled its management and technical education structures on those of Britain, rather than those of America. Therefore, given that Britain was struggling despite its geographic, financial and historical advantages, which Australia did not enjoy, it should be no surprise that Australia found itself in a hopeless situation – at least in international markets.

The technology and manufacturing trap which Australia was falling into was going to be difficult to get out of. Parker (1994, p. 77) has succinctly characterised the mechanisms of that trap. He argues that as real income increases the importance of information, or knowledge, also increases and when at the same time production becomes more technically sophisticated a feedback loop develops in which technical and organisational change become more rapid and prevalent. An economy which cannot develop a feedback loop like this on a scale similar to its competitors will be at a disadvantage. Although referring to emerging economies in the Third World, Parker's scenario is appropriate as a representation of the emerging globalised information intensive economy in the 1950s and 1960s. Technical and organisational change were relatively slow in Australia and state of the art knowledge was scarce. Australia was, therefore, not well positioned to join, as producers, that globalised economy.

It is not only important to look at imports of music technology into Australia, adequate attention must be given to Australian production too. Australian producers continued to perform well in the domestic market in 1951 as the effects of the scarcity of manufacturing knowledge were still a decade away. The ratio of locally produced music technology and imports was 2:1 in favour of local manufacturers. Again, as in 1941, this ratio does not include the values of radio imports and production because of the unavailability of figures on local radio production output. However, given that figures in 1950 show that local radio production was valued at around $4.7 million it seems likely that output in 1951 was around this level too and consequently the above ratio may understate the health of Australian music technology manufacturing. Further support for the argument for a growing manufacturing presence in the Australian music economy can be seen in 1951 when there were a record 66 music manufacturing factories, including 41 piano manufacturers, which was the highest ever achieved (Fig 37). There were 14 manufacturers of other traditional musical instruments, which was one less than the most ever recorded. Also, there were 11 gramophone factories, which was also a record number. On top of this proliferation of music technology manufacturers in Australia, it appears that profitability was good, with an average output value of $70,200 per factory. This output represents more than five times the 1941 average output. However, because prices in the economy had more than doubled since 1941 due to high inflation, we must exercise some caution when interpreting the increase in the value of output per factory (ABS 1994, p. 581).

Figure 37.

Even allowing for inflation, this was an exceptional period of growth, both in terms of output and numbers of manufacturers. These figures demonstrate clearly that not only was there a boom generally in the Australian economy but also that a boom in the Australian music economy was well under way. Based on the figures above, it can be concluded that despite the fundamental structural and organisational problems mentioned above, Australian music technology manufacturers were doing very well in their home markets, although that comfortable situation would soon take a change for the worse. Of equal importance though is the poor exporting performance of Australian music technology manufacturers because that is where the endemic structural and organisational weaknesses are highlighted. Total exports were valued at $500,000 in 1951 – compared to over $2.5 million in imports – and this imbalance displays the difficulties that were still being experienced in international markets by the local manufacturers.

Imports of records from Britain and the United States had swung back resoundingly in favour of British music in 1951 by a ratio of over 3:1. The continual swing between dominance of the Australian market by British and American records again highlights the volatility of Australian cultural relations, and clearly shows that generalisations about British and American cultural imperialism in Australia have limited scope for explaining Australian cultural orientation. At best, these figures reveal a state of unresolved tension in the kinds of choices Australians were making between British and American cultural products in forming an Australian cultural identity. Casting further doubt on the efficacy of simple generalisations is White's (1978) claim that there is a direct relationship between the dominant source of imports of Australia's music technology and the dominant source of music imports. Although White's generalisation has some validity, his position suggests that America and not Britain should have been the dominant source of records in Australia in 1951 because America was the prime source of radios and gramophones. Further complicating the picture is that despite a general acceptance of American culture by Australians there were in effect "anti-American" local content regulations in place in the radio industry (White 1980).

These conflicting signals indicate that elements of both American and British cultural orientation in Australia had been fluid and dependent on a variety of stimuli such as the source of mass communications technology, radio content regulations, and the political and strategic alignment of Australia to America through the Cold War. Indeed, there is no reason to assume that a pneumatic model of a cultural economy, which holds that as American cultural imports increases that British imports should necessarily decrease, is valid. The warning here is clear. An account of cultural orientation which emphasises an analysis based heavily on the influence of technologies of production, at the expense of other elements of the assemblage of technologies (in this case not taking sufficient account of local content regulations), is likely to be misleading. It appears that rather than being passively received en masse, first from Britain and then, increasingly, from America, foreign cultural products arriving in Australia were subject to an array of competing forces in the assemblage of technologies. Therefore, not only has Australian cultural orientation been fluid, but it can be implied from this analysis that the forces acting on popular tastes are subtle and do not necessarily follow one predictable logic. Most importantly, we must consider the possibility that as mass communications became more pervasive Australians were not only exposed to more American culture, but also more British and other culture, and even exposed to more Australian produced culture.


Keeping in mind that the key dynamic elements in the 1950s and 1960s were the development of transistor technology, consumerism, popular music culture, mass communications technology and trade policy, I now move on to an examination of the whole of the 1950s. I begin with a closer look at the transistor and its position in the 1950s music economy.

The semi-conductor was first produced in 1948, and by the mid 1950s was being used in mass-produced transistor radios, synthesisers and other electronic goods (Lubar 1993, p. 234; Johnson 1989, p. 314). Transistor technology was not simply the product of intensive scientific research. Transistor technology, and therefore much of the important music technology of the 1950s and 1960s, was developed in a social context that included Cold War military and political activity, and the relative affluence enjoyed by Western countries during the consumer boom. The high rates of consumption of consumer goods also led to new products and new types of consumers. The market began to be shaped more to cater for young consumers with new products such as transistor radios and portable record players.

Specialists in the United States armed services stimulated the early transistor industry when they realised that transistor technology promised lower manufacturing costs and better reliability for electronic products. In 1955, the United States government bought 35 per cent of America's total transistor production output (mostly for use in military activities), and the financial impetus given to the semi-conductor industry by such significant government investment assisted in securing the technology's future (Lubar 1993, p. 234). However, it was the Japanese company Sony that saw the potential for electronic consumer goods and obtained licences from the patent owners in America to manufacture transistors. Sony then sold transistors back to America and the rest of the world in radios. Sales of 25 million transistor radios in America in 1961 provided significant encouragement for American producers to provide for the consumer goods market by clearly indicating the market potential for these goods (Lubar 1993, p. 234).

The music technology market was being analysed by music technology manufacturers and others, not just in terms of size but in terms of demographics, social class, gender and education. High fidelity sound systems, for example, became a product for adult consumption, or as O'Connell (1992, p. 5) more precisely puts it, high fidelity became a market for educated professional males. Indeed, a column in Radio (TV) and Hobbies in 1951 illustrates the intellectual and esoteric dimension (technologies of the self) which went with high fidelity listening and how well understood the nature of the high fidelity enthusiasts was:

When we analyse sound reproduction, we must listen both with our ears and our brains.

If we wish to confine our discussions to a judgement by our ears whether something sounds acceptable or not, that is one thing. If we mean to query whether the reproduction is so good that it doesn't need to be any better, that is entirely another…

To illustrate, let's assume that we are listening to good recordings played on a system which is exhibiting distortion in the upper register. To avoid an argument about distortion, let's also assume that it is something we can't argue about – high pitched fuzzes and buzzes due to a worn stylus…

There are two possible remedies, with two different results. The first would be to turn down the tone control until enough of the high frequencies was removed to conceal the effects we didn't like…

That is the type of response with which the average listener is familiar…

In truth, their ears have misled them because for years they have told their brains that a wide range reproduction is accompanied by unpleasant effects…

But let's imagine that we have just found the real cause of our predicament. And let's say we have applied the second remedy – a new stylus…

Our ears might rate the sound as acceptable but only our brains can work out which of the two remedies is a step in the right direction (Williams 1994, p. 92).

Not only were markets seen in more detailed perspectives, but technological wizardry was tailored for specific segments of the market. Stereo effects records began to tap into a new type of music production technique which focused on the spatial placement of sound which initially was aimed towards a specific "HiFi" market. In the first place, this kind of technical sophistication only developed where an audience of sophisticated listening and spending power could support it. However, given the levels of mass production and consumption that were eventually reached with this kind of recording technology it is clear that the mass audience was changing in terms of both critical listening skills and spending capacity, and eventually came to resemble the original and rather esoteric high fidelity audience.

By 1959, twin-track stereophonic technology had come to Australia in the form of stereo radiograms and special effects records such as Decca's A Journey into Stereo Sound. However, as journalist John Moyle explained in Radio (TV) and Hobbies in 1959, some Australian audio/radio manufacturers were unhappy about information on stereo technology being published in Australia (Williams, 1994, p. 90). This position suggests that Australian manufacturers were not looking forward to having this new technology in the market, and that they were neither able, nor willing, to produce comparable technology themselves. Indeed, Williams points out that the local audio/radio industry leaders had no technical knowledge of stereo and "hoped that it would go away".

Very little is known about the history of the Australian audio/radio industry, but Williams' (pp. 113-33) comments suggest several reasons for the aversion to stereo technology. The first is risk aversion, which resulted from the managerial conservatism which Butlin (1986) and Moyal (1986) argue has been characteristic of Australian manufacturing. Risk aversion predisposed Australian manufacturers to restrict themselves to those practices which had been successful in the past and to spurn innovation. Second, Williams suggests there was an inability to produce complicated products in stereo manufacturing firms, which Forster (1970) claims has been an enduring problem in Australian manufacturing because of the lack of technical know-how in both the design and production processes. Williams, in his discussion of Slade Radio, the Paton Electrical Instrument Company and Tasma, indicates that incompetent, naïve and complacent management, particularly in financial and contractual matters, was endemic in the industry during the 1950s and 1960s and resulted in the collapse of many businesses. If Williams' observations are correct, then the long term fate of audio/radio manufacturing in Australia began to look uncertain in 1949.

The period of the late 1950s and early 1960s was an important time, a turning point which should not be underestimated in Australian high technology music manufacturing. These were the decades when Australian radio and gramophone production peaked before losing momentum and virtually dying by the mid 1970s. Clearly, the appropriate organisational techniques and knowledge that existed in America, Japan, Switzerland and the Netherlands were, as Williams suggests, missing in Australia. I have already discussed the pitfalls of Australian appropriation of British, instead of American, organisational and engineering models in the pre-war years, but we must also look at how government policy and consumer behaviour influenced the prosperity of the Australian producers as well.

Keynesian economic theory played a vital rôle in persuading governments to spend large amounts of money in an attempt to increase aggregate demand in their national economies in the 1950s and 1960s. Catley and McFarlane (1983, pp. 65-70) argue that the White Paper in 1945 on Full Employment in Australia set out a Keynesian approach to post-war reconstruction. Raising mass consumption levels, expanding manufacturing, increasing employment and expanding the economy were to be the key objectives of economic policy. As governments began spending at high levels, consumer demand also became high and the most significant increases in demand came from working-class people. Goods such as cars, televisions, records and radios became increasingly important as foci of conspicuous consumption, or as Chambers (1985, pp. 7 & 56) has called it, "the iconography of affluence". Chambers also claims that, fused with the heightened levels of spending and the availability of consumer goods, was the increased demand caused by the availability of leisure time (through shorter working hours), that gave British people, especially the youth, the chance to "affirm the self [through]… the carefully assembled collage of clothes, hair, music, argot and body". This is a process which White (1978) suggests also happened in Australia. However, the objectives of increased manufacturing and more jobs meant that Australia's by now habitual and narrow focus on tariff protection was reinforced. As a result, the fundamental weaknesses in Australian music technology manufacturing outlined earlier ­– inefficiency and lack of product sophistication – would not be addressed because Australian manufacturers remained insulated from state-of-the-art manufacturing overseas.

Before refocussing on Australian music technology manufacturers, it is helpful to look at demand for imported music technology over the whole of the 1950s, adding to the comments already made about the Australian music economy in 1951. During most of the 1950s, imports of musical instruments were maintained at a constant level, never rising above more than $5 million a year – a performance that was in line with import levels across the whole economy (Lougheed 1987, p. 198). If imports are viewed as an index of demand in the Australian economy, this situation seems to indicate that the so-called consumer boom was not really a boom at all. However, a different picture emerges when it is considered that personal consumption increased by over 30 per cent between 1953 and 1960 (Shergold 1987, p. 226), that unemployment was averaging less than 2 per cent during the decade, and that average and minimum wages were growing consistently and were about 50 per cent higher in 1960 than in 1951 (Withers, Endres & Perry 1987, p. 155; ABS 1993, p. 803). The high and growing levels of demand are also evident when we take into account the considerable growth in retailing. In 1953, the total value of retail sales for hardware, electrical, radio and musical instrument stores had almost doubled compared to 1949, and by 1957 retail sales of electrical goods, radios and musical instruments increased by another 45 per cent (Forster & Bridge 1987, pp. 230-1). It must also be pointed out that additional import restrictions in the form of quotas were put in place in 1952 to help solve the problem of a poor balance of payments (Aplin, Forster & McKernan 1987). This made the level of importing artificially low at a time when demand was high. This was an ideal situation, in which local producers could take up unsatisfied demand created by artificially low import levels and set up a sound financial basis for the future in a way similar to the American producers in the 1920s and 1940s. As I will show, Australian producers did very well in the 1950s as a result of these fortuitous but unsustainable conditions in which two forms of protection – tariffs and import quotas – were being used together; as a result, they lacked the motivation to address their fundamental weaknesses.

Proof of how well local manufacturers did in this situation can be seen in the value of Australian musical instrument production (excluding radios), which climbed rapidly in the 1950s to a total output of around $7 million in 1957 from a record 88 factories, including 16 gramophone factories, 56 piano manufacturers and 16 manufacturers of other musical instruments. The average output of $160,650 per factory was almost 40 per cent higher than the previous year, and almost 130 per cent higher than in 1951. This spectacular growth coincided with strong growth in GDP, which doubled during the decade (Butlin 1987, p. 139), and showed that the capacity of the Australian music technology industry to produce was improving at a pace faster than the rest of the economy. Although inflation was high during the 1950s, with prices increasing by nearly 70 per cent between 1950 and 1959, there was still an unmistakable and strong increase in activity in the Australian music industry (ABS 1994, p. 581). Indeed, it would appear that there were very few music technology manufacturers closed down during the 1950s.

With 129 factories in 1950 producing 3.4 million radio sets, radio manufacturers were doing well too, even if growth of the radio manufacturing industry had plateaued. Clearly, the 1950s were good years for Australian music technology manufacturers. It can be argued that this success was due, in part, to a few Australian music technology manufacturers who could successfully adapt their production methods and the qualities of their products to suit the local market, if not the international market. Some of the innovations and products produced by these manufacturers include short wave, in addition to Amplitude Modulation reception for picking up long range (including overseas) broadcasts, and a "dual" car and home radio offered by Sydney's Slade Radio (Williams 1994, p. 115). By 1961, 58 per cent of all radios manufactured in Australia were portable or car radios underscoring the mobile outdoor life style of the time. These rare innovations, however, did not produce the major product breakthroughs and new patent royalties that were needed to make the local industry a good long-term proposition.

It is interesting to consider an advertisement in The Courier-Mail on 4 November 1955, which claimed that a radio called the "Town and Country" with the Dutch brand name Philips was "Australia's OWN". It appears that an element of technological chauvinism, which held that only Australian-made products were suitable for Australian conditions, had crept into Australian consciousness, causing foreign brands to be "Australianised" so that they could sell. I argue that this apparent chauvinism was a result of the prominence of Australian-made products in the domestic market since the 1930s. Long term exposure to local brands had helped promote brand loyalty. However, this loyalty could only be sustained if the qualities of the products could match the demands of the consumers.

Exports of Australian music technology in the 1950s were erratic, ranging from as low as $300,000 per annum, up to just over $700,000 per annum. The erratic nature of Australian exports of music technology was similar in pattern to that experienced in the broader economy, suggesting that problems similar to those associated with exporting music technology were experienced across a broad range of industrial sectors (Lougheed 1987, p. 198). I have already argued that Australian manufacturing was based around import replacement rather than exports and clearly this situation was not changed in the 1950s. However, an important event occurred in 1957, which would have a significant impact on imports and exports of music technology in the 1960s and the following decades. Australia and Japan signed a "most favoured nation" bilateral trade agreement which removed discriminatory, higher than normal tariffs that applied to Japanese imports. Instead, the agreement made Japanese imports subject to the same general rates as most of Australia's major trading partners (Crawford 1969, p. 351). This agreement, which helped open the way to the important trading position that Japan has held with Australia since the 1960s, is of particular interest because of the trade in music technology of all types, from transistor radios to guitars and tape recorders, which began to develop almost immediately.

This new trade relationship made it more difficult for Australian manufacturers to compete against imports despite high levels of tariff protection because it began to expose the fundamental weaknesses in Australian manufacturing. Most importantly, it highlighted the weakness of risk aversion (which confined Australian manufacturers to inefficient manufacturing techniques); the lack of economies of scale (because of their small markets), which necessarily meant poor price competitiveness; a lack of the micro-diversity in technological innovation which provides the bases for change and adaptability; and the outdated nature of the products of Australian manufacturing, especially compared to the Japanese. Australian manufacturers were exposed because the Japanese had state-of-the-art transistorised products and produced them at a level of efficiency and quality which Australian manufacturers could not match.

The news was not all bad for the Australian music industry because Australian radio broadcasters showed in the 1950s how the adoption of suitable organisational tools could allow them to adapt to changed commercial conditions. The commercial viability of radio stations around Australia was profoundly influenced by the introduction of television in 1956. Radio dramas, quiz shows and game shows could not compete with television dramas and as a result radio stations increasingly adopted more music oriented programming formats which included popular music, talk back and sport and was aimed more directly at the "youth market" (Miller 1993, p. 46). The rapid growth in the radio audience that had taken place in the 1920s through to the early 1940s had slowed to about 1 per cent a year in the 1950s (Vamplew 1987, p. 390), and so radio station managers had been looking at ways of increasing their audiences for some time prior to 1956. 2UE in Sydney had reacted as early as 1952 by having a new studio specially designed to project a "live" sound (the traditional studios had been acoustically dead, with little high frequency "sparkle") suggesting that high fidelity was an issue in broadcasting too, and by 1957 they had a record library with 32,000 78 RPM records and over 1,000 microgroove records. In addition, 2UE introduced facilities which produced high quality records and also had high speed dubbing tape machines, so that they could quickly dispatch taped programs to all their affiliate stations, produce "singing commercials" and hire the facilities out to "independent agencies" (Williams 1994, p. 143).

In 1958, 2UE introduced the first American style Top Forty programming format in Australia which meant that music now clearly dominated the airwaves. This was a further attempt to rationalise its operations to meet new market pressures created by television by more clearly differentiating its product from that of television and other radio stations. Top Forty programming, according to former 2UE announcer Bob Rogers stimulated "competitiveness among the recording companies and their artists and emphasised the influential rôle radio stations had in the conditioning of popular taste and sales of pop records" (Rogers & O'Brien 1975, p.37). This process of rationalisation was also under way outside 2UE, and by the late 1950s the 45 RPM "single" record was becoming the most marketable way of selling music (Brisbane 1991, p. 288). Radio stations liked the "three minute single" because it fitted into the style of production of the new Top Forty radio formats. Clearly, the complexity of the Australian music industry, and in particular the variables acting on demand for records (such as the influence of increased leisure time, radio station formats and "single" records), were becoming embedded in an increasingly dense and complex web of contingent variables.

Where the radio broadcasting industry had demonstrated the benefits of organisational change, Australia's Festival Records showed how the timely exploitation of intellectual property could also bring long term benefits. In 1954 and 1955, Hollywood movies The Wild One, The Blackboard Jungle and East of Eden introduced many Australian youths to American youth culture and helped to trigger an awareness in Australia's urban young people of new cultural possibilities. Bill Haley's song Rock Around The Clock was featured in The Blackboard Jungle and despite radio station reluctance to play the song, many young Australians bought the record after seeing the movie (Rogers & O'Brien 1975, pp. 1-8). The still embryonic Australian music recording industry was responding to the demands of teenage affluence and leisure when Australia's first major record company, Festival Records, started in 1956, despite having no catalogue of its own except the Australian rights to Rock Around The Clock. Fortunately, Rock Around The Clock sold over 150,000 copies by September 1956, and the royalties earned provided Festival with the capital to expand. Almost a year later, Festival signed its first Australian artist, Johnny O'Keefe, and commenced recording in its studio on a two-track Amplex recorder. Festival was able to compete in Australia with big foreign companies such as EMI (UK) which opened offices and a studio, along with its record pressing plant in Sydney; and RCA, which had an elaborate eight-track recording studio in the AWA building in Sydney (Sturma 1991, pp. 21-52). Indeed, Festival's emergence resembles the beginnings of AWA in that both began by capitalising on foreign intellectual property; AWA, it may be recalled, began with a bundle of patents from Marconi and Telefunken.

In overview, the 1950s raise a number of new issues related to technology in the Australian music economy. From a technical point of view it was a period in which a transition from vacuum tube technology to transistor technology took place. However, I have argued that Australian manufacturers were not able to take part in the manufacturing of the new music technologies because of a lack of technical know-how and organisational skills. Finally, the mass communications technologies such as radio, stereo records and television were having effects in the music economy by making consumption of those technologies, and the entertainment carried by them, more desirable and spectacular. These changes fed the popular desire in Australia for modernity and the desire to spend the growing amount of disposable income possessed both by youths and their parents on modern and exciting products.




The year 1961 reveals a number of important changes in the micro-structure of the Australian music economy since 1951. I move now to highlight these changes and to indicate the direction which my pattern of macro-analysis will take in examining the decade to come.

Japan was clearly beginning to have an influence on the Australian music industry by 1961. In that year, about 8 per cent of traditional musical instruments, 7 per cent of gramophones and 28 per cent of radios imported into Australia were from Japan. Japan was about to usurp America's leadership of the world consumer electronics market, using American technology which the Americans had been slow to apply to consumer goods (Betz 1993). Associated with Sony's acquisition from America of the patent rights to manufacture products with transistor technology was the growing industrial organisation of post-war Japan, and the fostering by the Australian and Japanese governments of a good trade relationship between the two countries. However, the traditional industrial powers – the United States, Britain and Germany – continued to be the main sources of imports of music technology for Australia, at least in the short term, taking two thirds of the trade in traditional musical instruments collectively. America took almost 27 per cent of the trade, Britain 26 per cent and Germany 14 per cent (Fig 38).

Figure 38.

Britain dominated gramophone imports, with 39 per cent of market share (Fig 39). America achieved 17 per cent and Germany 12 per cent. Despite not rivalling America or Britain, Japan had established an important bridgehead into the Australian market with a 7 per cent share, which is significant because the gramophone was the product upon which the radiogram and then later the high fidelity markets were to develop. So Japan's short- and medium-term future was being built on a sound foundation.

Figure 39.

Japan was emerging rapidly in the radio market and already had the largest share (28 per cent), but with Britain (27 per cent) and America (21 per cent) not far behind (Fig 40). Three other notable phenomena can be seen in the chart below. Germany had reappeared in the accounts; America had maintained its share of the market; and Britain had experienced a sharp growth in its share of the Australian market. By 1971, however, Britain's share had crumbled again. My conjecture is that Britain's 1961 performance was based on a mastery of the soon to be superseded vacuum tube technology and that because insufficient investment had been made in transistor technology it would be difficult to maintain their 1961 market share throughout the next decade. British electronics manufacturers, therefore, were again going to be slow to embrace a new industrial technology.

Figure 40.

The trend towards a broader range of trading partners continued in the 1960s. Collectively, the minor trading countries, with 26 per cent of traditional musical instruments, 25 per cent of gramophones and 18 per cent of radios, took a significant share of the spoils. Clearly, there was a further broadening of the spectrum of trading partners from which Australia could source music technology. This new distribution of manufacturing technology again underlined the changing patterns of distribution of organisational technologies and industrial know-how around the world, a distribution from which Australia was to become increasingly isolated during the 1960s. However, as I have conjectured was the case with Britain, the position ten years later suggests that only the Japanese consumer electronics manufacturers had successfully made a full transition to transistor-based technology. Critical in this equation is the fact that global consumer tastes for high technology transistorised consumer goods were just beginning to parallel the Japanese capacity to produce, a point which will become more obvious in the next chapter.

Not only had the spectrum of sources of imported music technology changed again in 1961, but the mix of technologies imported into Australia had changed too. This time gramophones, which now included radiograms and tape recorders, took the largest share of the market with 39 per cent, followed by traditional musical instruments other than pianos with 34 per cent, radio with 22 per cent and pianos with only 4.5 per cent.

Figure 41.

Compared to 1951, radio and gramophone market share had more than doubled, and the relative share of pianos imported had fallen by almost three quarters. This is the point at which it can finally be said that the transition from the acoustic piano to electric technology as the centre of musical focus in the home had culminated. The piano no longer stood as one of the primary symbols of family life in Australia. Acoustic pianos retained a presence in Australian homes and some of their power as symbols of Australian middle class aspirations, however, the emergence of electronic pianos and organs would soon stimulate interest in keyboard instruments again but not as a symbol of middles class Australia.

Record imports saw the United States turn the tide on the British again, by taking a 61 per cent share, compared to only 22 per cent in 1951. This turnaround can be attributed largely to the fact that in 1961 a jazz resurgence was under way and American rock and roll records were being sold to a growing audience in Australia (Brisbane 1991, p. 285). "Stars" such as Elvis Presley and Bill Haley were among the vanguard of American rock and rollers selling records in Australia, aided by a growing presence in Australia of American record companies such as RCA and CBS. However, this was before the Beatles and the "British Invasion" inverted this ratio once again in the mid 1960s.

While demand for imported music and music technology was rising, so too was demand for locally produced music technology. In 1961 76 factories were producing musical instruments (excluding radios) in Australia. The number of manufacturers had increased by ten since 1951, and the average output of the factories had increased by 15 per cent, to $80,700 per factory. This represented a slowing of the rapid growth of the 1950s. The number of gramophone factories had grown to twelve, only one more than in 1951, which does not parallel the strong increase in imports of gramophones. The number of piano factories had increased by ten, despite the considerably lower demand for imported pianos; and the number of manufacturers of other traditional musical instruments was one less than in 1951, at thirteen. These figures can be taken as early indicators that some of the underlying organisational weaknesses in the Australian music economy were soon to be exposed. Australian manufacturers of non-radio music technology were beginning to lose their advantageous position in Australia, despite continuing high levels of protection, and now took only 43 per cent of the total of the imports and local production ratio. Counterbalancing this trend, for a short while to come, was that if radio figures are included, local manufacturers can be shown to have a healthy 75 per cent share of the Australian music technology market. However, the number of radio sets being made in Australia in 1965 was only marginally greater than in 1961, indicating that the industry was still stagnating.

Williams (1994 p. 126) has observed that the 1930s through to the 1950s had been the peak years for audio/radio manufacturing in Australia, but that by the 1960s these manufacturers were much less secure and by the 1970s they were facing the demise of the industry. Butlin (1986, p. 1) has argued that Australian manufacturing was in a general and marked decline by the late 1960s and so just as it had been a leader into the manufacturing boom in the 1940s and 1950s the Australian music technology manufacturing industry lead the downturn in the late 1960s. At this point, it is worth remembering the prickly response of Australian manufacturers to stereo technology in the late 1950s, which suggested an inability to adapt to changing market and high technology manufacturing demands. The effects of these kinds of attitudes were now manifest in the loss of growth in the local industry. The widening gap between Australia and consumer electronics manufacturing countries like America, Japan, Germany and the Netherlands was beginning to take its toll despite the high levels of protectionism in Australia at the time.

The gap between Australian and foreign music manufacturers was again evident in the export figures. Exports of Australian-made music technology remained at low levels (less than $600,000) in 1961. Exports of Australian-made radios were considerably lower than in 1951, demonstrating that Australian manufacturers were becoming a casualty of the growing domination of the Japanese and their inability to adapt to the demands of the world market (Fig 42). Gramophone exports were marginally down, and exports of traditional musical instruments were approximately the same as in 1951 (Fig 43). New Zealand was again the major purchaser of exported Australian-made music technology, taking 25 per cent of traditional musical instruments, 30 per cent of gramophones and 91 per cent of radios. The United States took 31 per cent of gramophone exports, just shading out New Zealand as the major recipient, and Japan and Britain took 11 per cent and 8.5 per cent respectively (Fig 44).

Figure 42.

Figure 43.

Figure 44.

Given that in 1951, 58 per cent of gramophone exports went to New Zealand and only 1 per cent to Britain, gramophone exporters were dealing with a very different market. Indeed, during the 1960s, the pattern of Australia's overall trade relationships were changing so much that by 1966 Japan had replaced Britain as the major recipient of Australian exports, taking 19.4 per cent compared to Britain's 13.4 per cent share, and the third most important source of imports behind Britain and America (Aplin, Foster & McKernan 1987, & Lougheed 1987, p. 204).

It is also instructive to look at what Australian music technology manufacturers were exporting rather than just where they were exporting to. Relative to the other classes of music technology, gramophones maintained their share of the total export effort with 38 per cent, radios had dropped from 57 per cent to 48 per cent, pianos had remained consistent with 3.5 per cent, and other traditional musical instruments had moved up from 6 per cent to 10 per cent.

Figure 45.

It is symptomatic of the underlying problems in the Australian music technology manufacturing industry in the 1960s, that it was the electronics section of the industry which was beginning to lose most ground in the export market. Again, the criticisms by Williams (1994) in relation to radio/audio manufacturers and Hill (1988) in relation to Australian manufacturers' poor managerial skills, and their inability to produce the complicated products which sophisticated consumers wanted are manifest in this poor performance. Hill has also pointed out that since the 1960s the balance of trade on high technology goods in Australia reveals a dependency on imports compared to exports of around 13:1 and claims "that the nation [Australia] simply did not have the technological capacity to jump into a major new industrial infrastructure" (p. 265). Indeed, with the improvement in sales of traditional instruments, it begins to appear that Australian music technology manufacturing might fall back on low technology manufacturers as a source of foreign earnings, as did their British counterparts in the 1940s and 1950s. We must be careful not to overstate this position, but regard it simply as a pointer towards the problems that Australian music technology manufacturers increasingly faced in selling and manufacturing high technology mass produced goods. It would seem that the 1960s were to be the time when protectionist policies (tariff and import quotas) were about to fail Australian music technology manufacturers, who were labouring with low productivity, old technology, and old manufacturing systems against Japanese economies of scale.


In the following discussion I will explore in more detail the main processes of change working in the Australian music economy in the decade of the 1960s. To begin, an overview of the state of organisational practices in the global music economy will help us understand how the development of transistor-based music technology took place around the world. From the late 1950s, the commercial complexity and competition in the American and British music industries created an environment suitable for business to be conducted on a large scale, by large corporations. At the same time, rock-and-roll music evolved into the rock industry and in many respects a product of large corporations. The path to corporate gigantism began with a series of mergers of existing record companies. For example, EMI purchased Capitol Records; RCA took over Victor and Warner; MCA took over Decca, Kapp and Uni; and Philips purchased both Mercury Records and MGM film studios. Record companies became large and powerful, sought bigger markets and they began to see those markets not as a collection of national markets but as one global, transnational market (Eriksen 1984; Negus 1992). There was, therefore, an entirely new framework within which music business would be conducted from that time on and the rôle of mass communications technology in the world music economy intensified. This new market was one in which Australian consumers became less and less remote from the centres of activity in New York, Los Angeles and London, and also meant that cultural consumption in Australia would not be as insulated from, and slow to adopt, popular trends in music, as it had been in the 1950s. This process whereby Australia had emerged from over a century and a half of relative isolation to being increasingly submerged in a new global cultural and consumption hegemony can be characterised as the emergence of a "tyranny of proximity".

Not only was there a link between the escalation of global business and mass communication but popular music culture and the development of mass communications technology were also working hand in hand. Australian isolation had meant that in the early 1950s rock-and-roll only filtered into Australia at a slow rate, and it was not until around 1957, when Johnny O'Keefe was the first Australian Top 10 hit maker and Bill Haley and the Comets toured, that rock-and-roll began to be enthusiastically embraced by Australian youth. During the 1960s an influx of young British immigrants, with their "cultural baggage", helped form a local focus and local rôle models for the globalised youth culture (Zion 1987, pp. 296-7). Jim Keys, a musician with an Adelaide psychedelic band commented in 1965 that:

Those kids would all come down to the Beat Basement, probably two or three weeks out from England, and they would bring with them right-up-to-the-minute fashions in looks, clothes and ideas" (Day & Parker 1988, p. 309).

It must be kept in mind though, that the flow of this globalised cultural information was being accelerated only in part by 1960s immigration policy. Hollywood movies, touring American musicians, television, radio and foreign transnational record companies also made significant contributions to the acculturation of Australian youth into the "global village".

In the early 1960s, the popularity of politicised music by performers such as Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger which combined, among other things, anti-nuclear and civil rights sentiments, helped to produce a more political aspect to the music industry in Australia. By the 1970s this change helped to crystallise rock music into a more serious and self-conscious movement, and in Australia, finally to make a clear break from the tendency to put rock and jazz in the same category, a tendency which Zion (1987) and Rogers and O'Brien (1975) have noted. It may also be viewed as the time when young Australians were making a break from the early modernity of jazz, to the late modernity of the age of Aquarius, and when a new kind of relationship between audiences, music and technology was developing. This new relationship saw artefacts of music technology not just as icons of affluence and status, but as tools to be exploited in any way that seemed appropriate and as symbols of attachment to particular musical subcultures. These new symbols had developed significance to the point that it is hard to imagine those music subcultures coalescing without their key "hardware" which heralded the particular ways in which the music would be produced or reproduced for that group. For example, the very different sounds produced by the combination of a Gibson SG or Les Paul guitar and a Marshall amplifier compared to a Fender Stratocaster and Fender amplifier were well known differences between, for example, the British psychedelic music of groups such as Cream, and the mainstream appeal of the Beach Boys respectively.

With the addition of a new kind of "exclusive" existentialism through drug use in the late 1960s, the combination of music and technology meant that audiences did not just listen to music; rather, music became the focal point for a whole lifestyle for each "fan", and the amalgam of music and its other signifiers (including things like portable record players) gave music what Chambers (1985, pp. 80-93) has called a new kind of authenticity. Chambers is referring to the development of popular music subcultures which made specific symbolic connections between themselves, fashions, attitudes, music and technology. It was these specific connections that defined the new kinds of authenticity, which were different in, or "exclusive" to, different subcultural groups. Therefore, these technologies of production were being diffused throughout the music economy in multiple ways: as technologies of production, technologies of sign systems, technologies of the self and technologies of power. They became central organising devices within consumers and consumer groups. People could use these technologies to regulate their own relationship to a music subculture and define the relationship of others to a music subculture.

In the late 1960s not only psychedelic rock musicians but also jazz musicians became interested in combining existential (Eastern) mysticism, music technology and drugs in Australia (Bisset 1979, p. 146). The introduction of narcotics into popular music, the enthusiasm for Eastern mysticism and the application of electronic technology to the creation of psychedelic music represents not only a breakdown in perceived barriers between art and technology, but between internal psychic worlds and externalised representations of that world which were unthinkable without the application of high technology. Indeed, the path from the internal to the external did not necessarily pass through a clearly defined gateway between the two separate realities but went through a zone where the two worlds merged. The relationship between the consumer and technology was expanding and becoming less rigidly formal. There was a reshaping of relationships between people, technology and music; radios, record players and radiograms were no longer seen just as items of household furniture around which the nuclear family could formulate its internal relationships; they were removed from the family home and into the car, to the beach and other locations. These technologies now helped to form not only internal relationships in families but also in peer groups and musical subcultures outside the home.

At the same time as the new existential elements came into popular music, special effects such as light shows, feedback and distortion became important aspects of music. One of the results of the confluence of these technologies was the shaping of psychedelic music, and later hard rock and heavy metal, into a construct in which the music, technology and culture were indivisible. Not only were they indivisible, but they were linked with highly specific interconnections which carried highly specific meaning in sophisticated sign systems. Music was no longer primarily about melody and harmony, it was also about "sound" and a broad experience of music that could include special visual stimuli, altered mental states and a sense of belonging to a subculture. By 1967, when the Beatles released the Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, the recording process was becoming heavily reliant on studio technology and technique which sought to make quite specific connections with quite specific audiences. For the Beatles the sound effects in Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, as well as the lyrics, were conveying their new-found interests in Eastern mysticism, existentialism and drugs. Yet Willis (1990, p. 45) suggests that the Beatles Sergeant Pepper's album had connected not with their core British audience but another audience, mostly American, and that they retreated from this position in subsequent records so that they could redevelop the specific connections to their old British audience. There was therefore at least an intuitive awareness of the process of making specific connections with specific audiences. Thus the Beatles, who, in Willis's words, were thought to be "daft" in Britain at the time of Sergeant Pepper's, regained favour in Britain with simpler, more vocal styles – stripped of their psychedelic symbolism – as exhibited in songs like Get Back and Lady Madonna. The dynamics of the relationship between music technology and music subcultures was therefore important to recognise.

The reliance on esoteric applications of electronic technologies made the studio a locale reserved for the technocrats and the recording élite. From then on, a premium would be placed on spectacular sound effects, which did not rely just on spatial stereo effects. A result of these new effects was that records could sound good, or at least interesting and fresh, on monaural AM radio and monaural portable record players, a consideration that could be incorporated into any record production priority list when one eye was being kept on the potential sales of the final product. As a result of these kinds of developments the music economy was again being reconstructed through new record production techniques; an expanded awareness of the spectrum of cultural activity that was directly related to music, including politics and existentialism; and the realisation that technology could be used to make spectacular music that imitated spectacular inner worlds rather than the "realism" of previous decades.

In 1965, as if to signal the new industrial architecture of the Australian music industry, The Seekers became the first Australian group to sell one million copies of a record with the release of I'll Never Find Another You (Aplin, Foster & McKernan 1987). In the 1960s, the music industry was developing rapidly in Australia, and the intersections of technology, economics, politics and culture were clearly all important and interdependent elements in this process. By the 1960s, economic activity at the edges of the music industry, such as teen magazines and music retailing shops, began to proliferate, further broadening the types of activities included under the umbrella of the music industry. The commercial infrastructure of the Australian music industry was beginning to look like a replica of the large American and British music industries, at least in terms of the diversity of commercial and cultural activities, if not in size.

Growth in the radio audience in Australia was continuing at a slow rate similar to the previous decade and even temporarily declined in 1961. However, radio licences increased from just under 2.3 million in 1960, to 2.6 million in 1969, which represented a healthy audience (Vamplew 1978, p. 390). With the help of population growth, and a clearer understanding by radio stations of their audience demands, commercial radio stations were playing a more important rôle in the Australian music industry than in previous decades. In 1962, the Federation of Australian Commercial Broadcasters was formed to help develop a unified front for the radio industry in the struggle to combat competition from television. From the Federation came much of the push for the general move of Australian radio broadcast formats into the music, news and community program formats which 2UE had pioneered in the late 1950s. It was this general move that set the scene for the central rôle that radio broadcasting was to have in the stimulation of record consumption for at least the next three decades.

It must be remembered that television, although a worry for the radio broadcasting sector of the music industry, was not an altogether hostile entity to other aspects of the music industry, especially the emerging Australian rock and roll performers. Television shows such as 6 O'Clock Rock and Bandstand provided a platform on which Australian performers, such as Johnny O'Keefe, Col Joy and Frank Ifield, who had previously struggled to be noticed by the national music audience, could more easily reach beyond their local suburban following. Therefore, mass communications technology was not just delivering more British and American pop music to Australians but also more Australian music. These Australian musicians were also assisted by local content quotas being raised to 7 per cent during the 1960s and by the Copyright Act of 1968, which enhanced the ability of copyright owners to collect revenue from their products (Miller 1993, p. 48; Breen 1993, p. 127).

We can see that the convergence of technology, music subcultures and mass markets created a sense of vitality and dynamism in the music economy, which was at the same time fostering technology and being fostered by technology. So, in line with the expansion of the ways in which it could be used, music technology was imported into Australia in record amounts in the 1960s. In 1969, over $25 million worth of imports were recorded. When compared to the less than $5 million worth of imports in 1960, we see a growth rate of over 400 per cent during the decade. Given that prices in Australia increased by just under 25 per cent between 1960 and 1969, it is clear that the consumer boom, at least in the Australian music economy, was still strong, further illustrating the dynamism of the music economy (ABS 1994, p. 581). This growth occurred at a rate more rapid than the growth of imports in the economy at large, which grew by 91 per cent over the same period (Lougheed 1987, p. 198). The rate and scope of change in the Australian music economy was unprecedented in the 1960s, and the structure of the music economy appears to have undergone a considerable transformation since the 1950s.

At the same time as demand and activity in the music economy were booming, factories producing music technology in Australia began to decline in the 1960s. By 1968, when the recording of the numbers of these factories ceased, there were 70 factories compared to the record of 88 in 1957 and 1958, a decline of 20 per cent in ten years. Piano factories had experienced a steady decline since 1958, when they numbered 56 compared with 45 in 1968, a decline of 20 per cent in ten years. The number of manufacturers of non-piano traditional musical instruments had declined from nineteen in 1962 to twelve, a decline of 37 per cent in six years. Gramophone manufacturers reached their peak in 1957 with seventeen factories, and declined to thirteen in 1968, a fall of 25 per cent in eleven years. Despite this fall in the number of factories, the value of production (excluding radios) in the industry continued to increase and the average output per factory in 1968 was $169,100 (almost 110 per cent higher than in 1961), with a total output of close to $11.8 million. Despite the effects of inflation on prices, this was a significant increase on the $80,700 average in 1961. This increase can be interpreted as further evidence that only larger, well-organised businesses were likely to prosper in the increasingly "exposed" Australian music technology market. It begins to look as if bigger and better organised businesses, with larger economies of scale, were most suited to the Australian environment too and that in the age of mass production and mass marketing, "niche" or "boutique" manufacturers were destined to struggle.

It is not entirely surprising that the surviving producers of music technology in Australia did so well in the 1960s when it is considered that GDP grew by almost 100 per cent between 1961 and 1969; that average minimum wages increased by 45 per cent over the same period; and that manufacturers still enjoyed considerable protection (Butlin 1987, p. 139; Withers, Endres & Perry 1987, p. 155). Also, the bigger Australian manufacturers could afford more expensive advertising in an attempt to compete with the large foreign companies like HMV, RCA and Philips. This kind of capacity was necessary because at least some of the foreign producers were making a virtue of their foreignness through their advertising. An advertisement for the Grundig in the Courier-Mail on 5 July 1966 trumpeted that the "Grundig Tremo" stereo was "the world's most wanted stereogram" and that it was "fully imported". The suggestion here is that the technological chauvinism of the 1950s was being turned around and replaced with a technological cringe. However, I will show in the next chapter that this cringe would become more pronounced in the 1970s.

Retail sales of electrical goods, radios and musical instruments in 1962 were worth $146.3 million, which represented an increase of 60 per cent compared to 1957. The number of retail outlets for these goods had also increased by 10 per cent from 3,772 to 4,143. It can be supposed that the kind of growth in retail sales seen in 1962 might have been exceeded later in the 1960s, because not only were wages and GDP growing, but imports of music products accelerated, there were continuing increases in output from the local music technology producers, and average rates of personal consumption increased by 24 per cent during the 1960s (Shergold 1987, p. 226). Clearly, the bases for strong growth in consumer goods markets, including music technology, were present during the 1960s. Records were being pressed in increasing numbers too. In 1961 7 million records were manufactured in Australian and by 1966 the output had doubled to 14 million; however, most of these were recorded overseas by overseas artists (Miller 1993, p. 48). This surge in locally produced foreign records also means that the ratio of imported American and British records ceases to provide us with any reliable indication about the cultural orientation of Australian record buyers.

Despite the growth across imports, local production and retailing of music technology in Australia, exports of Australian-made music technology in the 1960s remained erratic and continued at relatively low levels, evidence once again that Australian manufacturers could only operate as import replacers. Exports reached a peak value of approximately $750,000 in 1967, from just over $350,000 in 1960. The exporting of music technology by Australian manufacturers, was still a difficult undertaking. It is clear from the examination of destinations of exports in 1951 and 1961 that Australian manufacturers were gaining entry to new foreign markets, but were not able to sell much in those markets, evidence once again that their products did not meet the needs of foreign consumers. No doubt high transport costs were major contributing factors to the difficulties too, although manufacturers in other industries were coping better with the problems associated with exporting from Australia in the 1960s (Lougheed 1987, p. 198). We must also consider that with the rapid growth in local demand, Australian producers may have been hard pressed to keep up with their local customers, and therefore had little incentive to seek more business overseas and little surplus capacity to supply those markets. However, the insulation from the rigours of foreign manufacturing through protectionism meant that Australian manufacturers remained naïve and could not compete internationally, even if they wanted to, because of their relatively low productivity and lack of sophistication in the goods they produced, a position which was also continuing to contribute to the general loss of market share locally. Also, government adherence to Keynesian economic policy discouraged seeking productivity gains because of its emphasis on full employment which called for labour intensive industries rather than high technology capital intensive industries.


During the twenty years after 1950, many aspects of the music industry underwent dramatic change. New technology, or innovations based on existing technology, such as radiograms, stereo records, "single" records, cassette tapes and small transistor radios were instrumental in broadening the appeal of music and music technology by making products more convenient and accessible. A major shift occurred in technologies of production from vacuum tube based electronics of the 1940s to solid state transistor technology in the 1950s and 1960s. This shift meant that electronic consumer goods became more accessible to increasing numbers of people because of their low cost, reliability and even small size. Transistorisation increased the functional capacity of those products and therefore the utility value to ordinary consumers. Further, I have also argued that the cause-effect cycle in the development of transistor technology was clearly linked to organisational strategies and technical know-how. What was particularly significant for Australia, however, was the growing gap between Australia and many other manufacturing countries in the degree, and appropriateness of these organisational technologies, or technologies of power and the self; Australia was relatively unsophisticated in the use of organisational technologies in its manufacturing sector.

Consumerism was the second cause-effect cycle that was identified as an important dynamic during the 1950s and 1960s. Throughout the last two chapters I have shown how wages, population, urbanisation, and spending on music technology were all rising at accelerated rates. In addition, I have considered the effects of a sense of popular modernity on the kinds of goods that people were seeking to purchase and be seen to purchase.

Transistor technology and consumerism were intimately linked with popular music culture. I have argued that rock music had developed a self-consciousness, and as Chambers has clearly shown, popular music was a complex amalgam of music, technology and other cultural elements. The self-consciousness of young consumers was also reflected in fashions and attitudes that set youth apart from older generations and fostered new relationships between consumers and music technology. Cultural relationships to music technology, which had been characteristic of modernity in its narrow and formal usage, and its value as a technical wonder were partly broken down among young people in the 1960s. Radios and record players were no longer fixed in the family home as furniture but were transportable, thus shifting the focus of musical experience away from the home and family unit to other locales such as the car and the beach, and within peer groups. As songs which spoke of these new conditions were written and produced for this audience the new framework was reinforced, prompting people to buy more records, radios, tape recorders and electric guitars. Music, and being a member of a popular music culture, were part of the process of identifying with this culture, and being a member meant having the appropriate technology, a transistor radio, a record player or a guitar with which to articulate those expressions.

Also important to the overall context of this chapter was the creation of alternative cultures and realities that were focused on music. The ways in which popular music became differentiated not just by the qualities of the music but by dress, language and other behaviours, including the choice of technologies of its members, were both highly specific and indispensable to the meanings and values of popular music. A particular type of guitar, a particular kind of narcotic and so on were of vital importance as signifiers of identity by the end of the 1960s.

Mass communications technology, which was binding Australia to the global market and global popular culture more than ever before, was of vital importance in the 1950s and 1960s. It is also evident that the increasing reach of mass communications was not just a function of the capacity of the technology to transmit information. The increasing reach was also a function of the growing sophistication of multinationals and conglomerate companies, mostly in America and Japan, which maximised the utility value of technology by developing organisational techniques which marginalised the Australian producers. The same scenario is also evident for cultural outputs which were reliant on the mass communications technologies. Here again, Australian producers were left at the margins unable to engage fully with the epicentre of cultural production because of the lack of command of the technologies of production and power which were essential to the kind of success that America commanded: the tyranny of distance. At the same time Australian consumers could step over local producers and buy the attractive foreign goods as they were drawn away from the periphery to the centre: this is the tyranny of proximity. With the possible exception of the radio broadcasting industry, Australians were unable to overcome decades of inertia and complacency and move with the swiftness necessary to join the main thrust, even though there is evidence to suggest that other similarly small countries such as Switzerland and the Netherlands were able to do so.

Protectionism in the form of tariff barriers and import quotas was again a key element in the history of technology in the Australian music economy. I have shown that through protectionist trade policies the music technology manufacturing sector prospered in the 1950s. However, I have also argued that through the same set of policies the music manufacturers went into decline in the 1960s. In effect, the conditions in the market changed considerably but the protectionist policies remained the same. While this decline was underway there was no shortage of local demand for the kinds of goods that those manufacturers could produce. However, what I have demonstrated was that despite this locally produced supply, Australians chose to consume imported radio/audio technology. Among the most significant reasons for this rejection of Australian products was that they were too expensive and out of date, or at least seemed less sophisticated than foreign products. In addition, it has also been shown how advertising of foreign brand radios in the 1960s began to make a virtue of their foreignness thereby creating an implicitly negative image of Australian manufacturers. I have argued that the techniques of organisation, or the technologies of power and the self, have been key areas of difference between Australian music technology manufacturers and those of their foreign counterparts. Clumsy protectionist policies, risk aversion, poor financial management, lack of appropriate technical skills and a general pall of conservatism all contributed to this situation. The end result of these conditions was that Australian producers had high cost and low technology products to sell in an increasingly competitive and sophisticated global market, into which, despite protectionism, Australia was increasingly drawn.

What was necessary to overcome the difficulties faced by Australian music technology manufacturers was not to continue with the same kinds of protectionism but to find new more appropriate kinds of protection that would address the fundamental problems of the Australian music industry. Australia needed to improve its competitiveness in the world market with lower prices and state-of-the-art electronic goods. To achieve those aims, Australia needed to adopt better engineering and managerial practices along the lines of more successful nations like Switzerland, Holland and Japan.

By the end of the 1960s two transformations had occurred in the Australian music economy. First, a new cultural landscape had developed in which youth or popular music culture had developed and prospered. With this transformation an Australian annex of global popular music culture developed and in it the consumption of music and music technology increased markedly. The second transformation was the move of Australian music technology manufacturers from the centre of the Australian market to the margins, to the extent that the whole industry teetered on the edge of extinction. The future of Australian music technology into the 1970s looked grim, and given the serious underlying deficiencies already outlined which contributed to that gloomy situation, it is not surprising that these problems would persist for years to come. Also, considering the state of inertia that had developed it is also clear that it would take some time for people to fully realise the extent and nature of the situation and to implement the changes necessary firstly to regain lost local markets and secondly – the greater challenge – to enter the global consumer electronics goods market as a full and willing participant for the first time.






In 1993, management consultants Price Waterhouse completed a report called The Australian Music Industry: An Economic Profile and delivered it to the Music Industry Advisory Council. Although the period which this report covers is just outside the time frame of this thesis, it raises some of the important issues treated here, and illustrates some of the problems and processes that have been endemic in the Australian music industry throughout much of this century. The Report's key point is that music publishing and recording are not core activities of the large corporations that own the most important publishing and recording businesses. The core activities of these corporations relate instead to associated activities such as mass media, communications, information technology and consumer electronics. Consumer electronics corporations such as Matsushita, Thorn EMI, Sony and Philips, for example, own the publishing and recording businesses of MCA, EMI, CBS and Polygram respectively. Synergy, as this process of conglomeration and diversification has been called, meant that it was the sale of CD players, radios and tape recorders rather than music publishing which had become of central interest in the economics of the global music industry.

To give a more precise definition of synergy, it can be said that it is the strategy by which a corporation seeks to diversify its business activities and product range in a number of markets rather than a single market. Usually there is a link between the different products and different markets. The hope explicit in this process is that by combining a range of activities and/or markets, a corporation will achieve sales revenue and profits higher than the sum of the earnings of the individual products or markets when dealt with separately. An example of this is Sony, which manufactures CD and other consumer electronics equipment, and holds patent rights to CD technology along with the copyrights of an extensive music catalogue. By developing CD technology, Sony hoped to generate new enthusiasm in music recordings and music technology around the world in order to stimulate what would otherwise be two saturated markets. Evidence of the success of this strategy is found in the fact that between 1983 and 1990 world sales of CD players rose from 350,000 units to 33,300,000 (Mayocchi 1995). Associated with synergy is what Piore and Sabel (1984) have called flexible specialisation. Flexible specialisation refers to the manufacturing technology and techniques which allow a producer to produce a range of different but similar products in the one factory. I will show in these final chapters that synergy and flexible specialisation were key elements in the relationship between technology and organisation in the Australian music economy in the 1970s and 1980s.

In light of the above comments, it is interesting to note that the cluster of reports carried out by government departments, Ausmusic and management consultants on the Australian music industry since the mid 1980s have tended to concentrate on making findings about the advancement of the publishing and recording sector of the Australian industry, and not music technology manufacturing. It is of course true that publishing is the dominant sector of the music industry in Australia, and that it is the most powerful organiser in Australian music. It is, therefore, not surprising that the publishing sector of the Australian music industry seeks reports to assist itself. However, if the Australian music industry wishes to be an important part of the global music industry it needs to adjust to the new global architecture and engage more in the technological (patent) rather than just the copyright component of the industry.

With the above discussion as a guide to understanding the changes in the architecture of the global music economy in the 1970s and 1980s in mind, it is now time to outline each of the main elements of analysis in this section of the thesis. The first of these elements is the encouragement of passive music enjoyment, rather than active music making, which increasingly focused on consumer electronics goods. The nexus between music copyright and music technology patent owners created by the growing trend towards the new kinds of synergistic corporation meant that music was used as a promotional tool for music technology. It also meant that the new technology stimulated sales of music, especially in the case of CDs where people not only bought new recordings with renewed enthusiasm but also sought to replace their old tape and record collections with CDs. In addition, CDs put high fidelity listening quality, or at least near high fidelity quality, within the reach of average music consumers with the result that listening became a more technical, or "scientific" pursuit. It will be argued that high fidelity sound raised listening to popular music to an art in itself, an activity in which every subtle nuance and technical consideration could be studied and appreciated intellectually. This technically informed mode of listening meant that what had been previously a high modern cultural practice of the audiophile was well on the way to being included as a practice in popular modernity. Passive music enjoyment in its high fidelity mode had become an elevated and respectable activity. This scenario, for some people, replaced the intellectual "legitimacy" of actually playing a musical instrument with the "legitimacy" of highly critical and highly technical listening. It would be misleading to suggest that all music consumers adopted the extreme high fidelity listening mode just described, but it is fair to say that a trend towards this kind of listening was occurring and, as I have argued in chapter 7, the beginnings of this shift were identifiable as early as the 1950s.

Popular music cultures continued to be important in the 1970s and 1980s, much as they had been in the 1960s. The main difference was in the changing music tastes that saw some styles of music become less popular and others replace them. Psychedelic rock, for example, was giving way to new forms of heavy rock, heavy metal and fusion.

Just as I argued in chapter 8, a number of highly specific connections between music and the appropriate kinds of technology, fashion, attitudes and so on were evident in Australia during the 1970s and 1980s. For example, music cultures such as Rap were signified by ghetto blasters, and Disco by drum machines and light shows. In addition, by the late 1980s, there had been an important shift in the modes of production of music as home recording studios became increasingly popular with the advent of cheap sound effects units and small four channel recording desks. With this "home-made" music, the back-room recording that I described at Allan's in the 1910s had to some degree returned. Music cultures such as indie music and techno music were strongly attracted to this kind of technology, and the home-made ethic and aesthetic.

The next centre of analytical focus is technological convergence, which is closely linked in a cause-effect cycle with the synergy strategy and the technology centred music or entertainment corporations. Technological convergence refers to the shift in mass entertainment media from describing discrete entertainment forms such as music, graphic arts and movie production as separate and distinct artistic endeavours to seeing them as linked elements in a single entertainment process. In this way musicians are not only concerned with writing and recording music but also with the production of music videos, television broadcasting, and, in more recent years, interactive CDs which involve computer programming, graphic arts and text. The process of convergence had reached only the early stages of artistic development in the 1970s and 1980s but the ground work, particularly in the corporate and technological research and development regions of the global music industry, was certainly being put in place.

Mass communications, or information technology networks, technology-centred entertainment corporations and changing forms of consumerism were also vital and interdependent parts of the 1970s and 1980s global and Australian music economies. As people purchased more communications products, music became more pervasive than ever. As a result Australians, as they participated in this global economy, were more and more incorporated into the realm of multinational corporate marketing, technology and entertainment at the expense of an Australian industry which did not carve a niche for itself in the global consumer electronics technology production and patent generating panorama. The market for music recordings became more stratified and segmented as specialised music shops like jazz or world music stores emerged, and Australian rock a pop music flourished both locally and internationally. In other words, in the 1970s and 1980s Australia had no command of the key economic elements of the global music economy – technology and patents – even though it was flourishing in terms of creative output.

Finally, protectionism has been a constant in Australia throughout the twentieth century and again forms a centre of focus in this section. Protection had long been in place and had generally been agreed to be a good thing, but in the 1970s and 1980s, this continuum was broken. Beginning in 1973, the across-the-board import tariff rate was reduced by 25 per cent and several more reductions occurred by the end of the 1980s (Anderson 1987, p. 177-178). Particularly during the 1980s, a neo-liberal spirit of deregulation and market-forces ideology became the orthodox approach to policy in Australia and much of the Western world. Industrial policy in Australia became focused on making Australian producers world competitive, in terms of price and quality. I have argued in previous chapters that Australian music technology manufacturing had been suffering for some time from the problems of high production costs and lack of engagement with the main stream of world manufacturing, and that some change was necessary if import replacement could be more successfully undertaken and exporting was to be undertaken in a serious way. What I will argue in this section is that one economic dogma, Keynesianism, was replaced with another, neo-classical economics. The result of this dramatic change in technologies of power was that the underlying neo-liberal political ideology could be served without regard to the local suitability of policy changes, despite the evidence which showed that a more pragmatic approach was needed. The following two chapters will show that the Australian music technology manufacturing sector was not well served by the change in policy direction.

The 1970s and 1980s, when analysed through the assemblage of technologies approach, can be characterised as a time in which technologies of power (neo-liberal economic ideology, synergy and flexible specialisation) were of prime importance to the changing Australian music economy.


An examination of imports of music technology into Australia reveals a clear and marked movement towards the consumption of Japanese goods at the expense of American, British and German goods in particular. However, the widened scope for many smaller industrial countries to manufacture high technology music goods appears to have improved in 1971. Following this line of discussion, it will be argued that despite the ability of other similarly-sized industrial nations to enter the modern music technology manufacturing circle, Australia remained out of the race and appears to have slipped further behind its would-be competitors. Compounding this situation was that Australian music technology manufacturers appeared even to have lost a significant part of its share of the Australian market.

Whereas in 1961 the total import bill for music technology was less than $10 million, by 1971 it had reached about $30 million.[16] In 1971, Japan supplied Australia with nearly 43 per cent of musical instruments compared with just 8 per cent ten years earlier (Fig 46).

Figure 46.

Forty eight per cent of Japanese musical instruments were the new "electronic" instruments that had been developed since the early 1960s. Electric guitars and electronic keyboard instruments were chief among these. The total value of electronic instruments and guitars (including acoustic guitars) imported into Australia in 1971 was nearly $4 million or about half the total value of musical instruments. Clearly, the Australian enthusiasm for electronics in music was not confined to the realm of radios and stereo radiograms. It is also clear that the Japanese had successfully diversified their interests in the music high technology business from radio and tape recorder manufacturing since the early 1960s.

America, Britain and Germany were the next three most important suppliers of musical instruments to Australia after Japan but at reduced rates compared to a decade earlier. In 1971 America provided 25 per cent of the musical instruments imported into Australia, 40 per cent of which were electric organs and guitars, compared with a 27 per cent share in 1961. More important was the reduction of Britain's share from 25 per cent to 8 per cent and Germany's share from 14 per cent to 2 per cent. Twenty per cent of musical instruments came to Australia from a group of "other" countries that included China, Czechoslovakia and Italy. These three countries, and others like them, supplied Australia with traditional acoustic instruments rather than electronic ones, although Italy did export 4,575 electronic organs to Australia. The fact that the "other" nations were really only involved in producing low technology instruments illustrates that there were barriers which inhibited entry to high technology manufacturing.

Gramophones and tape recorders were being imported at a rate of $20 million a year in 1971, compared to about $2.5 million in 1961. Radiograms were reaching their peak popularity at this time and reel-to-reel tape recorders were becoming items of major interest to Australian music technology consumers as they accounted for $5.6 million of the total. Japan was again the greatest supplier to the Australian market, at the expense of traditional suppliers, with a 33 per cent share of the imports compared to only 7 per cent in 1961 (Fig 47).

Figure 47.

Britain had dropped its share from 39 per cent to just 11 per cent in ten years. America dropped from 16 per cent to 7 per cent and Germany from 12 per cent to 2 per cent. Apart from the major shift to Japanese products, the other major shift was in the "other" countries which had a share of 25 per cent in 1961 and now had a share of 44 per cent. Italy and the Netherlands were the main contributors to this total but some small south-east Asian countries like Korea and Taiwan made modest contributions also. The Netherlands had been operating successfully as high technology music equipment manufacturers for some time. Keeping in mind that Philips was a Dutch company, and appears to have been well-organised and focused on a high technology manufacturing future with an enviable collection of patent titles – particularly for compact cassette and CD technology – which would secure their position in the 1980s and 1990s, the Dutch may have presented a good model for Australia to adapt for Australian conditions.

When viewing the statistics for radio imports, the trend towards Japanese products and away from others is most striking. In 1971 Japanese radios made up 81 per cent of imported radios in Australia compared to 28 per cent in 1961 (Fig 48). Britain's 27 per cent share had declined to 5 per cent; America's share was reduced from 21 per cent share and was 3 per cent; and Germany's went from 6 per cent to 3 per cent. In addition, "other" countries, which had taken an 18 per cent share in 1961, now had only an 8 per cent share.

Figure 48.

The result was a complete domination by the Japanese. By 1971 transistor radios and transistorised car radios from Japan were overwhelming the Australian market. At this point the head start that Japan had won with transistor radios in the 1950s was paying dividends while other nations struggled to develop the expertise and manufacturing techniques needed to produce cheap and high quality transistor-based products. It is also worth noting that Korea and Taiwan managed to sell some transistor radios in Australia too, as had the Netherlands and Italy. Clearly these countries were in the early stages of organising to enter this very lucrative market and needed to make more progress quickly if they were to rival the Japanese.

Comparing imports by type rather than by country of origin, gramophones and tape recorders dominated the spending habits of Australian music technology consumers in 1971. Fifty-nine per cent of the total value of imports were gramophones and tape recorders, an increase of 20 per cent compared to 1961 (Fig 49).

Figure 49.

This increase in the value of gramophones and tape recorders appears to have been at the expense of musical instruments and radios. The relative amount of spending on musical instruments had fallen by 14 per cent to a 25 per cent share of the value of imports and radio had fallen from 22 per cent to 17 per cent. Perhaps the biggest change, though, was in the relative decline in the position of musical instruments from near parity with gramophones to accounting for less than half the value of gramophones. Clearly, there was a distinct move in music technology consumption towards the kinds of technology used primarily in passive music enjoyment rather than active music-making.

Compared to previous years, the 1971 figures on the export of music technology from Australia are less useable. Although the relative proportions of exports across the three different music technology categories can be examined, we cannot analyse the countries of destination because the official figures do not distinguish between the export of products manufactured in Australia and those which were re-exported, that is, goods that were made elsewhere and sent "in transit" through Australia. The total value of music technology exported from Australia in 1971 was small in value, at a total of $354,200, in keeping with previous decades. These few hundred thousand dollars were dwarfed by the multi-million dollar import industry. Once again, this situation clearly highlights the limitations of the import replacement rôle that was adopted early in the century. Limiting Australia was the fact that there was no growing export-oriented corporation like Philips in the Netherlands, not even AWA, to lead the way. Nor was there the prospect of the highly organised and pragmatic industrial organisation, which would become increasingly evident in the south-east Asian economies like Taiwan and Korea throughout the 1970s and 1980s, close to emerging in Australia (Stewart 1991).

The ratio of domestic market share between imports and local products showed a marked decline in share for local manufacturers, down from 75 per cent in 1961 to 53 per cent in 1971. These figures further illustrate the loss of position of Australian manufacturers in the domestic market. Also, the technological cringe identified in Australian consumers in the previous chapter was becoming more pronounced and its effects are illustrated here. As well, the figures show that successful efforts were not being made in business or in government to form a strong domestic base upon which the music technology manufacturing sector could build as a stepping stone to success in exporting. The reasons for this lack of organisation lay in the hands of government, business and consumers, and although the effects of these organisational weaknesses were profound, the weaknesses were, for the most part, easy to identify. However, some striking evidence of these problems emerged in the 1980s and I will deal more fully with this in the next chapter.

The analysis of the 1971 figures tells us that the value of the music technology market in Australia had greatly expanded since 1961 and that the range of high technology products had expanded with it. Crucial to the rate of expansion was the focus on the technology of passive music enjoyment. At the same time there was a clear division between nations which could enter the global high technology music products market and those destined to be only low technology producers because they lacked the appropriate macro and micro organisational structures. Australia was one of the nations locked out of high music technology production and was in danger of becoming a nation with no capacity to produce any kind of music technology on a medium or large scale. Given the extent of the growth and diversification of the music technology consumer market it is important also to investigate the ways in which consumers organised their use of music technology and the ways in which they constructed preferences for one product or brand over another.


In a broad social sense Australia was changing in the 1970s. It was the time of the Middle East oil crisis, rapid inflation, high unemployment and economic stagnation across the Western world (Piore & Sabel 1984, p. 165, & Stubbs 1980, p. 22). In 1972 the Whitlam government ended the long unbroken run of conservative government in post-war Australia, and Britain appeared to cut off from Australia by joining the European Economic Community in 1973. Further change was seen in the emergence of pop festivals, the opening of the Sydney Opera House and the end of the Vietnam War. It is also important to note, as Kelly (1989, p. 61) has, that the counter culture of hippies, women's liberation, black power and gay liberation did not arrive in full force in Australia until the 1970s, thus adding to the social tumult. The 1970s was therefore an uncertain time, but these events signalled a new era for Australia in which the links with Britain were demonstrably weakened and an enthusiasm for social and political change was embraced. It is of particular interest to this study that, combined with music and music cultures, these kinds of movements helped create a diversity of music and music technology consumption. As I argued was the case in the 1960s, the connection between music culture and technology was a powerful combination, and in the 1970s it was made more so by its coincidence with corporate strategies of synergy, flexible specialisation and economies of scope.

Much change occurred in the Australian music economy in the 1970s. In the early 1970s rock operas like Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell and Hair emerged, adding a new dimension to the popular music repertoire. In the mid 1970s, colour television and television shows like Countdown and Sounds began to make Australian television more important to the music economy in a way that had been the preserve of radio in the past. Whereas record sales had been driven in large degree by radio stations alone since the 1960s in the 1970s television became a powerful driver of music demand too. By the late 1970s Australian bands like Skyhooks who were making an impact in Australia and others like AC/DC, Little River Band, and singers like Helen Reddy, Olivia Newton-John and Peter Allen were making, or were about to make, an impact on the world market. However, manufacturers of music technology in Australia were struggling in both local and global markets while imports continued to enter Australia in ever greater numbers as tariff rates began to fall (Anderson 1987, pp. 173-176).

Consumption of music technology in Australia continued to increase during the 1970s, much as it had done in the 1960s. It is not surprising that consumption of music technology continued to rise when it is considered that levels of personal consumption rose by 35 per cent during the 1970s, that wages grew strongly compared to a prices, and that in 1974 retail sales of musical instruments and records were valued at $105.55 million, which was 220 per cent higher than in 1969 (Forster & Bridge 1987, p. 232). By the mid 1970s, the value of imports of radios, gramophones and musical instruments in Australia was well over $100 million per annum and it appears that the uncertainties associated with the oil crisis, high unemployment and economic stagnation did little to dampen demand for music technology in Australia. Gramophones were the main focus of consumption by the mid 1970s and continued to dominate for the rest of the decade as people began to invest in home entertainment systems to satisfy the popular urge for high fidelity, or near high fidelity, sound in the home. This trend illustrated the growth in a more sophisticated passive enjoyment of music and the primacy of listening over playing instruments. Indeed, by the 1980s and 1990s although the amount spent on musical instruments and related products in the Australian economy was increasing, spending as a per cent of income declined by 3.8 per cent (Richmond 1994, p. 3). I will return this question in more detail in the next chapter when 1980s ABS social statistics help to better illustrate the point.

There has been no calculation of the numbers of music technology manufacturing firms in Australia during the 1970s, so it is impossible to make calculations of the average output of firms and how many were involved in musical instrument manufacturing compared to radio and gramophone manufacturing in the way that has been done in previous chapters. It is, however, possible to track reasonably well the total values of output of these factories. The manufacture of musical instruments in Australian during the 1970s appears to have been in decline. In 1968 musical instruments (including gramophones) worth nearly $12 million were produced, but by 1972 output was worth only about $1 million. By 1979 the decline in musical instrument production had slowed dramatically and output was valued at only $550,000. However, the value of production across the Australian economy rose by 170 per cent through the decade (Snooks 1987, p. 301) putting into perspective the decline in musical instrument making. This decline in output parallelled the decline in protectionist tariffs and there can be little doubt that the two phenomena were connected. However, it is the escalation of imports of electronic musical instruments that may provide the key to the identification of factors contributing to the decline.

Given the dramatic growth in imports of electronic music technology since the 1950s, the benefits of entering that market were obvious. It was a growth industry with all the signs that it would continue to grow well into the future. However, if the technical know-how needed to make these kinds of sophisticated instruments with digital micro-processor technology was not present in Australia, then Australian musical instrument-makers were confined to the manufacture of acoustic instruments and the relatively simple electronics of electric guitars. If this was the case, then Australian manufacturers would be excluded from the most rapidly growing segment of the market. The Jessop Report, which highlighted the lack of university-trained people in Australia who could engage in appropriate industrial research and development programs during the 1970s, also supports the hypothesis that technical know-how was lacking (Moyal 1986, p. 21). Further support for this hypothesis is provided by Johnston (1995, p. 281) who has noted that in general terms Australia did not improve its technological sophistication at a rate comparable with the rest of the world during the 1970s and early 1980s. A symptom of this situation was a declining level of productivity in Australia, which was estimated to be between 20 per cent and 40 per cent below the rest of the industrialised world (Stubbs 1980, p. 33). The paucity of know-how and the lack of desire or ability to overcome that weakness was also reflected in the fact that in 1979 Australia ranked a respectable ninth in the world for scientific publications but was ranked only sixteenth for patent ownership (Hill 1988, p. 257). Moreover, the value of payments for technical know-how (mostly patent licences) to foreign businesses by Australians was over 400 per cent more than receipts for Australian owned technological know-how (ABS 1979, p. 9). The tangible results of these circumstances were high prices, low sales for Australian produced music technology, lack of the technological microdiversity which would have given some capacity for Australian manufacturers to adapt to changing market conditions, and the impossibility of selling in the world market on a major scale.

In the 1970s the musical instrument manufacturing industry in Australia was not so much an industrial manufacturing sector as a craft/artisan industry geared to low levels of output using relatively unsophisticated manufacturing technology. Although many instrument makers did not have the technical know-how to make sophisticated modern electronic instruments, it is important to note that some at least did. In 1975, the world's first real-time music computer was designed and manufactured in Australia by Fairlight, and made an impact on the world market (Atherton 1990). In the low technology realm there was also some productive research and development activity. The Sleishman double drum pedal, which received a patent in 1971 and went on to be used around the world, was also a success (Atherton 1990, p. 206; Richmond 1995, p. 16). Fairlight and Sleishman represented the exception to the rule in Australian technology music manufacturing and design, but their success suggests that there may have been substantial latent technological ability in the Australian music economy.

The highly protected manufacturing sector in Australia was further exposed to the effects of world competition when import tariffs were reduced by 25 per cent in 1973 and when they were reduced by a further 40 per cent in 1977 (Anderson 1987, p. 177). These substantial reductions in tariffs were the first since 1931. Compounding the tariff reductions were appreciations in the value of the Australian dollar in 1972 and 1973 which made the cost of imports lower and the cost of Australian exports higher, thus exacerbating the effects of tariff reductions. In 1974 the adverse affects of appreciation were reversed by a devaluation of the Australian dollar, but it remained a struggle for local production and exporting to make any semblance of recovery. In the 1970s the steady increases in the overall capacity of Australia to manufacture goods, which had been achieved since the war, were halted (Anderson 1987, p. 165; Stubbs 1980, p. 26). The advantage delivered by the above conditions to foreign manufacturers keen to sell in Australia, at the expense of an unprepared local industry, was enhanced by the growth in wages and consumption in Australia, and the increased desire of Australians to consume luxury goods which local manufacturers increasingly could not supply. Conditions, therefore, were not conducive to expanded Australian music technology manufacturing: Australian manufacturers had a shrinking market, diminishing capacity to produce the sophisticated products that were in demand; Australian manufactured goods were becoming relatively more expensive compared to imports because of reduced tariff barriers; and Australian consumers were, quite reasonably, not prepared to sit on their money and wait for Australian manufacturers to catch up to their foreign counterparts. Don Lamberton (1994, p. 25) has warned that the scenario of reduced protectionism in an industry "if neither [its] firms nor the infrastructure are informationally efficient" is a recipe for certain failure. With Australian music technology manufacturing lacking in knowledge and the manufacturing infrastructure required in the 1970s, lower levels of protection were fraught with danger.

In chapters 7 and 8, I documented a change from a technological chauvinism in the 1950s to what might tentatively be called a technological cringe in the 1960s and suggested that this attitude was matched by consumer behaviour. The technological cringe appears to have been a well-conditioned aspect of Australian music consumerism in the 1970s and was a factor militating against the success of Australian music technology manufacturers. Implicit evidence of this is found in an advertisement for a PE (Perpetuum Ebner) "Hi Fi" record player in the Courier-Mail on March 4 1971 which praises its product for being "synonymous with the best German quality". In addition, on March 11 1971 the Courier-Mail carried an advertisement "for the world famous" Akai stereo tape recorder. The language in these advertisements is reminiscent of the language seen in 1960s advertising. The foreignness of the PE record player was its virtue and the Akai tape recorder was virtuous because of its global appeal. Furthermore, no Australian audio equipment was world famous and Australia had no international reputation of quality engineering, therefore Australian manufacturers had little with which to curry favour especially when they could not even offer low prices. Without the facility to prove otherwise because of a lack of marketing, finance and technical know-how and because of the disincentive of reduced tariff barriers, the 1970s was an unhappy time for Australian music technology manufacturers.

It is useful to compare the above circumstances with the Australian recording industry at the same time because it shows that at least in terms of cultural production, the Australian music industry could make its way through the tribulations involved in gaining acceptance in local and international markets. It is interesting to note that in the 1970s, a strong Australian recording industry developed, based on mass sales, the pub-rock scene and popular local bands like Skyhooks which in the late 1970s acted as a springboard into the early 1980s when Australian bands like AC/DC, Little River Band, Men At Work and Air Supply were leading the way to a strong presence in the global market (Breen 1993b, p. 127). At the same time, local content quotas for Australian radio broadcasters rose from 7 per cent in the 1960s, to 10 per cent in 1973, 12.5 per cent in 1974 and 15 per cent in 1975 (Miller 1993, p. 49). The relationship between a young recording industry and protection is unequivocal here just as it had been for music technology manufacturers in Australia for most of this century. Also, the value of a strong local market to an industry seeking to export is exemplified in this case too. The lesson from the recording industry is that although uncritical adherence to protectionist barriers was an unproductive activity for music technology manufacturing, in the long run protectionism did have a rôle to play if a focus on exporting remained and a strong base in the local market is fostered. Furthermore, the comparison of the successfully protected recording industry with the unsuccessfully unprotected music technology manufacturing industry leads me to argue that a poorly conceived program of removing protection exacerbated the problems of a clumsy application of protectionism. The alternative of a more pragmatic quid pro quo approach, which deals with specific trade partners on a case by case basis, was not countenanced nor was it likely to be as the orthodoxy of neo-liberal economics grew and this, as I will argue in the next chapter, represented a critical weakness in policy-making in Australia during the 1970s and 1980s. In short, there was a swing from one extreme to another with pragmatic policy-making eschewed in each case.

Returning now to the activities of Australian music technology manufacturers, it has to be made clear that figures for radio and gramophone production are sketchy for the 1970s, but what is available paints a gloomy picture. Radio production peaked at $55.2 million per annum in 1974 and immediately fell into a spectacular decline which saw annual production go below $5 million in 1977. Less spectacular but still significant was the decline in the output of gramophone manufacturers from $13.4 million in 1972 to what appears, according to the ABS figures, to be virtual extinction by the end of the decade (Fig 50).

Figure 50.

This is the point at which the lack of organisational skill that had been evident for decades in the Australian radio/audio manufacturing industry manifested itself in a crisis. This crisis was not a technological crisis but one of management, policy and other kinds of organisational expertise.

In general terms the ability of Australia to export improved by almost 345 per cent in the 1970s, but, tellingly, this improvement was not shared by the Australian music manufacturing industry. It is not surprising that an industry which had traditionally focused on import replacement but which was now failing to meet the demands of that task was not able to gather the necessary skills, knowledge and attitudes to export. The value of music technology exported from Australia was never more than $700,000 dollars per year for radios, $500,000 per year for gramophones and $175,000 per year for musical instruments. Compared to the values of imports of music technology into Australia and even to the values of production of music technology in Australia in most of the 1970s these figures are small. If Australian manufacturers were having trouble keeping up with the kinds of sophisticated music technologies being demanded by Australian customers then it is clear that they would not be keeping up with the kinds of demand that existed in other industrialised countries either. It is also clear that the nexus between protected manufacturing industries and dependable domestic markets, at least in the music manufacturing sector, was broken by the 1970s and therefore the ability to use the local market as a stepping stone to the world market was removed.

Exporting was also made difficult because of economic stagnation, high unemployment, high inflation and a saturation of consumer goods markets around the world. The saturation of consumer goods markets is illustrated in 1970 when 99 per cent of American homes had televisions, refrigerators, radios, electric irons and so on (Piore and Sabel 1984, p. 184). As a result of this situation, economies of scale through mass production were harder to achieve. To counter this, consumer electronics companies sought to differentiate their goods from each other and to invest in manufacturing technologies that would allow them to change regularly and rapidly across production runs of similar but different goods (Piore & Sabel 1984, p. 191). This is what Piore and Sabel have called economies of scope (selling a greater range of products in the same market to increase profits) and flexible specialisation (making a range of similar but differentiated products). More recent economic research using non-linear models of technology in the economy support Piore and Sabel. Allen and Phong (1994, p. 125), for example, claim that the ability to generate a continuous stream of what they call "microscopic diversity" or innovation in technological goods manufacturing is the key to long term success. Here we are reminded of the evidence provided by Hill (1988) in the last chapter which showed the marginalisation of engagement in industrial research and development in Australia and the negative balance of trade in high technology goods since the 1960s. This marginalisation of industrial research and development in Australia has meant that the "microscopic diversity" which was necessary for success in consumer electronics was, for the most part, missing in Australia.

The economies of scope approach to manufacturing contributed to two profound changes in consumption of music technology in the 1970s. First, it is evident in the trend for music technology consumers to buy separate turntables, amplifiers, speakers and tape decks, and then combine them into one system. Second, it manifests itself in the trend to buy the same or similar products a number of times, which is illustrated in the trend for people to possess a number of different types of radios such as clock radios, radio cassette decks and personal radio cassette players. Through these means saturated Western consumer markets were stimulated to higher levels of consumption.

Another element in this process was the diversification of the large corporations and the creation of synergies through those diversifications (Piore & Sabel 1984, p. 195). Following the horizontal mergers of the 1960s, a series of vertical integrations took place in the 1970s and 1980s which set in place the framework on which synergies could be made. Vertically integrated businesses are those which own or control all or most of the stages of production in a particular industry. Examples in the music industry since the 1970s include the buy-out by CBS Records of the US Discount Record chain and the Fender Guitar and Amplifier Corporation (Eriksen 1984, p. 2). These integrations were dwarfed by those which were to come in the 1980s, like those at Philips and Sony which have already been mentioned. However, economies of scale were still being sought and were obtainable in the 1970s by multinationalisation of the corporations. In this way the restrictions of, for example, a saturated American market were side-stepped not just by flexible specialisation, but by opening new markets in other countries as a matter of priority, including Australia which beckoned with its emerging open door trade policy.

The 1970s were therefore a critical time in the Australian music economy. Not only were some Australian artists making a success in Australia and overseas on a scale not seen before, but, at the same time, Australian music technology manufacturers were experiencing unprecedented difficulties. I have examined a complex set of reasons for the troubles in the music technology manufacturing sector. Changes to tariff policy which increasingly exposed music technology manufacturers to a scale of competition from foreign companies with which they were incapable of dealing was one key factor. Also, engineering know-how, marketing techniques and management skills were not appropriate in the Australian music technology manufacturing sector for the manufacturers to service increasingly sophisticated markets. Music technology consumers had changed in critical ways too. People were no longer satisfied to have a radiogram in the living room and a radio in the car. Cassette decks, cartridge players, reel-to-reel tape recorders and so on were plentiful, useful and relatively cheap, and so people found uses for them. Consumer electronics goods were still undiminished as symbols of modernity and of belonging to music cultures, and so the increasing range of products and product innovations that the corporate strategies of synergy, economies of scope and flexible specialisation promoted meshed neatly with consumer sentiment. The result was that despite the many economic and social uncertainties of the 1970s the level of consumption of music technology in Australia continued to rise.




In 1981 a continuation of the kinds of general changes that I described in 1971 was maintained but with some important differences. The major differences include the increased number of south-east Asian countries selling music technology to Australia and a marked increase in the value of imports. Also, the position of domination in the music technology market that Japan had assumed ten years earlier was, if anything, slightly increased.

Imports of musical instruments had increased from $33.8 million in 1971 to $52.7 million in 1981. The proportional distribution of imports across the range of main importer nations remained, in general terms, consistent with that which I have shown for 1971 (Fig 51).

Figure 51.

What is interesting though, is that if the imports of musical instruments are divided into two groups, acoustic instruments and electronic instruments, it becomes clear that Japan, America and Italy were overwhelmingly the main suppliers of electronic instruments to the Australian market. Acoustic instruments came from a range of countries including Japan, but also Czechoslovakia, both East and West Germany, America, Korea and China. This division of manufacturing, which equates to a division between sophisticated and less sophisticated manufacturing, indicates that a growing gap between the technologically advantaged and disadvantaged nations was continuing. However, as this gap grew with the increasing sophistication of both products and manufacturing techniques the question arises: would the manufacture of unsophisticated goods also attract a comparative advantage when the technologically advanced nations applied their manufacturing technology to the manufacturing processes involved in the making of unsophisticated goods? I will argue later in this chapter that it did have an adverse affect on the less sophisticated manufacturing nations and, more specifically, that the effects on the Australian music technology industry were serious.

Gramophones and tape recorders were also expanding areas of music technology in 1981. In 1971, $19.8 million in gramophones and tape recorders were imported. By 1981 the value of imports of these products had increased to $55.6 million per annum. Further testimony to increasing dominance is that in 1971 Japan had 33 per cent of the Australian import market but in 1981 it had secured 77 per cent (Fig 52). What is interesting about this change is that the increased dominance of Japan was achieved at the expense of all of Japan's competitors, indicating that it had a significant technological advantage that was not shared by other nations.

Figure 52.

According to Piore and Sabel (1984, pp. 207-17), the critical advantage was in computer controlled manufacturing techniques which the Japanese had been developing since the 1970s. Most important is the change of share held by "other" nations from 45 per cent in 1971 to 15 per cent, suggesting that even nations attempting co-ordinated strategies to enter high technology consumer electronics manufacturing were badly affected by Japan's new found advantage. While Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and others were still exporting these kinds of products to Australia their sales difficulties signalled the bad news that less organised and sophisticated manufacturing nations like Australia were in more trouble than ever.

The changes in importing described above may not all be due to technological factors however. Crawford (1968) claims that Australian consumers gradually overcame prejudices against the Japanese for their part in the war and also for their pre-1960s reputation for making poor quality goods. The way the Japanese overcame these prejudices was by producing dependable, good quality products cheaply in a well-organised and highly skilled manufacturing sector. A similar prejudice against the quality of products emanating from other south-east Asian nations, not as industrially advanced as Japan, such as Taiwan, Hong Kong and China, may have developed in place of prejudice against Japan and with similar justification. Once again, the implications of changes since 1971 provided no glimmer of hope for Australian producers who, as I have shown previously, were having to deal with similar prejudices against them. The question arises: if nations which had already started in earnest down the high technology manufacturing road were encountering difficulties, how could Australia even begin? And furthermore, if Australia was to enter high technology manufacturing, would it become harder for Australia to enter this domain the longer it took to begin to organise for high technology manufacturing?

Before answering these questions it is useful to look at the official figures on imports of radios which tell a slightly different story than that which we have just encountered. Although Japan continued to dominate at the expense of Australia's traditional trading partners like Britain, America and Germany, many smaller countries, particularly in south-east Asia, performed very well at radio exporting. In 1981 Japan had a 52 per cent share of the radio import market, compared to 81 per cent in 1971 (Fig 53). In particular, Japan had lost share of the Australian market to "other" nations. Sweden and Denmark were small European nations that managed to take a share of this shift but mostly it was the south-east Asian countries like Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong who profited.

Figure 53.

The consumption of imported radios in Australia had increased from around $5 million per year in 1971 to $100 million in 1981. So vast was the expansion in demand in Australia, and the rest of the industrialised world, that it is doubtful that the Japanese could have, or even have attempted, to satisfy it all. Because of this, the door was left open for the "other" nations attempting to emulate Japan in high music technology manufacturing to find good markets and profits. In addition, and fortuitously for those smaller nations, transistor radios were a much simpler and cheaper product to produce than electronic organs and tape recorders. The components in radios were small and cheap. There are no big motors and recording heads like those found in tape recorders, and they were easy to mass produce. Therefore, transistor radios were good products for the automated manufacturing technologies that developed in the 1970s and which were becoming relatively cheap in the 1980s (Piore and Sabel 1984, pp. 207-17).

The advantage in transistor radio manufacturing is that a less sophisticated technological and manufacturing base was needed to enter the market. It may even be useful to think of relatively easily produced electronic products such as transistor radios not as high technology but as medium technology by the 1980s. For Australia, the above circumstances provided a potentially optimistic outlook. The lesson was that if a reasonable entry point could be found to the manufacture of medium technology, then it would be possible to make life easier for potential Australian manufacturers. In short, it was not the case that manufacturing countries or businesses needed to aim for the most spectacular and complicated products in the high technology sphere to develop and expand their music technology manufacturing capacity. It is clearly a difficult process to develop the capacities needed to engage in high technology manufacturing and such developments may well have been beyond Australia's capacity to achieve. However, if Australian manufacturers had taken on relatively modest activities in the medium technology music technology manufacturing industry then it may have been possible to find the necessary finance, technical know-how, marketing skills and manufacturing technology to do it, and then seek to build on this position after some stability in the industry was achieved. Indeed, Moyal (1986) illustrates the technical and knowledge resource deficiency of Australia in the 1980s by showing that in the 1980s Japan was producing engineering graduates at the rate of 629 per million people and Germany 292, while Australia produced graduates at the much lower rate of 146 per million people. I will return to the issue of Australia's organisational capacity in industrial research and development in more detail in the second part of this chapter.

In line with the dramatic increase in the popularity of radios, the relative proportions of imports between radio, gramophones and musical instruments saw the exchange of dominant position from gramophone to radio. In 1981 radios took a 50 per cent share of the music technology import market in Australia compared to 17 per cent in 1971 (Fig 54). Gramophones on the other hand fell from a 59 per cent share in 1971 to 26 per cent in 1981. The relative position of musical instrument sales remained constant at around 25 per cent of all music technology imports. Here, it is clear that the easily and cheaply produced transistor radio was a lucrative line of business and that if manufacturers in Australia were looking for industries with potential in the long run, transistorised consumer electronics represented a good bet. Indeed, it was an intelligent bet which Japan, Taiwan and Korea all took on and profited from, and continue to profit from in the 1990s.

Figure 54.

It is interesting that in this comparison musical instruments were maintaining an important position in the overall topography of the Australian music economy. It is tempting to suspect, as music technology based on consumer electronics became increasingly attractive, that musical instruments might lose favour and become marginalised in a music economy increasingly focused on passive enjoyment rather than active music making. However, musical instruments were continuing to evolve and take advantage of new transistor and electronic technologies. Electric guitars, electronic organs, small recording desks, instrument amplification systems and so on boosted the sales of musical instruments because they were necessary for making the kinds of music which were popular. It is also important that the state of the Australian recording industry (and for that matter live music performance) was in a healthy condition which encouraged people to engage in music making. In addition, so persistent was the demand for instruments and the other kinds of equipment needed for making music in the 1980s, that imports of acoustic instruments like steel string acoustic guitars, drum kits, saxophones and even acoustic pianos increased. For example, in 1981, acoustic pianos valued at $9.9 million were imported into Australia (including $4.8 million from Japan and $1.9 million from America). Therefore, it can be said that acoustic musical instruments were not being directly replaced; rather, they shared the stage with a growing array of electronic instruments.

While this import activity was going on, Australian music technology manufacturers were clearly having a difficult time. In 1981, only 12.5 per cent of the sum of imports and domestic production of music technology in the Australian music economy were made in Australia (Fig 55).

Figure 55.

Compared to 1971, when Australian manufacturers took a relatively healthy 53 per cent share of the market, this was a serious situation. Considering the preceding discussions of the continuing growth in the gap between the technical and manufacturing know-how of Australian manufacturers, and those of the major industrial powers, it is clear that Australian manufacturers needed to find new ways of conducting their businesses if they were to remain viable. Williams' (1994) argument, which suggested that the Australian radio/audio industry was decimated by the late 1970s, appears to be correct. Indeed, Goldsworthy (1987, p. 42) argues that this trend was also evident in information technology manufacturing and that the poor performance of Australian manufacturing was "in extreme contrast" to many small Asian and European nations. Furthermore, as an example, Goldsworthy points out that for every dollar Australia paid for imported computer equipment only 15 cents were earned in computer exports.

As it was in 1971, the music technology export effort remained weak and still earned only a few hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Australian music industry. Richmond (1994) found that more than 75 per cent of the sales of Australian musical instruments and components were sold in Australia, and that "the vast majority of manufacturers import the bulk of their raw materials". The one point that does deserve attention is the change from a gramophone dominated export effort to a radio dominated effort (Fig 56).

Figure 56.

I have already discussed the benefits of being involved in the manufacture of transistor-based radios, or medium technology, because of lower manufacturing costs and the relative simplicity of the manufacturing process needed to make them, and the figures of 1981 provide tangible evidence of the appropriateness of this approach in the conditions to which Australian music technology manufacturing was subject at the time. Unfortunately, it appears to have been a lost opportunity because a long term-commitment to use profits from these sales to develop sophisticated manufacturing technology and know-how was apparently not made. However, it is difficult to quantify the reactions of Australian music technology manufacturers to these circumstances beyond what is provided by the broadly focused ABS statistics and the comments on the poor management of these businesses that Williams has made.

The absence of research into the histories of individual or groups of music technology manufactures in Australia unfortunately imposes limitations. Nevertheless, Hill (1988) offers some explanations to help to explain why, generally speaking, Australian manufacturers were unable to move to take advantage of technology based manufacturing opportunities. Hill's thesis is that high technology goods "embody" more knowledge than low technology goods. In other words, a larger knowledge resource base is needed to make more complex products. This knowledge base can include more than the engineering knowledge that it takes to design the product, but also the knowledge it takes to put in place the plant to make it, the business knowledge to keep the plant operating and so on. Australia, argues Hill, had a deficient knowledge resource base up to the 1980s and as manufacturing became more reliant on knowledge Australia was more marginalised in the market. Characterising this position Hill (p. 251) claims:

The relatively small size of the Australian markets [meant that] local innovation faced very considerable difficulties: an arid industrial knowledge-base and efficient higher scale international competition, often resulting in Australian inventions either being bought out by international firms or just not ever quite making it into successful production.

This review of the 1981 statistics has alerted us to the need for analysis of a number of key changes since the 1970s. The possibility of Australian music technology manufacturers engaging in medium technology production, the growing advantage that Japan had developed in low, medium and high technology through automated manufacturing processes, and the effects of consumer prejudices are all additional elements in the Information Age that emerge from the 1981 analysis. These points of discussion, however, also need to be placed in the broader context of passive music enjoyment, popular music cultures, technological convergence, protectionism and mass communications.


Internationalisation, deregulation and free-trade dogmas characterised the Australian industrial, economic and political landscape of the 1980s (Kelly 1992). For the Australian music economy that raft of dogma meant that Australia's front gate was opened wide and presented more access to the Australian market for foreign producers. However, reciprocal access to foreign markets was still not available to Australian music technology producers. The reasons for this inequality of access are complex and it is clear that a one-dimensional market-forces view of the mechanisms through which Australian manufacturers might gain access to foreign markets failed and left Australian manufacturers of music technology high and dry in both the world and the domestic markets.

If some deregulation is good it does not necessarily follow that a lot is better. Ormerod warns that economic history provides some general lessons about the effectiveness of markets:

Markets, competition and entrepreneurship are all very important, but by themselves they are not enough. Infant industries – even when they have become industrial giants – have sheltered behind tariff barriers; government subsidies have been widespread; there has been active state intervention in the economy (Ormerod 1994, p. 63).

Ormerod's scenario is of a complex economic environment which requires careful stewardship. If Australian music technology manufacturers were going to prosper once again they would require a lot of help in overcoming the barriers in front of them and this could only be achieved if there was a recognition of the complexities of the economy.

In contrast to Ormerod's scenario, the single-mindedness, or narrow-mindedness, of the neo-classical economic approach is well represented by a comment of the leader of the Federal Opposition, Dr John Hewson, in 1992 when campaigning for election to government on the basis of the Fight Back policy document. He said when talking about the possibility of introducing his neo-classical reforms: "You cannot have too much change and you cannot do it quickly enough" (Pusey 1993, p. 11). Pusey argues that implicit in this dogmatic and impatient approach is a disregard for history and practicality, a tendency to over simplify the workings of the economy and an unreasonable faith in the effectiveness of markets. Furthermore, Pusey (1991) and Kelly (1992) have also shown that neo-classical economists had "colonised" the senior ranks of the commonwealth public service and also the Government during the 1980s, and as a result policy direction quickly moved towards deregulation and the free rein of market-forces. Subtlety and nuance were not going to feature highly in trade and industry policy.

By the 1980s, the Australian music industry had reached a level of maturity where it began to organise itself to pull together enough resources to establish peak bodies and conduct research which examined the industries' own morphology. Indeed, the Price Waterhouse report provides a detailed view of that morphology, based on the value of consumption in 1991/92, and reveals that the profile of music technology manufacturing was rather small within the industry as a whole. The following table illustrates this morphology (Table 1).













$23.7 million




$236.5 million

$164.1 million




$19 million

$58.8 million












$100.8 million


$469.6 million


$3.5 million












$138.4 million


$54.4 million


$57.5 million



















$693.5 million




$535.8 million

$20 million


$77 million

$4 million

(a)           “Overseas” is income paid to overseas based artists or songwriters and/or their overseas record      companies or publishers.

(b)           Represents retail margin.

(c)           The net of total sales taxes received by government and subsidies paid to the industry by                 government.

Source: Price Waterhouse (1994).

Table 1.

The marginalisation of music technology manufacturers in the Australian music economy was partly a result of a lack of effective transitional policy initiatives suitable for smoothing the way into the age of deregulation. Richmond found that most of the government programs set up to help this transition, although well intended, were inappropriately structured for the music technology manufacturing sector. Furthermore, he has identified the dynamics that caused many Australian music technology manufacturers to be unable to find government assistance. He presents three central factors that contributed to this situation: (1) because small instrument makers operate outside the mainstream industrial sector, and are therefore isolated, most manufacturers are ignorant of the range of industry assistance schemes offered by governments; (2) the industry development schemes are inappropriately structured for the music technology manufacturing industry; and (3) the schemes are complicated and embedded in seemingly impenetrable bureaucracies. One established instrument manufacturer illustrated part of this problem in stating:

Over my twenty years in business I have remained informed on AUSTRADE, I R&D [Industrial Research and Development] grants, tariff enquires, sales tax legislature, State Government schemes etc. Across the board we never quite fitted any assistance scheme and indeed across the board Governments have progressively handicapped the smaller player (Richmond 1994, p. 20).

Not all manufacturers were so well informed though. Table 2 shows an overwhelming number of manufacturers to be unaware of the various schemes and that the majority of those who were aware thought the schemes to be of no value to them.
























































Source: Richmond (1994)

Table 2.

What was needed in policy-making circles was a focus on the transitionary process from regulation to deregulation, rather than the unseemly and unthinking rush to embrace a new ideology. There is no evidence of the subtlety and nuance which was required to help foster music technology manufacturing in Australia.

Australian radio/audio manufacturing was in very poor shape in the 1980s but lack of good data prevents a detailed analysis. Regular official figures on the value of domestic production of gramophones and tape recorders do not go beyond 1978 (Fig 50). My ability to comment on gramophone manufacturers is limited to claiming that a clear and strong trend towards a decline in the value of production of gramophones and tape recorders was evident, and that the future did not look promising. Balancing this view is the fact that although the clear downward trend in radio manufacturing was evident in the mid 1970s, production began to recover in 1978, just as regular figures on gramophone manufacturers ceased to be published, and rose to a value of $60 million in a set of one-off figures in 1982. What is frustrating to the development of a clearer picture is that in the year after the healthy 1982 figures, the value of production of radios in Australia nearly halved. It is certain, however, that even if the long term trend was not always clear in the 1980s, increasing exposure to the rigours of international trade through the decline in levels of protection – which had fallen by 40 per cent for most industries in the period from 1973 to 1982 – all did not bode well for Australian music technology manufacturers who were not prepared to meet international competition (Anderson 1987, p. 178).

Compounding the negative factors already canvassed, Australia had a poor record in industrial research and development spending when compared with the rest of the industrialised world. In particular, investment in research and development in the private sector has been very weak and has remained consistently at about half the OECD average during the 1980s (Johnston 1995, p. 281). In the high music technology industry where constant innovation, or microdiversity, through research and development was required to maintain market share, the ability to adapt to changing conditions and develop economies of scope was vital. Countries like Australia, which did not engage in this kind of activity simply could not hold a place in global or domestic markets.

It is paradoxical that, in the 1980s, with the orthodoxy of deregulation and entrepreneurial vigour, Australia's industrialists were so shy of taking risks in research and development, and instead placed the burden of industrial research and development on government, CSIRO and the universities. In 1988 government expenditure on research was over 85 per cent greater than private expenditure (ABS 1990, p. 670). It is also worth considering that in 1987 payments for technical know-how (mostly payments for patent licences) continued to be unfavourable and were 170 per cent higher than receipts. This illustrates that the overwhelming dependence on overseas technology of Australian manufacturers seen through the post-war years was being maintained (ABS 1990, p. 673).

Further evidence of fundamental weakness in industrial research and development is provided by Goldsworthy (1987, p. 46), who has shown that successful industrial nations in the 1980s spent over 2 per cent of GDP on research and development while Australia spent less than 1 per cent. Worse still, Goldsworthy claims that Australia had a poor record in converting what research and development it did carry out in the 1980s into commercially viable products. A reason for this situation may rest in the difference between the typical activities of 1980s corporate champions of deregulation and free-markets, and those of high technology consumer electronics manufacturing. Property and money market speculation, primary areas of focus for 1980s entrepreneurship, are activities which typically sought short-term profits and require relatively little long term intellectual and capital investment. One does not need an economics, finance or accounting degree to be a successful speculator, even if those qualifications may be helpful, but engineering research and development requires a long-term and well-organised investment in education, training, recruitment and research as well as in plant and machinery. Much more organisation is required in high technology manufacturing, and deregulation and short-term goals are antithetical to this kind of activity. Industrial research and development, and manufacturing in general, seem to have suffered at the hands of an enthusiasm for a type of entrepreneurship which lacked depth and long term vision.

Despite the general lack of private sector research and development and the fact that: "product design and development is undertaken on an ad hoc basis by many established [Australian music technology] manufacturers… [and that] the risk of allocating resources to such activities precludes many from engaging in serious research and development [because of lack of investment capital]" (Richmond 1994, p. 17), some important technological achievements occurred in the Australian music economy in the 1980s. The most important of these was the awarding of a patent to Passac in 1986 for a pickup (transducer) and preamplifier for electronically reproducing and amplifying the sound of an acoustic stringed instrument while maintaining a natural sound. This was high technology research and development, and the product did make some impact on Australian and overseas markets. In 1989, Passac was also awarded a patent for a musical instrument-to-synthesiser interface through which an electric guitar could generate digital signals in a synthesiser with the flexibility previously confined to keyboard instruments. This was not the first patent awarded in Australia for a synthesiser: that accolade went to David Spalding who received a patent in 1979, but Passac's was the only commercially important patent. Although both of these innovations generated interest and sales around the world, Passac appears to have struggled to remain in business and little is known about its history.

Research and development activity was also evident in the 1980s in the development of low and medium technology music products. In 1980, Donald Sleishman applied for a patent on a drum tensioning device; Robert Wright won a patent in 1985 for a new drum head design; Bradley Clark received a patent for a percussion instrument transducer in 1990; Stuart Box patented a guitar that allowed a player to play two sets of strings simultaneously; and in 1990 Paul Snape and Geoffrey Falkner applied for a patent for a guitar tremolo stabiliser. All these products were important contributions to music technology, but little information is available about the history of their inventors, the research and development processes undertaken, or their success and profiles in the market place.[9] The same is also true of prolific 1980s Australian music technology inventor, Richard Lawson, who was awarded four patents for relatively simple electronic sound effects units, and who applied, apparently unsuccessfully, for another six patents. Why many of these products met with only modest commercial success – or none at all – remains unclear. However, it is certain that the traditional organisational short comings in Australia were still present. Poor policy, marketing, financial and manufacturing skills were still holding back the Australian music technology manufacturing sector. A quote from Donald Sleishman gives an insight into the research and development modus operanti in the music technology industry:

Maybe I'm not a really good businessman, because I'm dictated mainly from where my heart wants to go… I'm an inventor and a drummer. What a combination!… It's a love of what we do and it's a determination of what I believe in and from that we're hoping to finally win through and eventually reap it in the long run (Richmond 1994, p. 24).

Sleishman reveals what might be a common approach to developing new products in the Australian music technology manufacturing industry; an approach based on enthusiasm and passion for music and musical instruments rather than the classical entrepreneur inventor. Traditional business skills are not in the forefront of this approach.

Unequivocal support for the claim of a lack of organisational skill in the Australian music manufacturing industry is provided by Richmond (1994). There are a number of key organisational areas that Richmond highlights as important weaknesses in the Australian music technology manufacturing industry. To begin with, Richmond claims that there was no network or collegial spirit in the industry and as a result little exchange of ideas and techniques was taking place; nor was there any co-ordinated research and development or marketing strategy in the industry. Indeed, one example of this problem is revealed by Gary McFetridge, and banjo and mandolin maker:

There are a few trade secrets, but I'm taking those to the grave with me. Every instrument maker will only tell so much, because they've got to protect their own interests. I'll help anybody I can, but there are a few things that I'm taking to the grave with me, or I'll tell my son (Richmond 1994, p. 17).

Richmond also identifies a number of other important obstacles acting against Australian manufacturers gaining better shares of the Australian market. These obstacles include a lack of advertising budgets, a lack of finance, a lack of support from retailers, a lack of tariff protection, prejudice by Australian musicians against Australian products, lack of appropriate government assistance and a lack of support from peak music industry bodies such as Ausmusic and the Australian Music Association. The survey also identified important barriers against access to foreign markets including lack of finance, lack of intelligence on foreign market conditions, trade barriers to protect foreign makers in their own markets, a lack of understanding of the dynamics and practices in the wider music products industry, and a lack of general managerial skills.

Among these comments, it is interesting to note the existence of trade barriers in other nations. This situation showed the haste with which Australia rushed into free trade by removing local barriers at a speed not matched by other nations. This naïveté institutionalised a trade imbalance which was destructive to the Australian music technology manufacturing industry, while being accommodating to foreign manufacturers. This contention is strongly supported by Stewart (1991) who has studied the success of protectionist policies in Japan, Korea and Taiwan, and compared them to protectionist policies in Australia. The claim of naïveté is corroborated by Stewart's argument that protectionism does not have to be a monolithic idea: it can mean different things in different circumstances. In particular, it does not necessarily have to mean that economies practising it will be insulated from the positive benefits of exposure to world markets if they encourage exporting while protecting their manufacturers from damaging competition. Australian policy-makers did not possess the critical skills that Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese policy-makers did, and just took protectionism in its most simplistic form.

Atherton (1990) has identified over 300 musical instrument makers working either part- or full-time in Australia in the late 1980s. Most of these makers cannot be regarded as manufacturers in the sense of industrial capitalists; rather, they were mostly craft-based cottage industrialists. To provide some perspective, it is instructive to note that even the more industrial manufacturers were not big enterprises: for example, Maton Guitars, the best known of the larger Australian manufacturers, made only 1400 guitars in 1982, which represented sales of around 27 guitars per week Australia wide (Atherton 1990, p. 32). Although these craft-workers were capable of producing instruments of the highest quality, their business skills were not necessarily commensurate with their craft skills. Taking the argument about the difference between craft-based and industrial manufacturing further, Braden (1982) claims, as Richmond does, that craft-workers were isolated from the mainstream of industrial manufacturing but adds that craft-workers were not concerned about these barriers and indeed often sought to maintain their isolation because mass production was abhorrent to them, even if it was more lucrative. It is difficult to determine the relative proportions of craft-based instrument makers and what Braden calls semi-manufacturers but it seems only a small proportion of these 300 musical instrument makers were employed in industrial instrument making.

There were 53 commercial musical instrument makers in 1977-78 where there had been 85 in 1974-75 (Braden 1982, p. 30). It appears, therefore, that a growing majority of instrument makers in Australia were part-time craft-workers rather than industrialists or semi-manufacturers. This trend may, to some degree, have emerged because it was difficult for instrument makers to see how they could make a successful career in commercial manufacturing, and, therefore, they could not justify giving up their existing careers. The 53 commercial makers, then, may not necessarily be a true reflection of the numbers who would have pursued a full-time career in instrument making had it been financially viable. Given that Braden has also identified areas of organisation which Richmond identified as problematic – including lack of marketing and management skills, lack of training and communication between makers, no peak representative body, and the conservative or negative attitudes of Australian customers to Australian-made instruments – it is not surprising that many skilled craft-workers were reluctant to fully commit their financial futures to ventures for which they were not confident of being fully equipped.

It is also interesting to note that in the 1990 edition of the Sonics Year Book, which lists most of the people and organisations associated with the Australian popular music industry, there were around 40 businesses manufacturing electronic and computer equipment including amplifiers, analogue to digital interfaces, synthesisers, speakers, mixers, signal modifiers and tape recorders. This further indicates that at least some high technology know-how existed in the Australian music economy. There were also ten record pressing sites, 56 tape duplication sites, 45 video clip producers, 126 record producers and engineers, and 99 people who were described as technical consultants (most of whom were associated with sound and electronics consulting). This surprising amount of highly technical activity in the commercial application of complicated music technology suggests that more technical know-how may have existed than is implied by the poor manufacturing performance of the Australian music technology producers. Here we see evidence of a movement in the Australian economy at large towards the provision of services rather than manufacturing. The growth of the service sector and of the economic value of information and knowledge resources has been a significant feature of the post-war Australian economy (Mandeville 1987, pp. 31-33). Evidence of this is seen in that fact that the percentage of people employed in the service sector of the Australian economy increased from 60 per cent to 67 per cent in the decade from 1962 to 1972 (Bureau of Industry Economics 1980). Australians, it is safe to say, have found greater attraction in service provision than in manufacturing in recent decades. In the music economy it is not hard to see why. The poor performance of music technology manufacturers, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, did not attract people with technical know-how and entrepreneurial dispositions because failure in manufacturing music technology seemed, prima facie, almost assured.

The value of exports of music technology, despite some improvement, remained insignificant when compared to the values of imports. To illustrate the low volume of exports, it is useful to point out that in 1990, exports of gramophones reached a value of $10 million, musical instruments peaked at a value of about $4.4 million in 1987, and radios remained fairly constant at below $500,000 until 1986 when records ceased to be kept. By 1990 the value of imports of radios and gramophones alone was well over $500 million. This serious imbalance was very much in keeping with the worsening balance of trade in the whole economy, which ranged between -3.5 per cent and -6.1 per cent (as a percentage of GDP) in the 1980s compared to a range of between +1.7 per cent and -3.3 per cent in the previous decade. This position constitutes evidence that the balance of trade malaise was not confined to the music technology manufacturing but was widespread.

We can be certain from the figures and the reports cited above that the old problems of lack of marketing and other organisational skills continued in the Australian music technology manufacturing sector much as they had done in previous decades. However, Richmond shows that there was a prejudice in the local market against Australian goods and so the sound local market that the successful musicians had been able to build on was not there for the music technology manufacturers:

A culture exists, especially in relation to standard rock music equipment, electric guitars, amplifiers and drums where [Australian] producers are not accepted by the Australian market until they have established a reputation in the United States or Europe. Musical enthusiasts in Australia are generally not interested in local products, unless the products have received recognition in the world music products market (Richmond p. 5).

It is clear, though, that a recognition of the many inadequacies was dawning on those involved in music technology manufacturing as the Australian economy was rapidly steered into the world market by the government policy of lower levels of protection and enthusiasm for the rhetoric of "the level playing field". However, there is a difference between being aware that there is a problem in industrial know-how and understanding how to deal with changing the situation.

A key issue, as I have shown, in industry policy-making must be to make those small businesses who would be beneficiaries of development programs aware of them and also make the entry requirements of the programs tailored to suit the circumstances of those businesses. There has clearly been a failing of policy-makers in relation to the Australian music technology manufacturing industry in the 1980s and 1990s. Policies have to be practical, flexible, and have to be actively promoted and explained by government.

Here, it is appropriate to turn to the revisionist economists, discussed in the Chapter 2, who propose non-linear models of technological change. Leydesdorff (1994, pp. 191-2) has very carefully set up the pragmatic approach by showing that emerging technologies, upon which the future of manufacturing will be based in the medium and long term, have been found to be most responsive to socially constructed organisational devices like industry policy. Therefore, policies should be supportive and proactive in the development of emerging technology. Furthermore, Allen (1994, pp. 594 -596) claims that co-operation and complementarity, not competition, are essential for the success of an economy, and that the problem-solving capabilities of "market forces" are an illusion because the complexity of the world is not amenable to simplistic solutions. The clear message is that market forces or laissez-faire approaches to industry and technology policy are anachronistic and counterproductive. Leydesdorff goes further:

From this perspective, the debate over socialist interventionism and liberal laissez-faire has grown obsolete: today's regimes contain both the dynamics of markets and those of social organisation… The political process has to organise the legitimation for intervention, but the intervention has to be assessed in terms of its effects in the relevant technological systems (Leydesdorf 1994, p. 192).

Leydesdorff also argues that the process of assessment must be continuous so that the analysis of unintended outcomes of previous activity will lead to updated expectations and policies. In other words, a considerable amount of organisation and co-operation at government level is essential. The music industry research reports and the revisionist economists examined in this chapter, therefore, bear out the argument that the ways in which governments, firms and consumers develop organisational relationships with technology are vital in the analysis of the history of music technology.

Moving to examine consumption in the Australian music economy, evidence of high fidelity enthusiasm in the wake of CD technology is plentiful. An early example is the "ultra high fidelity" audio visual laser disks which were promoted to a relatively élite market by Pioneer in the Bulletin on November 8 1983 as providing "home entertainment" with "distortion free" television screen images for watching movies and concerts. Also, the Beosystem 5000 was advertised in the Bulletin on December 20 1983 as having "pure" and "elegant lines" but also as being a "computer controlled" stereo system with a "special data link". Such was the euphoria for the sonic capabilities and spectacular technology of CD products before they even went on sale in Australia that one journalist described the sound quality of CDs as "awe-inspiring" and claimed that the Japanese "were seized with a mania to digitalise everything possible". Furthermore, he reported that an engineer at JVC was only disappointed that the human ear did not have the innate capacity to fully appreciate the possibilities of digital sound (McGill 1983, pp. 46-7). By 1990, CD technology was entrenched in the popular domain and was being sold in popular chain stores like Douglas hi-fi in Melbourne. the "Green Guide" in the Age on September 6 1990 carried an advertisement from Douglas hi-fi for a "Hi Fi system" with a CD player, turn table, cassette deck and a tuner for $399. Furthermore, Douglas hi-fi listed fourteen stereo systems and nineteen stand-alone CD players in their sale inventory. Therefore, although advertising in the Bulletin in 1983, just before CDs first went on sale in Australia, was clearly aimed at the élite audio enthusiast, by 1990 this kind of spectacular technology was relatively cheap, widely distributed in popular chain stores and readily consumed.

There was a wider optimism in the Australian music economy than just for the possibilities of CD technology. By 1981 Air Supply and Men At Work were enjoying great popularity in foreign markets and Australian audiences and musicians began to believe that Australian cultural products were suitable for international markets. In addition, Australians were asserting a more Australian character in their popular music rather than mindlessly imitating American music (Kelly 1989). Australian songs began to use local references and imagery rather than using standard American references and were therefore able to develop a more local identity within the globalised market. A "serious" rock press, as Kelly (1989, p. 75) has argued, developed in Australia during the 1980s which helped to propel this confidence, and although the American hegemony in popular music was not being seriously challenged, Australians were now concerned with developing an Australian character in Australian popular music. Added to this was the rise in popularity of Aboriginal popular music in the late 1980s, led by Yothu Yindi. Running parallel to these successes was the increase in radio local content quotas to 20 per cent during peak listening times (Miller 1993, p. 49; Breen 1993b, p. 128). This underlines the value of protection when combined with a focus on exports and product innovation, and served to contrast with the deregulated state of manufacturing and the parlous state of the Australian music technology manufacturing industry, which had no reason to share the optimism being enjoyed in the recording sector.

Across the 1980s, the level of importation of music technology into the Australian music economy grew rapidly despite recessions at either end of the decade. Assisting this growth were a 33 per cent rise in personal consumption, a 170 per cent rise in the level of imports of merchandise across the whole economy, and population increase from 14.8 million in 1980 to 17.2 million in 1990. Demand in the music economy for music technology was rising rapidly and is manifest in the 140 per cent increase in retail sales of musical instruments and records experienced between 1974 and 1980 (Forster & Bridge 1987, p. 232).

In particular, the growth in the use of radios, gramophones and tape recorders was most notable in the music economy during the 1980s. The continuing growth in consumption of radios and gramophones was symptomatic of growing and continuing emphasis on the passive music market. The days of the pre-war domination of the piano and active music-making in the home were now almost forgotten. The move towards passive music enjoyment is also clearly shown in the fact that the average amount of weekly household expenditure on radio, stereo, Hi Fi equipment, records, and audio cassettes and tapes was more than five and a half times higher than expenditure on musical instruments and accessories in 1988-89 (Australia Council 1991, p. 81). Further evidence is seen in the finding that only 18.6 per cent of the Australian population were active music makers in 1990 (ABS 1991, p.14). In the final years of the decade, the rate of growth in radio, gramophone and tape recorder sales was steep, indicating that the trend towards passive music habits in Australia was still very strong and that people were in fact finding expanded modes of passive music enjoyment.

The trend of rapidly expanding passive modes of music enjoyment had been evident since at least the 1960s when people began to take their radios and record players out of the living room, and into new locations. In the 1980s music enjoyment was marked by the rapid escalation in the number of products available for passive listening, such as clock radios, compact cassette players, ghetto blasters, the Sony Walkman and CD players. While in the 1970s radios became diversified in range, the 1980s saw not only a similar diversification in the range of radios but also of items for replaying recorded music. In the 1970s tape recorders meant reel-to-reel recorders, compact cassette recorders and cartridge tape recorders. In the 1980s, CD players, the Sony Walkman and the "ghetto blasters" all came onto the market. These products quickly became highly popular, and helped sales of music and music technology to flourish (Jones 1992). This expansion is clearly identifiable in the ABS accounts through the increasing number of categories of radios, gramophones and tape recorders identified. However, in the late 1980s, a new complexion was seen in the global music economy when the possibility of reasonably cheap home recording studios became a reality as affordable sound effects units, drum machines and small four channel recording desks reached the market. With this technology a new home-made aesthetic became associated with independent and alternative musicians and music cultures like grunge, and acted as a powerful symbol and signifier of independent and alternative music cultures. Recording technology, once it became relatively cheap, portable and achieved high enough recording quality standards, was able to give more freedom to musicians who wanted to produce music outside the confines of the multinational record companies. They could make recordings without having a recording contract and could do it in backrooms or garages rather than in commercial recording studios. It was now possible for music to be recorded by local musicians for local audiences without having to conform to the mainstream popular music conventions of the globalised market. Therefore, a new economic dimension, which was not based on globalised cultural commodity production, was introduced to the architecture of the Australian music economy.

It is interesting to note that research on more recent consumer habits in Australia by Hearn et al. (1994), shows a further increase in interlinking between technological convergence, consumption and flexible specialisation. Hearn and colleagues have examined the move in the 1990s from passive consumption to interactive consumption. In this process, products become compound commodities which can be modified to suit changes in taste over time and a variety of personal wants at any given time. Furthermore, Hearn et al. have identified links between aesthetic obsolescence and commodification of image (success, prestige etc) through media-constructed identities associated with particular products. This process is similar to the one which I have argued exists in relation to the use of music technology as a signifier and definer of popular music cultures since the 1960s. Therefore, with both aesthetic and technological obsolescence driving demand, the ways in which music technology was able to be incorporated into the music economy were increased and intensified since the 1960s and 1970s. To avoid having an obsolete identity one needs to continually consume technology and cultural products.


I have shown that fundamental changes took place in the Australian music economy during the 1970s and 1980s, and that some of these changes were easily accommodated, especially in the creative side of the music industry. These changes included adopting new styles of music and adapting Australian music to the demands of the global market. For Australian music technology manufacturers, adaptation to new industrial, economic, and research and development paradigms was not so easy. Furthermore, a relatively sudden change in economic orthodoxy from Keynesianism to neo-liberalism, or neo-classical economics was also important. Finally, changes from a reliance by consumer electronics manufacturers on increasing economies of scale to increasing economies of scope, synergy and flexible specialisation, were difficult to accommodate, and for the most part Australian music technology manufacturers were unsuccessful in adapting to this new scenario.

Passive music enjoyment continued to dominate the music economy throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and was the hallmark of modern music consumerism. Modern consumers sought new technology, or innovations to existing technology, to express their modernity. The spread of a popular high fidelity mode of listening was stimulated by the advent of the CD, which in turn boosted sales of recorded music, CD players, and home entertainment systems. This kind of consumerism did not exist in a vacuum, but, rather, operated in an interactive relationship between producers and consumers. In this relationship, the ideas of economies of scope, synergy and flexible specialisation, which were designed by the large consumer electronics corporations to increase sales and profits in already saturated markets, were situated in a cause-effect cycle with new modes of consumerism.

The push to keep expanding markets saw not just the introduction of CDs but also a host of other products like the Sony Walkman, radio alarm clocks and ghetto blasters. Consumers were no longer content to have one sound system in the living room and one in the car: by the 1980s Australian consumers needed a radio alarm clock in the bedroom, a personal stereo for listening to music on the bus or walking down the street, and a ghetto blaster for picnics and other group activities.

The new kinds of passive music technologies were also important to popular music cultures. As in the 1960s, music cultures made very specific connections with music technology. Music technology was not only the means of production and reproduction of music but was also able to act as a symbol of a particular culture. The ghetto blaster, for example, became synonymous with rap music and dancing. However, technology for the production of music was important too. Home recording studios were important to indie, techno and grunge music and the home-made aesthetic which implied independence from the corporate music mainstream was important to these music cultures. Drum machines became important technologies and symbols of disco and other dance music just as synthesisers were important aesthetic symbols and production tools of techno music. Clearly, the organisation of these elements of the music economy in relation to technology in the 1970s and 1980s was important to the crystallisation of those music styles synonymous with the 1970s and 1980s, and the durability of the markets in music and music technology that were associated with those cultures.

The convergence of the technology and entertainment markets was also important in the 1970s and 1980s. Important aspects of this convergence were modern consumerist attitudes to the use of technology, and the predilection of consumers to buy both the technology and the artistic products associated with the new convergent entertainment industry. However, the constant need to innovate in the drive to find economies of scope and the process of finding synergies in industry were also important forces in convergence. Music videos soon became an art form in their own right and the desire by musicians to perform on television and in movies had been present since the 1950s. What is important to understand about convergence is the complexity of the process, which involved consumer behaviour, business strategies and the new capabilities of technology. Following from this is the fact that although Australian consumers entered into the convergent entertainment/technology market, Australian music technology manufacturers and the Australian music industry did not fully engage with it.

The effectiveness and pervasiveness of mass communications technology increased during the 1970s and 1980s, and became known as "information technology". This change of name was very much a reflection of the digitisation, computerisation, and convergence that was most evident in the late 1980s. The essential difference that the change of name reflected was the increase in the volume, diversity and speed of communications around the world compared to previous decades. In the Information Age, Australia was more closely engaged with the rest of the world, and even if Australian music technology manufacturers did not find it in themselves to move quickly enough, or at all, to meet the demands of this new location in the world Australian consumers did. This discrepancy between technology consumers and producers in Australia is an essential feature of the Information Age.

The political, economic and industrial rhetoric, of the 1980s also failed to meet the reality of the world music economy: although governments opened the Australian economy and embraced global free-trade dogmas, the producers of music technology remained static or simply disappeared, and many of Australia's trading partners left barriers to Australian traders in place. This situation only served to highlight the naïve market forces utopianism embedded in policy-making of the early 1980s. As a result of this policy anomaly, music technology and recorded music arrived on our shores quicker and in greater volumes than ever before, and Australians consumed it all, eagerly. While Australian producers stood still, the world marched on and left Australia with a declining and technologically redundant music technology industry that did not and could not fight back. At work here was a downward spiral which came about because the further behind Australia's capacity to generate the technological microdiversity (and thus positive feedback) fell, the harder it became to find a favourable position in the market and to reverse or even arrest the negative trend. The Australian government was equally remiss: through its enthusiasm for deregulation it failed to construct well-considered and appropriate non-tariff industry protection schemes that would ease the way into the new kind of manufacturing world that the music technology manufacturers had to face. The free-trade and deregulation prescription turned out to be an ephemeral neo-liberal utopia for the Australian music technology manufacturing industry.

Protectionist industry policies were an early casualty of the free-trade utopia. A shift was supposed to happen in which tariff protection was replaced by interim measures such as export enhancement schemes, industry research and development tax incentives, training schemes and so on, but those schemes were ill-conceived and failed to attract the attention of the Australian music technology manufacturing industry. Furthermore, most of the schemes were bureaucratically impenetrable or were pitched at businesses conducted on a bigger scale than was the norm in the music technology manufacturing industry. The focus was on free-trade and not enough on the process of moving from protection to free-trade and so the dogma of market-forces as a cure-all was applied as a one dimensional quick-fix, and failed.

The assumption that the economy was a simple machine-like system which responded predictably to one-dimensional policy change was shown by the revisionist economists to be misguided. The music economy has proved not to be simple and mechanistic, but a complex system in which unforseen results constantly emerge and in which sophisticated, flexible and responsive management and policy-making are essential. Some of these changes, such as the change in focus of the global music industry away from publishing to consumer electronics, have consigned Australia to a marginal position in relation to the main activity – consumer electronics – of the global music economy. Australia's incapacity to engage the central activities of the music economy has been due to narrow and inappropriate organisation at both policy and industry levels, which was in contrast to the attitudes and actions of Australian consumers who thought and acted globally. This is not an argument for a return to the equally unsuccessful Keynesian style of industry policy which dominated the 1950s and 1960s with varying degrees of success, but rather for less ideologically driven and more pragmatic policy similar to that adopted by other similarly small nations like Taiwan and Korea.



This thesis has been concerned with two central tasks. The first of these has been to examine the emerging historiographical approach to the history of technology called the systems or seamless web approach and furnish that approach with a stronger theoretical basis which can move analysis of the history of technological change beyond its current position. The new approach, called the assemblage of technologies approach, is based on an interactive, non-reductionist and non-linear view of technology in a socio-technical system. The second task has been to explore the relationship between music technology and organisation in the Australian music economy from 1901 to 1990. Three levels of activity, or organisation, in the Australian music economy have been examined: organisation at the level of government policy-making; organisation at the level of the firm; and organisation at the level of the consumer or audience. Each of the above levels of organisation have been shown to be connected in an interactive relationship when viewed as an assemblage of technologies. Through this type of analysis, I have shown how the diffusion of technology in the Australian music economy has been determined by a complex array of interacting variables including: industry protection and deregulation; economic orthodoxies in policy-making; strategic management skills; popular expressions of modernity among consumers; and normative behaviours in music subcultures. Furthermore, I have drawn upon statistical data on the import, export and domestic production of music technology from the ABS and CBCS which have never been subject to systematic historical investigation before. This data and the results of the analysis of it therefore, constitutes a significant contribution the understanding of music technology manufacturing in Australia.

The analytical framework used has drawn on a range of sources in the development of an approach to the study of technology which avoids the pitfalls of research driven primarily by either technological determinism or social constructivism. Adorno's work on popular music and technology provided the starting point for the development of the argument for the use of the assemblage of technologies approach. Through a critique of Adorno I demonstrated how commercial interests, ideology and technology play key rôles in the construction of music and culture. While Adorno argued that popular music is socially and technologically constructed, his high modernist perspective viewed popular music as unemotional, mechanistic, and meaningless because of its social and technological construction. This perspective prevented him from undertaking the nuanced and objective analysis of popular music which was needed to place it in its social and cultural context. Adorno insisted that "serious" or "art" music was the epitome of musical endeavour because of its lack of technology and commerce, while simultaneously arguing that it was socially constructed. The flaw in his conception is his failure to recognise that "serious" music, if it is socially constructed, is also dependent on technology and commerce in ways that are comparable to popular music. It is therefore unhelpful to describe the effects and rôle of music technology in the pejorative terms he used.

If Adorno nevertheless opened the possibility of studying the rôles of technology and social forces like economics in shaping music, it was Benjamin who took the next step. He turned away from the dystopian view of technology held by Adorno and replaced it with a view that technology could even be used to enhance peoples experience of music. Technology could do this by making music easily reproducible, thus removing its "aura" and placing the control of that music in the hands of the listeners rather than performers. Despite his apparent utopian position, his argument was more sophisticated than a simple democratisation argument. Benjamin also argued that technology made music production political and brought about a mystification of the production process, a process in which a utopian democratic view of access to the means of production was tempered. Following on from Benjamin's position, Goodwin showed how complex the relationship between music and technology can be by arguing that technology lies at the heart of the authenticity, or perceived authenticity, of music in fluid and sometimes surprising ways. An example cited by Goodwin was that of the changing rôles of digital versus analogue electronic music technology. Goodwin showed that in the late 1980s, it was the synthetic sounds produced by "old" analogue synthesisers which had won a reputation for authenticity with some audiences rather than the more realistic or natural sounds produced by "new" digital synthesisers.

Contributing to the debate, Attali argued that the scientific or technological basis of music production led listeners to develop a scientific mode of critical listening. What is more important in his political economy of music was his articulation of the linkage between technology and commerce in music production. For Attali, like Weber before him, the production process, including divisions of labour between technocrats, musicians and others, reflected the wider political economy. In this formulation, musicians, technocrats, audiences, politics, science, and many other variables are all indivisible elements in the music production process. However, unlike Weber and Adorno, Attali did not see this as a process of rationalisation which produced lifeless and meaningless music, it was the only way music could be produced.

The examination of Adorno, Benjamin, Goodwin and Attali showed that any attempt to mount an examination of the rôle of music technology in which technology is seen as separate from music or society is flawed. However, these discussions did not lead to the development of a particular analytical framework with which historical analysis could be guided. To begin to develop such a model, I examined how historical research has tended to fall into either the technological determinist or social constructivist camps.

Technological determinism has been a persistent and, indeed, often naïve and simplistic, treatment of technology. I have argued that this approach characteristically reduces analysis to a view which sees technology as being socially autonomous, or at least as being able to impose restrictions upon a society through its technical characteristics with only minimal interference from social variables. This is a deterministically reductionist position and is unacceptable as a starting point for analysis because it ignores the crucial and central rôles of social variables like patent law, culturally specific adoption patterns and so on. Yet it is clear that technology can play a rôle in which it is to some degree socially shaping.

I also examined social determinism or constructivism as an historiographical position. I showed how the deterministically reductionist social constructivist view could range from a simplistic market-forces and socio-economic argument to a more complex model which could take into consideration the deterministic force of a wide range of social and institutional variables but ignore technological determinants. This kind of approach, not surprisingly, has been most strongly pursued by economic historians, political economists and sociologist because of their focus on economic, political and other institutional elements in society. However, despite the advantages of this approach over technological determinism, it loses sight of, or at best underplays, the fact that technology can play a socially shaping rôle.

In light of the above discussion on technological determinism, social constructivism, and the work of theorists such as Adorno, Benjamin, Goodwin and Attali, it is clear that technology is part of a complex and interactive system. It is also clear that systematic avoidance of any set of determinants through a reductionist approach is to ignore the necessity to deal with technology in its true social and technical context. The way towards constructing a strong theoretical and methodological approach to the study of technology, which side-steps the adherence to either of the two reductionist accounts, has emerged in recent years with the systems or seamless web approach. In particular, it was in the historiography of Thomas Hughes that the first part of the solution was found. Hughes' model of technology in society promised to be flexible, to accommodate unpredictable outcomes and the messy contingent nature of interrelationships within a society in a non-teleological and deterministically neutral language. Using this approach, Bijker and Law argued that scholars should be committed to pursue rigorously the heterogeneous body of evidence across a broad spectrum of possible variables.

However, the deterministically neutral language which Hughes sought was not satisfactorily provided even if his theoretical position was commendable. It is fair to say that Hughes was stating a case for an approach to analysis which privileges neither technological determinism or social constructivism. However, the term "deterministically neutral" is problematic. A more sophisticated analytical tool can be developed by examining the use of deterministic analysis in non-linear mathematics, or, more precisely, in chaos theory. I argued that the strong link between determinism and predictability implicit in the reductionism of technological determinism is not necessarily the most useful way to think of determinism. Hence, I have adopted a non-reductionist view of determinism. From this point of view, we can say that from any set of initial historical conditions, a spectrum of possibilities exists towards which a system might move in the future. This potential movement was shown to be dependent on the interplay of continuously changing sets of variables, or determinants, in cause-effect relationships which might be relatively simple or relatively complex. In this case predictability, or historical inevitability, is limited, although not absolutely impossible to estimate. Therefore, we can say that cause-effect relationships do exist. However, because the links between variables and outcomes are changeable, and may involve social and/or technological stimuli, analysts must be careful not to reduce their attention artificially to the spectrum of possible determinants. The key message here is to situate historical analysis in a context which reflects the complexity of interacting variables, rather than a studiously reductionist context, and to be sensitive to changes in the array of important variables over time.

Having clarified how to deal with determinants, an examination of O'Connell's evolutionary model followed. The seamless web approach is evolutionary in nature and coincides with the evolutionary model that O'Connell developed. The evolutionary model is useful because it provides additional perspectives and a different metaphor of change in socio-technical systems which helps clarify aspects of the processes in technological change. The effects of co-evolution of technologies means that one technology not only has some deterministic rôle in the shaping of society but also in shaping other technologies. In addition, the idea that historical trajectories do not necessarily move at a constant rate and that the environment in which technology exists can be changed by new evolutionary artefacts are also brought into a clearer focus by the evolutionary framework. Once again, the idea of the complexity of historical context emerges as a central concern in analysis. I also demonstrated how revisionist economists using evolutionary economic theory and non-linear econometric models lent interdisciplinary support to the seamless web and evolutionary views of technology.

Once the value of the seamless web position was established, it was necessary to develop a framework within which to identify and map the environment in which technology exists. This framework, I argued, had to reflect more clearly a non-reductionist analysis than the seamless web approach has achieved. Foucault's four types of technology were used as the starting point. The combination of Foucault's technologies of production, technologies of sign systems, technologies of power and technologies of the self have been arranged into what I have called an assemblage of technologies. In this assemblage of technologies each technological mode is co-dependent on each of the others. The assemblage of technologies is the seamless web which Hughes identified because it is able to acknowledge the messy and contingent nature of the history of technology but with a clearer rationale for dealing with determinism.

For this thesis, the clear advantage of the assemblage of technologies approach is that I have been able to trace the relationship between technologies of production and organisation within the assemblage at policy-making level, the level of the firm, and at the level of the consumer or audience (technologies of sign systems, technologies of power and technologies of the self), and draw them together in a coherent analysis. I have, therefore, been able clearly to identify some of the main dynamics which link music technology and these levels of society together in the Australian music economy. These dynamics have been as diversified as the effects of global communications networks, the development of transistor technology, protectionism, consumerism, popular music cultures, business management practices, economic theories and technological convergence.

Discussion of the historical evidence began with the Electric Age which spanned the years 1901 to 1930. In this section, international communications networks, protectionism, the development of electric recording technology, outdated modes of industrial organisation in Australian manufacturing firms and the rise of proto-consumerism were explored in relation to the three levels of organisation in the Australian music economy. The findings, such as the beginnings of popular modernity and its expression through the consumption of state-of-the-art music technology; the emergence of American cultural, economic and technological expansion; and the use of tariff protection for Australian manufacturing were vitally important because they established the foundations to some of the patterns which have run through much of the rest of the study.

With the change from acoustic to electrical recording, I demonstrated how a shift in technological primacy could have far-reaching repercussions in the music economy. In later chapters, I showed similar processes at work with shifts to transistor technology and then digital technology. Equally important because of the trend of increasing affluence and consumption in Australia during the twentieth century, was the setting out of arguments about the rôle of consumerism, or more specifically, proto-consumerism, and the complex interaction between consumer-led demand and producer-led marketing. In the same way, because of their enduring presences protectionism, risk aversion, and the effects of a growing global communications network were marked as issues which have been central to technological development in Australia.

The conclusions reached at the end of this section focused on the close relationship between the state of the domestic music technology manufacturing sector and the activities of government in foreign trade regulation. In particular, the processes by which the Australian brand of protectionism facilitated the institutionalisation of managerial and technological weaknesses were seen to have early beginnings. These processes, which were eventually so devastating, were shown to have begun at least 75 years before the music technology manufacturing sector's collapse in the mid 1970s. I also focused on a discussion of the trend in Australia for consumption patterns to be linked to a popular sense of modernity as expressed through enthusiasm for the latest music technology. In addition, I argued that business practices within Australian music technology manufacturing firms were primitive compared to those used in the United States where what was to become the consumer electronics industry was beginning to develop at a rapid rate by the end of the 1920s.

The American manufacturing sector was not stuck in the management rut in which the British were caught. The British were focused on old technology and their industrial base was founded on steel production rather than electricity. Furthermore, the mostly family-based private businesses which characterised the British economy were inappropriate for the development of American-styled large scale public companies such as General Electric and others which were looking to develop on a global scale. It was the British model that Australia clung to at some considerable cost for the future development of local industrial manufacturing, and in particular music technology and consumer electronics manufacturing. The Electric Age was therefore, in many respects, the beginning of the long story of an opportunity lost for Australia to engage in what was to become the very lucrative consumer electronics industry and to be able to fully engage in what by the 1980s would be the economic epicentre of the global music industry.

During the Electronic Age of the 1930s and 1940s the key dynamics of radio broadcast technology improvements, depression and war, management practices, protectionism, and the global communications web provided the focus of analysis. The 1930s were peak years for the radio broadcast industry in Australia. Radio transmitters and receivers were much better at producing quality sound, and were more reliable and convenient. This was the period when it became possible for radio to supersede records and gramophones at the pinnacle of the music technology pile. Technological advancements were necessary for this to happen because electrically-recorded records and even piano rolls had previously produced superior quality sound which hampered the growth in popularity of radio. Once radio had established a technical advantage over, or even just technical equality with, other forms of music technology, it became a focus of expressions of popular modernity in the Australian music economy.

However, I showed that the equation for describing the growth of the radio industry was far more complex than simply a technological harnessing of popular enthusiasms. War and depression left deep impressions on Australia in the 1930s and 1940s. Low wages, high unemployment and lack of consumer confidence characterised the 1930s as the demand for luxury consumer goods which was evident in the 1920s dissipated. In the 1940s, the National Security Act took resources, including labour, away from music technology manufacturing in Australia. The reality of this set of circumstances was not as bad as it appeared on the surface. Demand for music technology did not totally collapse and radio became a very attractive item because of its ability to carry vital news as well as entertainment. Not only did radio fill this community need, but restrictions on imports meant that local producers, if they were inventive and resourceful enough, could try to produce local substitutes for imports which were no longer available. These conditions helped to establish some local brands in consumer consciousness. Some of the most important of these import replacements were locally-recorded radio shows, and in particular soap operas, which saw the establishment of an internationally successful commercial sound recording industry in Australia.

Modes of commercial organisation were changing in some sections of the Australian music economy during the 1930s and 1940s. New modes of thought on management and marketing were critical in the radio industry. Audience surveys and advertising agencies became key factors in the growth of the radio industry by helping broadcasters to capture audiences and the revenue with which to sustain growth. Better exploitation of intellectual property rights, especially exploitation of patent rights by AWA, need to be recognised in this process too. The collecting from overseas of rights to key technologies, with support from the government, was vital in giving AWA the freedom and security to invest its profits strategically. Some of that investment went into the research and development which helped AWA become the major force in radio technology manufacturing in Australia at the time and for some years to come. Generally speaking though, Australia remained a backwater in terms of its technological capacity because as Hill, Moyal and Johnston show, it still tended to cling to British models of engineering, management and manufacturing, instead of studying the American methods which were quite clearly out-performing the British.

Protectionism continued to be a key factor in the Australian music economy in the 1930s and 1940s. The whole of the Australian manufacturing economy was geared to act as an import replacement sector rather than as an active participant in the international economy as an exporter. Protection rose steadily throughout the Electronic Age and so did the number of music technology manufacturers. The problem was that by the end of the 1940s Australia's capacity to manufacture high technology goods was limited and as a result, music technology manufacturers were losing the capacity to produce state-of-the-art music products which the Americans could produce and which the Japanese were about to begin producing. However, I argued that this underlying problem would become more evident from the late 1950s with the advent of transistor technology.

An enduring and central problem in Australia's technological history was being made more obvious than ever by the late 1940s. The problem was that Australian music technology consumers were increasingly stepping over unspectacular Australian products in favour of the more spectacular imports which were increasingly finding their way to Australia. The point I made was simple but profoundly significant for music technology production in post-war Australia: Australian consumers did not have to wait for local producers to provide high demand, mass-produced goods; Australian consumers just went ahead without them by purchasing imports. Australian producers were becoming redundant in their own market because Australian consumers and foreign manufacturers were a step ahead of them.

This was a period which saw Australian cultural orientation begin to move more clearly towards America although British influences were still very important. I showed that the trend to orient Australian cultural activity, at least at a popular level, towards America was a complex process in which Australian dependence on America in the war and the spread of American mass culture and communication technology were central elements. The main conclusion which can be drawn from this section is that consumer tastes, when connected to a broader community through global communications networks, have tended to adopt the norms of the wider community. If, as was increasingly the case in the Electronic Age, American technology, American consumption patterns, American cultural products, and American music technology had gained greater appeal, then those Australians who were inculcated into that global network increasingly tended to behave according to the conventions of the American popular culture. The argument was not that British culture suddenly became irrelevant but that many Australians had become more open to American culture. For music technology consumption, that meant Australians wanted what was attractive or spectacular and which was perceived to be commensurate with normal behaviour in the American technological, cultural and economic zone. This kind of consumption meant that Australian demand was extended beyond local capacities to produce luxury consumer goods. Therefore, I argued that while Australian music technology consumers were tending to become more global, Australian music technology producers remained parochial. As a consequence, imports began to grow and local producers of music technology had to move quickly to follow that demand trajectory or miss out. In Australia, the moves to follow that trajectory were to prove insufficient in the long run, although they appeared, superficially, to be adequate at the time.

In the Transistor Age of the 1950s and 1960s the illusion of a satisfactory response to the growing technological and manufacturing gap between Australia and other Western economies was at first like a sedative. During most of this time, Australian music technology producers grew in terms of total sales but shrunk in terms of local market share compared to importers. However, by the end of the 1960s local manufacturers were not just sedated but asleep, ignored by consumers and in danger of being universally regarded as irrelevant. There were five key dynamics isolated in this section which led to this conclusion. Those dynamics were the development of transistor technology, the rise of post-war consumer culture, the rise of popular music cultures, protectionism and the continued growth of the global communications network.

Transistors meant that electronic consumer durables like stereos and radios could be manufactured more easily, more cheaply, smaller and made more reliable. As corollaries of this new stage in music technology manufacturing came the phenomena of mass production, mass marketing and mass consumption. There was a synergy here with the growth of disposable income and consumption across the Western world, particularly in lower socio-economic groups, with the massification of production and marketing, and the increased utility value of consumer electronics goods. The final result of this process was what we have come to know as the consumer boom of the 1950s and 1960s. However, growth of a consumer culture was more complex than the brief description just given suggests. In Australia, the development of a consumerist society in the 1950s and 1960s was dependent not only on rises in levels of disposable income and methods of mass production but also on rapid population growth. The base of consumers grew and, because of the significant contribution to population growth by immigration, the scope or diversification of demand in Australia expanded. European immigrants brought their European consumer tastes with them and so demand for new kinds of goods which were not necessarily typical of previous Australian tastes grew.

Popular music culture was a key variable in this period as well. Children were experiencing greater freedom from parental control; they were more mobile, had more money and could act as members of peer groups rather than just nuclear family members. A teenage market developed in its own right, capable of articulating its own wants and equally capable of being exploited by marketers. Many of the immigrants that came into Australia at this time were young, and those young immigrants contributed significantly to Australian youth culture. British and European tastes in fashion and music came with those young people, and I argued that they provided rôle models for Australian-born youths to follow. What was of central importance in the discussion of popular music cultures was the rôle that music technology played as a catalyst and signifier of popular music cultures. This catalysing effect meant that a person could not be fully identified with a particular popular music culture or sub-culture unless they incorporated the appropriate technology such as an electric guitar, transistor radio or a portable record player into their activities as members of those cultures. In short, the technology incorporated into these cultures was a critical part of the ensemble of elements that defined and formed them.

Protectionism reached its zenith in Australia in the 1950s, as did the Australian music technology manufacturing industry. Consumption was growing and people wanted luxury goods like radiograms which could be manufactured locally. People had been accustomed to buying Australian music technology and indeed, a kind of technological chauvinism appears to have existed even though, as I have argued, the seeds of destruction had already been sown. In the 1960s though, a serious deterioration of consumer confidence in Australian products, a deterioration in the ability of Australian producers to produce state-of-the-art transistor based music technology, and an inability to keep up with foreign manufacturing technology became apparent. The 1960s was the beginning of the end of Australian music technology manufacturing despite the soaring demand for music technology products. Music technology consumers in 1960s Australia were no longer chauvinistic but had instead developed a technological cringe; or at least were seeing themselves as members of a global consumer culture, a culture in which the apparently prosaic products of Australian music technology manufacturing were not highly regarded. Only the more fashionable, global technology manufacturers could provide the spectacular goods such as American electric guitars and Japanese transistor radios that Australians desired.

As had been happening throughout this century, the global communications network was bringing Australia away from the peripheries of global economics and culture. Australian cultural consumption, and particularly music technology consumption became international. The latest overseas trends in music, fashion, and music technology were transmitted to Australian consumers from America and Britain very quickly through the media. The further opening of such lines of communication gave foreign manufacturers more access than ever to Australian consumers but Australian manufacturers could not obtain the same access to foreign markets; indeed, not many even tried to find reciprocal access. Furthermore, Australian manufacturers now had limited access to, and relevance in, their home market.

It was clear by the end of the 1960s that industry policy needed to focus on giving local manufacturers a more outward-looking, global perspective. The kinds of protectionist policies which had been in place since Federation were now clearly not working very well and given that the economic conditions of the music economy had changed considerably, it was appropriate to consider altering policy direction. The question to be answered was: What would be the best set of policy changes to instigate to cope with and effectively organise under the changed conditions?

Individual firms producing music technology in Australia had to address their own abilities to organise as well. Conservative management, poor financial skills, lack of appropriate engineering knowledge and abilities in research and development, and outdated manufacturing techniques were keeping manufacturers from moving with the changes in the global music economy. Certainly, the sheltering effects of protectionism were contributing to these conditions. But not all the blame can be laid at the feet of protectionism. Some of the blame must be taken by the producers themselves, who were either overcome by their own inertia or did not understand the processes of change around them. Producers knew changes were occurring because of the flood of imports, their rapidly declining share in the domestic market, and their clear difficulties in exporting.

The Information Age (the 1970s and 1980s) was the period in which responses to the above circumstances were made in Australia. However, while the policy responses were being delivered, continued transformation of the global music economy saw the Australian music technology manufacturers further lose touch with the central drivers of the global music economy. Nevertheless, the 1970s and 1980s were a time in which a dramatic restructuring of the Australian economy took place. The orthodoxy in economic thought in Australia, and elsewhere, moved towards a neo-liberal ideology of small government and deregulation. The results were spectacular: music technology manufacturing in Australia imploded. Australia then lost its chance to have an influence on consumer electronics manufacturing which was by then a central activity of the global music economy. Therefore, I have argued, the nation lost its chance to have a base from which to develop a high or medium technology music manufacturing industry, and the opportunity to create wealth and employment at the dynamic end of the music economy.

In the Information Age the key issues were passive music enjoyment, popular music cultures, technological convergence, the dominance of global communications webs and the removal of protectionist trade barriers. Passive music enjoyment rather than active music making dominated music technology activities in the Information Age. A new form of technical, or Hi Fi listening came into popular use and complemented the trend towards the construction of a popular modernity in music technology consumption. Indeed, I argued that the new found intellectual "legitimacy" of highly technical modes of listening had mostly replaced the "legitimacy" of active music making in the modern music economy. A connection can also be drawn between the new modes of listening and passive music enjoyment, and the transition to a consumer electronics-driven music economy. The synergistic strategies adopted by the transnational music companies of using technology and music to stimulate consumer interest in each other was a great success; sales for both continued to grow in what were in many cases thought to be saturated markets, consumers sought out the latest in technology and the latest in music recordings. This process helped to emphasise the passivity of music enjoyment.

As in the 1960s, popular music cultures and the central rôle that music technology played in forming and defining those cultures continued. It is true to say that although the specific cultures changed from, for example, psychedelic rock to hard rock and heavy metal cultures, and new forms of popular music emerged, the rôle of technology remained a key signifier and definer of each new culture. Ghetto blasters became signifiers of rap, and home recording studios and the home-made aesthetic became signifiers of indie and techno music.

Technological convergence, which was closely linked with the synergy strategy and passive music enjoyment, helped mass entertainment move away from the confines of a separate music industry into a convergence of music, video, computer art, and the use of new technologies such as digital CDs and computers. Along with this movement came home entertainment systems rather than separate radio, record player and cassette player. The constant need for technological innovation by manufacturers to find economies of scope and synergies were crucial, but so too were the new computer-driven manufacturing techniques emerging from Japan which improved the quality of the products, lowered costs and allowed flexible specialisation. These new manufacturing techniques were critical to Japan's success, and I argued that a link existed between the acquisition of this kind of technology and market success. More important for Australia, I also argued that a link existed between the failure to acquire this kind of manufacturing technology and lack of success.

Global communications networks continued the process of drawing Australians into the global economy and thus the realm of multinational marketing, technology production, and entertainment. This process went forward at the expense of an Australian industry which had failed to carve a niche for itself in this new economy, and as a result, had no ability to generate the patent rights and technology which were needed if Australia was to meaningfully re-enter the music technology manufacturing business. By the 1980s, the global communications network was not just pervasive, it was also fast. Computers and other digital communications technology had made the transfer of information around the world almost instantaneous. The enthusiasm for this digital technology was great in Australia, but the technology and the musical information which came on it was mostly foreign.

The volume of incoming foreign information and technology met little resistance as the walls of protectionism and regulation came down throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Australia's open door policy invited all to come and sell in Australia but did little to encourage Australians to sell to Australians and even less to sell to foreign markets. Deregulation of trade was a failure for the Australian music manufacturing industry because its introduction did not provide a bridge for the music technology sector, already seriously weakened through decades of narrowly defined protection mechanisms, to make the jump to the new style of industry policy. Based in ideology rather than pragmatism, a simplistic solution like deregulation, when brought to bear on a complex problem as I have described it, was inappropriate. Market-forces alone had no acceptable answers for the music technology manufacturing industry, or medium and high technology manufacturing in general.

A key secondary source in this section of the thesis was Jenny Stewart's discussion of how several Asian nations used a different form of protectionism to that practised in Australia until the 1970s, and profited handsomely from their pragmatism. A lesson which may be drawn from Stewart is that the organising rôle of government in industry policy must be decisive, clear-headed and focused, not naïve, rigid and intent on quick-fixes. This idea was also supported by Leydesdorf and Allen who have used non-linear econometric modelling to examine the social and institutional influences on technology. The realities for a small nation such as Australia in a global economy are that some mechanisms which shelter it from the multiplicity of inequalities (such as lack of economies of scale in domestic markets, trade barriers set against Australian products in other countries and unfavourable exchange rates) are of vital importance and must not be trivialised by ideological imperatives which are not commensurate with the problems being addressed.

Disorganisation in, and disintegration of, the Australian music technology industry was one key feature of the 1970s and 1980s but so, too, was the growth of the consumption of music technology and the gravitational pull of passive music enjoyment. Australian music technology producers could not accommodate these changes. They could not generate economies of scale or scope, could not develop the high and medium technology music products which were most in demand, and could not develop the manufacturing technology to produce them. By 1990, the move into service industries by the technicians, engineers and computer programmers who could have contributed to a music technology manufacturing sector betrayed a belief in the notion that Australia could not successfully engage in the manufacture of high demand music technology. I have not argued against the establishment of these kinds of service industries, but simply point out that given the expertise and the examples of significant music product development which have come from a few Australian inventors, there was no reason to accept that it was necessary for Australia to turn its back on this kind of industrial activity. This point is especially valid considering the vast rewards for those who have made international successes in consumer electronics manufacturing. Indeed, other small nations, through pragmatic policy, well-directed assistance, and protection, have reaped rewards denied to Australia.

Australian music technology manufacturers working on an industrial, or semi-industrial basis had virtually ceased to exist by 1990 although there were some still left standing. Again, it was clear that not all the blame for the decay should be placed at the feet of government. Poor organisation in business management, research and development, and marketing, as well as lack of suitable manufacturing technology, were crucial weaknesses which helped bring about the collapse of the music technology manufacturing sector. It is quite clear that individual businesses did not do enough for themselves to remedy these conditions, even if the conditions were in large degree symptomatic of the failures of trade and industry policies.

It has not been possible to investigate in detail every new avenue of inquiry which has emerged in this thesis but it is now timely to clearly flag what are the main avenues of historical research which might follow from this study. Five key areas have emerged. One is the need to examine more closely the history of the Australian radio/audio industry because, with the exception of Neville Williams' brief scattering of historical anecdotes, little is known of the detail of the history of radio/audio manufacturing businesses. The paucity of knowledge in areas such as the commitment of Australian radio/audio manufacturers to research and development, and the details of the interactions between those businesses, their customers and policy-makers, is a matter for great concern. The lack of knowledge in the above mentioned areas greatly inhibits our understanding of the extent to which these businesses were responsible for their own successes or failures. Much of this research might take the form of business history and would involve detailed research in small private archives of family businesses which have long since ceased operations. It is highly likely that few of these archives still exist, and, those that do are not likely to remain forever. Close examination of the rôles of producers in what I have identified as the development of a technological cringe and technological chauvinism would also be a significant step forward in developing an understanding of the relationship between Australian producers and consumers of music technology.

Another avenue of possible future research is the history of Australian inventors of music technology such as those found in AIPO patent archives. Although the AIPO archives can provide technical details about inventions, they tell nothing of the social processes in their development nor whether they were brought to the market place. We need to know what processes aided their market successes, such as they were, but I sense it is more important to identify the barriers or inhibitors which in most cases prevented them achieving widespread success. Given the general lack of success by Australian music technology manufacturers, a micro-analysis of these diffusion inhibitors would be most useful in developing a strong understanding of the reasons for failure at this level.

The history of music recording in Australia, both by foreign and local businesses is also little understood. I am not thinking only of record labels but also recording studios, many of which have in recent decades been independent of individual record companies and have developed international reputations for the quality of their work. This avenue of research is important because it could help develop new understandings of the processes in the transition from manufacturing to service provision by technically trained people in the Australian music economy and the ways in which technically trained people have been profitably used in the Australian music economy. Understanding the dynamics of the history of sound recording in Australia may also cast much needed light on debates about cultural imperialism in Australia. In particular, the subtleties of cultural production in what is, to some extent at least, a culturally colonised country are worth investigation.

With the exception of Atherton's book, we also know little of the history of musical instrument makers in Australia. It is important to remedy this situation for the same reasons that I have outlined for the radio/audio industry. Of particular interest, however, would be an examination of the instrument maker as an artisan or craftworker not wishing to compromise his or her craft by engaging in industrial or even semi-industrial modes of production. Here, the conflict between the economic imperatives of earning a livable wage and the artisan who repudiates, for ethical reasons, any engagement with large scale production appears to have been played out in post-war Australia. Although I do not wish to detract from the right or value of a person to repudiate the mainstream practices of capitalist modes of production, it is a curious fact that so few Australian entrepreneurs have made, or sought to make, an impact in local and overseas musical instruments markets. Again, an illumination of this puzzle would shed light on an interesting problem in Australian history.

A much closer look at the relationship between technology and popular music cultures would also be useful. In this case, much understanding of the relationship between technology and socio-cultural dynamics could be gleaned from tracing the combined process of passive music enjoyment, flexible specialisation in manufacturing, technological convergence and the more recent rise in interactive or customised consumption of music technology. Furthermore, the connection between aesthetic obsolescence, commodification of image and identity consumption, and music technology could add to the understanding of socio-cultural dynamics in technological change. Although Hearn and his colleagues began to identify critical changes in consumption in the 1990s, I have shown that a complex and long-term process, from which more recent consumption patterns can be said to be derived, has been going on throughout the post-war years. Of particular interest would be a close examination of the links between music technology consumption, popular modernity and gender. The modes of expression of popular modernity through music technology consumption may well be significantly different for men and women. A more detailed analysis of these processes should add to our understanding of those recent changes in consumerism, marketing and technology.

 Given the importance of music and technology in everyday Australian life, it seems unforgivable that they have commanded such little attention from historians. The gaps in the history of music technology in Australia result largely from a serious neglect of two areas of historical scholarship: the history of technology in Australia and the history of music in Australia. Among the objectives of this project has been an attempt to illustrate some of the gaps, to begin the process of filling some them and to show how rewarding investigations into these issues can be. The time and resources limits of this project make it impossible to do any more than this. However, the breadth of analysis and new knowledge about imports, exports and local production of music technology in Australia, and the critical and multiple modes of organisation detailed in my research may prove invaluable for future research. Furthermore, the continuation of such research would provide a "relevance" for the discipline of history because it would contribute in concrete ways to developing the understandings and knowledge which are necessary for policy-making in a number of areas including cultural policy, industry policy, trade policy, and science and technology policy. In other words, it would provide one avenue for the discipline to respond to the pressures and criticisms which lead some to question the need for generalist education and scholarship.







All data presented in the statistical tables in appendices A to F are wholly derived from ABS and CBCS sources. All of these sources are listed in the Bibliography and also in footnotes at the beginning of each section of the thesis from Part Two onwards. As a general guide to researching ABS and CBCS sources, it is best to have the ABS catalogue number for a report series, then the year or years for which data is required, and then the class and/or item number of the particular good or class of goods being studied. The ABS catalogue numbers are provided in the Bibliography and footnotes, and the class and item numbers are provided in tables in each volume of the report series'. The items are then listed in class and item order in the particular volume. Because there have been frequent changes in the classification system since 1901, and for the sake of efficiency, I have not sought to list them all here, but rather to point the interested researcher to the general method of ABS and CBCS economic reporting. This should be sufficient information for any researcher to quickly follow up any aspect of my use of these sources. However, the ensuing tables capture the ABS and CBCS data used in the thesis.

1903, 1911 & 1921









Imports, musical inst (£)



Exports, musical inst (£)


















































            Table 3                                                                         Table 4




























Imports, musical inst (£)



Imports, gramophones (£)



















































































Exports, musical inst (£)



Exports, gramophones (£)



















































































Imports, musical inst (£)



Imports, gramophones (£)



















































































Exports, musical inst (£)



Exports, gramophones (£)























































            Table 11                                                                                   Table 12


1931 & 1941










Imports, musical inst (£)



Imports, gramophones (£)



















































































Imports, wireless




Exports, musical inst (£)



















































































Exports, gramophones (£)



Exports, wireless




















































































Imports, musical inst (£)



Imports, gramophones (£)
























































            Table 19                                                                                   Table 20

























Imports, wireless




Exports, musical inst (£)










































































Exports, gramophones (£)



Exports, wireless



















































            Table 23                                                                                   Table 24

1951 & 1961










Imports, musical inst ($)



Imports, gram etc