Economy of the Ether: Early Radio History and the Commodification of Music

The early history of radio is an absorbing and complex saga. Often told from the narrative perspective of its inventors, technical milestones, or regulatory developments, little has been written about the commercial history of early radio and its influence on the commodification of music. Using a theoretical framework of commodification based upon the concepts of Ideologies, Reification, and Fetishism, this article builds upon an earlier case study of the player piano. Attention is given to under-researched aspects of early radio history such as the department store station phenomenon circa 1910-1931. As a conclusion, some observations are made about commodification’s impact on the current state of the music business, the future relevance of radio, and how theory can inform future research.


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