Cover of "Record Cultures," by Kyle Barnett

Bellarmine College News

Bellarmine’s Kyle Barnett explores the rise of the U.S. recording industry in new book

College of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Kyle Barnett’s research interests include media history, cultural industries and sound practices across media. Those interests came together in his new book, Record Cultures: The Transformation of the U.S. Recording Industry (University of Michigan Press, February 2020).
 
"At last, a scholarly study that integrates the history of phonography with radio and film, to show how the interlocking operations of these key media sectors worked to produce twentieth-century media culture."
 
Bellarmine University’s Department of Communication—where Barnett is an associate professor and director of Graduate Studies—will celebrate the book with a reception on Thursday, October 7.
 
In Record Cultures, Barnett takes an interdisciplinary look at recording-industry history, showing how early commercial recording companies changed musical culture in the 1920s and 1930s and linked it to other forms of media. As smaller record labels began to turn out records in the genres that would become jazz, blues and country, radio began broadcasting more recorded music in place of live performances. With the end of silent movies, the film industry also began to replace film accompanists with recorded sound. 
 
By the early 1930s, the recording industry had become a major media industry, although it was tied to the radio and film industries. The relationships between the three led to the first major media conglomerates in U.S. history.
 
The book, which will be of interest to scholars of popular music, media studies, sound studies, American culture, and the history of film, television and radio, has been well-received. Michele Hilmes of the University of Wisconsin-Madison wrote: “At last, a scholarly study that integrates the history of phonography with radio and film, to show how the interlocking operations of these key media sectors worked to produce twentieth-century media culture. Solidly researched and full of colorful details.”
 
Record Cultures was a finalist for the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) Award for Excellence in Best Historical Research on Record Labels or General Recording Topics.
 
Barnett’s other publications include “Furniture Music: The Phonograph as Furniture” in the Journal of Popular Music Studies; “The Selznick Studio, ‘Spellbound’ and the Marketing of Film Music” in Music, Sound and the Moving Image, and chapters in several book anthologies. He is a former co-editor of the Velvet Light Trap, graduate editor and columnist for Flow, Antenna and In Media Res.  
 
His undergraduate courses at Bellarmine include Media and Society; History of Broadcasting; Film and TV Studies; The Film Musical; Popular Music and the Recording Industry; and Sound Studies; and his graduate courses include Introduction to Media Studies and Cultural Industries.
 

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