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The Record Industry in the 1960-1970s: The Forgotten Story of French Popular Music

Abstract : Little has been written on the history of the recording industry in France, particularly concerning the period covering the arrival of rock 'n' roll and its development within variety music. 1 This gap in scholarship is undoubtedly due to the fact that the study of French popular music is quite a recent phenomenon, resulting in limited data available for researchers. Nevertheless, the recording industry was marked by a series of crises and developments, which must be taken into account in order to contextualise its current situation, and thereby understand that rock is not 'a revolutionary form or moment, but an evolutionary one, the climax of (or possibly footnote to) a story that began with Edison's phonograph' (Frith, 1988:12). When it comes to France, the first forms of rock 'n' roll were incorporated by the major labels and large independent labels (especially Barclay and Vogue) into the modes of production and distribution, which had already been tested by variety music. The evolution of the record industry into a mass market at this time was not only related to the development of a new musical culture ('yé-yé' music), which corresponded to the youth of the 1960s. Other factors that must be taken account include: new modes of consumption (related to the development of 45-rpm singles); the arrival of new intermediaries into the industry specialised in the production of 'hits'; and more generally, the economic and demographic prosperity of this period. The establishment of official 'charts' in 1968 by the French recording industry association 2 intensified the logics of production of 'showbiz' (D'Angelo, 1989) and strengthened the divide of the French musical scene into French variety music on the one side and Anglo-American pop on the other. As a result, little space was left for new musical currents flourishing in the early 1970s, which had to evolve outside of established distribution and promotion channels. In terms of this article, the research carried out relies on various data obtained from unpublished archives held by the main French recording industry association. 3 1 In French, the term 'variétés' denotes popular music that arose from the tradition of cabaret and music hall. 2 Then know as the SNICOP and later designated successively first as SNEPA and then as SNEP. 3 This included 5 linear metres of archives split into 12 boxes (containing correspondences, studies, reports, accounting documents, press cuttings, etc.).
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Submitted on : Friday, October 2, 2020 - 4:19:51 PM
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Marc Kaiser. The Record Industry in the 1960-1970s: The Forgotten Story of French Popular Music. 2020. ⟨hal-02956336⟩

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