Radio in the Great Depression

Tyler Groce

The Great Depression was a turning point in time for the new technology of the radio. During this time, with unemployment so high and people across the nation so poor, people turned to radio as a “cheaper source of musical entertainment,” as Kate Lacey author of “Radio in the Great Depression” stated. Radio broadcasting companies and record companies paired up to broadcast recordings of music that reached a wide audience for a relatively low amount of money. This made for what many historians now refer as the dawn of the golden age of radio.

Music was the primary reason people flocked to radios. While there were many more important functions of the radio throughout history, such as President FDR’s fireside chats during the Great Depression, music was the driving force behind the radio’s popularity. As Timothy D. Taylor, author of “Music and the Rise of Radio in the 1920s America,” stated “music played an important role in the championing of radio and its early uses.” People soon wished to have the radio incorporated into all aspects of their lives, for example at home, in the car, and on camping trips.

The radio could be used as a device to communicate with the public and allowed for the culture of the time to be publicized through the music played. Before the radio, jazz had been popular in clubs and among cities. By the 30s, however, jazz had begun to be taken on by the more serious musicians and less people became interested in it. Radio reflected this and began to play more upbeat and danceable music. This lead to the Swing Era of the 1930s and 40s. This reflected the time when people wanted their music to be less serious and more lighthearted due to the troubling times they were in.

Works Cited
Lacey, Kate. “Radio in the Great Depression” Radio Reader (2002) Essays in the Cultural History of Radio. Web. 19 Nov. 2012.
Taylor D. Timothy. “Music and the Rise of Radio” Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television (2002): 22. Taylor Francis Online. Web. 19 Nov. 2012.

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