Popular Music 1900-Present


In August 1969, the Woodstock Music & Art Fair took place on a dairy farm in Bethel, NY. Over half a million people came to a 600-acre farm to hear 32 acts (leading and emerging performers of the time) play over the course of four days (August 15-18). Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, the Who, Janis Joplin and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were among the line-up. Woodstock is known as one of the greatest happenings of all time and –perhaps- the most pivotal moment in music history.

Joni Mitchell said, "Woodstock was a spark of beauty" where half-a-million kids "saw that they were part of a greater organism." According to Michael Lang, one of four young men who formed Woodstock Ventures to produce the festival, "That's what means the most to me – the connection to one another felt by all of us who worked on the festival, all those who came to it, and the millions who couldn't be there but were touched by it."

By Wednesday, August 13, some 60,000 people had already arrived and set up camp. On Friday, the roads were so clogged with cars that performing artists had to arrive by helicopter. Though over 100,000 tickets were sold prior to the festival weekend, they became unnecessary as swarms of people descended on the concert grounds to take part in this historic and peaceful happening. Four days of music… half a million people… rain, and the rest is history. (1)

Monterey Pop Festival

Before Coachella, before Bonnaroo, before Live Aid, and before Woodstock, there was Monterey Pop. For three days in June 1967 (the legendary "summer of love"), The Monterey International Pop Music Festival set the standard for all future festivals. Last summer marked the 40th anniversary of the event.A defining moment in pop music history, Monterey Pop was the collective brainchild of a who's who of music luminaries. That short list included producer Lou Adler, musicians John and Michelle Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas and Andrew Loog Oldham, producer/manager of The Rolling Stones. According to Adler, the festival grew out of a conversation "regarding the validation of rock 'n roll music as an art form." Jazz and folk had their festivals, but there had never been a widely-promoted rock fest. "To do this," Adler says, "we had to represent every genre: the music of today, of yesterday, and of the future."

The festival saw the national debut of Janis Joplin, breakthrough performances by The Who and Jimi Hendrix (all three of whom, Michelle Phillips reminds me, "nobody had ever heard of" in the USA), the crossover triumph of Otis Redding, and the penultimate performance by The Mamas & The Papas. Add to that some legendary performances by Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Ravi Shankar (that's Norah Jones' dad to you younger folks) and many others. In fact 32 acts were spread across the three-day festival. "You have to give the Monterey audience credit," says Adler. "They saw everything from Shankar to Hugh Masekela to The Mamas & The Papas to Paul Butterfield. And they sat!" (2)

South by Southwest

The first South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival (SXSW) was held in 1987 in Austin, Texas. Despite the fact that Austin was not a Top 20 major market at the time, the background and character of the city made it a perfect location for the conference. Austin was considered a fairly cosmopolitan town for its size because of the University of Texas, which draws people from all over the world. As home to the state government and Texas Legislature it has also always been a popular party town, with a reputation that goes back to the 19th century when numerous nightspots and bars were populated by General Custer's troops after the Civil War. These nightspots are located in the same areas where the 6th Street and 4th Street club and bar scenes now exist.

Austin's eclectic music scene goes back to early in the city's history (from Mexican, German and colonial origins) and encompasses a wide variety of music including country, folk, jazz, blues and rock. Central Austin boasts more original music nightclubs in a concentrated area than any other city in the world.

The classic problem facing Austin musicians was being isolated from the rest of the world here in the middle of Texas. SXSW was a way to reach out to the rest of the world, and bring them here to do business. To do that successfully, SXSW needed to appeal to people other than local artists whether they were from Austin, Ft. Worth, Chicago, Toronto, Munich or Tokyo.

National interest in SXSW was immediate. For years, music businesses on both coasts had been intrigued by what was going on in Austin. The cosmic cowboy, blues, punk and other scenes had already proven that Austin was a receptive place for bands to be creative. With SXSW, music industry executives gained a good excuse to visit.

International interest in SXSW began the second year due to many Austin and American bands finding their first success in Europe. Conversely, there was a lot of interest from SXSW registrants in the international bands who came to perform. SXSW now has offices in Ireland, Germany, Australia and Japan who help bring SXSW registrants to Austin.

The music event has grown from 700 registrants in 1987 to over 16,000 registrants. As Austin has grown and diversified, film companies and high-tech companies have played a major role in the Austin and the Texas economies. In 1994, SXSW added a film and interactive component to accommodate these growth industries. SXSW Film and SXSW Interactive events together attract approximately 32,000 registrants to Austin every March.

SXSW's original goal was to create an event that would act as a tool for creative people and the companies they work with to develop their careers, to bring together people from a wide area to meet and share ideas. That continues to be the goal today whether it is music, film or the internet. And Austin continues to be the perfect location. (3)

Parental Advisory/Tipper Gore

Whether or not you believe that music has an influence on the minds and actions of teens, you cannot dispute the fact that Parental Advisory Labels have been a controversial topic for over a decade. In 1985, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) made an agreement with the National Parent Teacher Association and the Parents' Music Resource Center (PMRC) stating that music recordings containing explicit content would be identified with a permanent label to help parents regulate what their children listen to. The term "explicit content" refers to music that contains specific depictions of violence, sex, profanity, and/or drug use.If you find yourself wondering whether or not your parents would understand the implications of a label that simply states "Parental Advisory: Explicit Content", you are not alone. Most experts and critics alike, feel the label is too vague and that it doesn't offer any information at all. Of all the rating systems for movies, television, and video games, it's not surprising that the music-recording industry's label is the least useful and detailed. Critics also say that ratings can cause a "boomerang" or "forbidden-fruit effect" and may actually attract children.

Do you wonder what the artists think about these Parental Advisory Labels? Could they have a dramatic effect on record sales? Some artists actually appreciate the fact that the labeling system is a voluntary program that has a goal to help families with young children, instead of seeking to censor the artist's work. If you look at the issue of advisory labels, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) made a fair compromise, respecting the freedom of expression of the artist, while also respecting the needs of parents. 

The purpose of advisory labels may be well intended, but is the music-recording industry really keeping the explicit material out of young kids' hands? The Recording Industry Association of America doesn't represent the record retailers, but it does work closely with the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM). Depending on the retail outlet, stores may or may not carry CD's with the Parental Advisory Label. The stores that carry CD's with the labels often have in-store policies restricting the sale of the labeled records to those under the age of 18. However, critics observe that most record stores will sell a labeled CD to a minor without carding them. So, even though stores might have strict policies, many appear to not enforce them.

As a teen consumer, beware! Studies have found that the average teen listens to music on the average of 40 hours per week! That’s almost as much time as you sleep! To date, no studies have documented a cause-and-effect relationship between sexually or violently explicit lyrics and adverse behavioral effects, but we all know how music can affect our emotions.