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Top 10 Moments in the Music Industry

VO: Matt Campbell
Script written by Liam Hillery A single moment can change everything. Welcome to and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Moments in the Music Industry. For this list, we’re not taking a look at musical performances or infamous moments. Special thanks to our users Steffi or submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script written by Liam Hillery

Top 10 Moments in the Music Industry

A single moment can change everything. Welcome to and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Moments in the Music Industry.
For this list, we’re not taking a look at musical performances or infamous moments. Those deserve lists of their own. Instead, we’ve sought out the moments that most significantly impacted the music industry itself. These moments are the game changers.

#10: Kelly Clarkson is the First American Idol

Picture a time when there were no TV music competitions… Yes, such a time really did exist. In 2002, American Idol took America by storm, first finding a balancing act between tragically funny and genuinely impressive auditions, and then blowing America away with amazing performances week after week by seemingly every day, average people. The first star to steal our hearts was 20-year-old Kelly Clarkson. Voted to victory by fans, Clarkson became the first American Idol, finishing off a season that launched a phenomenon. While it may be off the air now, this monumental moment gave hopeful singers somewhat of a shortcut to stardom and changed the way that international superstars were crafted.

#9: U2 Zoo TV Tour

Seeking a new identity and musical direction, U2 reinvented themselves for this two year worldwide tour. What they didn’t know was that in changing themselves, they were also changing the way touring was done. The band wanted to abandon their straight edge image, so they got rid of their strict stage designs and opted for an elaborate set up designed for sensory overload. Representing the disparate television often seen in dystopian films, the stage was filled with large screens projecting sharp cutting close ups of the band and prerecorded film footage, live broadcasts, and electronic headlines. It wasn’t just a concert; it was a multimedia event, the effects of which are still present in live shows today.

#8: Payola Scandal

Ah payola, sweet sweet record company moolah for spinning a few tunes. Nothing wrong with that... except it's illegal. When the payola scandal broke in the late '50s, it shook the music world and the US Congress held an in-depth investigation that accused the biggest names of the day- including DJ Alan Freed and TV host Dick Clark. Bigger still was how payola influenced the music scene. With payola in the background during the early careers of rock 'n' roll's recognized pioneers, it's impossible to determine just how much of pop-culture was shaped by bribes slipped inside a record sleeve.

#7: The Introduction of Vevo

This music video streaming service seemingly popped up out of nowhere. One day the internet was full of grainy, low resmusic videos- the next they were all there in glossy, glorious hi res. Offering content from Universal, Sony Music, and a collection of smaller labels, Vevo improved the music experience for all involved. While fans were unhappy with the service at first, they finally had easy access to high quality videos, meanwhile, labels decreased the amount of unlicensed content on the web. Vevo also attracted high end advertisers, so more money rolled in too. The one stop shop helped artists and labels, while managing to not alienate fans, a very rare feat in the digital age.

#6: Billboard Changes Charts to Actual Sales

Prior to the mid '90s, the Billboard Charts wasn’t necessarily reflective of popular opinion among fans. It had some sort of semblance of the right idea, but changes needed to be made. At the time, new singles could chart based solely on radio airplay. In September of 1995, Billboard changed its charts to reflect both a single's radio airplay AND sales, a combo that better reflected the song's popularity. Combining these factors reduced label influence and placed more power in the hands of fans. A few years later Billboard again restructured its formula again to allow songs that weren’t commercially released singles, again helping little known songs get a foothold.

#5: The Release of Napster

The real Sean Parker may or may not have the good looks and suave charm of Justin Timberlake, but we do know is that in 1999, at age 19, he and co-founders Shawn and John Fanning shook the foundations of the music industry with Napster. The first groundbreaking audio peer-to-peer file sharing service, Napster let users share their mp3 files with others FOR FREE. All of a sudden the music game was online-whether the industry wanted it or not. Parker, the face that launched a thousand lawsuits, had to defend Napster against the Recording Industry Association of America, every major label, and, of course, Metallica. War was waged, but Napster’s damage was already done. Music was now online.

#4: Apple Introduces iTunes

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For Sean Parker’s Napster, there was Apple’s iTunes. Rooted in 1998's SoundJam MP, Apple purchased the service in 2000, modified its coding and released it to the public a year later. iTunes met music fans online, moving purchasing power to the internet. It was the industry’s counteractive measure against peer-to-peer sites like Napster, servicing listeners who had moved on from CDs to mp3 players. With an online presence, the industry cut down on illegal downloads and also offered new options, like the ability to purchase individual songs that were not singles and soon the purchasing of music videos. Pitted against illegal downloads, iTunes helped save the industry from collapse.

#3: The Walkman

The story goes like this: a co-founder of a major consumer electronics company – let’s call it Sony and let’s call him Masaru Ibuka – wanted a way to listen to operas on long trans-pacific flights. He talks about it with one of his audio engineers, Nobutoshi Kihara, and one year later in 1979 the world has its first Walkman. A brand name turned generic trademark, the Walkman was originally a portable audio cassette tape player, marketed to the public accurately as a new way to listen to music: on the go. Portable and easy to store, it changed music, as it let listeners enjoy their favorite songs anywhere they went.

#2: Launch of MTV

“Video Killed the Radio Star.” The Buggles hit was the first music video shown when MTV launched on August 1st, 1981, but was it true?. While MTV did derail the careers of some, it rocketed more visually-friendly artists into super-stardom. The idea of a music video wasn’t new, but around the clock coverage was. MTV worked like a radio station, providing 24 hours of music and personality through its VJs or “video jockeys.” Suddenly MTV, not the radio, became the new hub for everything music, and almost immediately sales reflected MTV’s playlists. Now visuals were just as important as the music itself. Just take a look at MJ’s 1.5 million dollar bestseller, “Thriller.” We can all thank MTV for that.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
“We are the World”

The Compact Disc

Les Paul Invents Multi-track Recording

#1: The Phonograph is Invented

Can you imagine a world where if you wanted to listen to music, the only way was to catch it live? No iPods, no Spotify, no radios, no CD or cassette players, no boom boxes, nothing: just your neighbor singing in the shower. That world existed, but not after Thomas Edison – you know, the light bulb guy – invented the phonograph in 1877. Thephonograph wasn’t the first device to record audio, it was the first effective one and the only one that could reproduce the recorded audio. It gave artists the ability to record, fans the ability to listen, and, most importantly, it gave music accessibility. In every way, the phonograph redefined music, and essentially started the industry.
Do you agree with our list? What moment do you think most impacted the music industry? For more fascinating Top 10’s, be sure to subscribe to

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