New sounds and the radio

large radio microphone with sign reading 'On the air' across the top

© Hastings

Music and radio appear inseparable, and it has been that way in many countries for many years. It's a two-way relationship. Music, particularly popular music, provides radio broadcasting with a large part of its programming; and radio in return disperses music far and wide. Music was already a major element in radio broadcasting before the arrival of television, but as television increased its presence in people's living rooms as the premier entertainment medium, radio turned more and more to music, especially recorded music.

How has the closeness of this relationship affected the process by which new sounds are heard? On the face of it radio would seem the ideal way for new musical sounds to reach an audience. Radios are one of the most widespread technological devices, and once purchased do not require any other investment. Radio signals can be jammed but for the most part are free to reach as far as technology will allow. On top of that, today you can tune into many radio stations from around the world on your home computer.

So yes - it is true that radio has played and plays an enormous part in the process by which musical sounds both new and old are widely heard. But it is also true that there have always been limits on what is broadcast, and who hears it - limits imposed by a variety of interests, from commercial to political - and these limits have often affected new music.

Television has never neglected music, of course. From talent shows to theme tunes to background music for films, it has brought music nightly into people's homes. Some of that music has been, or has become, very familiar (such as the title tunes of TV soaps like Eastenders) but some of it has also been new.

Follow these links to explore the relationship between broadcasting and new sounds in greater detail: