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Ch. 09: John Philip Sousa – Recording Artist and Activist




In 1892 Sousa left the Marine band to form his own concert band for performing and touring. His band tours to Europe and Britain allowed audiences outside of America to hear Sousa marches and band arrangements of Joplin rags for the first time.

Unlike both Joplin and Foster, Sousa had a mind for business and financial matters. So secure and respected was Sousa in his profession that when he formed his own band, the public was able to purchase stock in his professional ensemble. His wise business and marketing sense kept the band members well paid and made Sousa extremely wealthy in later life. At a time when a dollar could buy a five course meal at a fine restaurant, Sousa was offered $100,000 in advance for the exclusive rights to one of his compositions.

Sousa at the San Francisco Exhibition, 1921

When the fledgling recording industry was seeking to establish its reputation in America, it went to the March King to inquire about the possibilities of recording some of his band’s performances. Sousa thought very little of the new technology. “Why would someone buy a mechanical reproduction of a recording,” he reasoned, “when they could attend the genuine thing?”

In spite of his reservations, Sousa agreed to allow the new Columbia Record Company to record one of his marches. Columbia’s recording of Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” march was a monumental success, becoming the first million selling record in history and giving instant credibility to the new technology. So enthused was Columbia that they offered John Philip Sousa the first contract in recording history. John Philip Sousa had become the first superstar of the American recording industry.

John Philip Sousa – Moving toward Copyright Protection Law

Sousa’s band in a recording session, 1897

Sousa’s importance to American music extended beyond the march music and being America’s first world ambassador of music. He certainly had a role in the legitimization and popularization of the record industry; many American’s bought their first home record player in the late 1890’s just to hear Sousa’s marches. But, the part that John Philip Sousa played in the establishment of copyright laws in America effectively changed the path of music in the 20th century.

Under the contract with the original recording company, Sousa was compensated for the first recordings of “Stars and Stripes” and many other marches. However, law did not exist that prevented other recording companies from making and selling copies of the original recordings or making and selling recordings of live performances without Sousa’s permission. The pirating of musical recordings predated Napster by over a century.

Sousa and many other composers realized the loss of income and control due to these independent recording companies and joined several U.S. senators in lobbying Congress to change copyright law in 1906. Appearing before a congressional committee on copyright law in 1906, an attorney for the group stated that the maverick recording companies were “sponging upon the toil, the work, the talent, and genius of American composers,”1 John Philip Sousa, living icon of American music, “March King” and friend of many in Washington, D.C. put it more succinctly: “When they make money out of my pieces, I want a share of it.”2 Words that came fifty years too late for Stephen Foster were part of the force which changed copyright law in America.

The resulting copyright law of 1909 was a compromise, giving secondary recording companies the freedom to record the compositions and arrangements of musicians, but guaranteeing that royalty payments would be paid to the composer and arranger for each recording sold. This law allowed performing artists and recording companies to create covers (new recordings) of well known songs, but not without paying compensation.

John Philip Sousa was the bridge between the fledgling music industry of the 19th century and the modern era. His music was some of the most successful in the first two decades of the recording industry and, even though he personally disliked the record player, his music helped to legitimize the technology. The result of his efforts to reform copyright law provided for royalty payments to composers and arranger from both the recording and pianola industries.

Sousa was a composer, conductor, entertainer, businessman, cultural statesman and America’s first superstar. His marches signify not only the finest models of the genre, they have remained for over a century as the musical heartbeat of America.

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Study Units

An Overview

Ch. 1: Understanding Pitch

Ch. 2: Understanding Musical Pulse

Ch. 3: Understanding Volume

Ch. 4: Understanding Tone

Ch. 5: Understanding Melody

Ch. 6: Understanding Harmony

Ch. 7: Understanding Rhythm

Ch. 8: Understanding Bass

Ch. 9: Understanding Countermelody

Ch. 10: Understanding Structure

Ch. 11: Understanding Instrumentation

Ch. 12: Understanding Tempo

An Overview

Ch. 1: 19th Century: Pre-Foster

Ch. 2: Folk Music by the People

Ch. 3: Popular Music in its Infancy

Ch. 4: Stephen Foster – “Father of American Popular Music”

Ch. 5: The Importance of Stephen Foster

Ch. 6: Scott Joplin – “King of Ragtime”

Ch. 7: The Player Piano – Automated Music

Ch. 8: John Philip Sousa – “The March King”

Ch. 9: John Philip Sousa – Recording Artist and Activist

An Overview

Ch. 1: John Lomax – Recording American Roots Music

Ch. 2: Woody Guthrie – “Father of Modern American Folk Music”

Ch. 3: Leadbelly & Pete Seeger: End of the First Wave

Ch. 4: The Kingston Trio – Beginning of the Second Wave

Ch. 5: Joan Baez – “First Lady of Folk Music”

Ch. 6: Peter, Paul & Mary – Balancing the Message

Ch. 7: Robert Zimmerman – The Beginning of an American Icon

Ch. 8: Dylan in New York City

Ch. 9: Dylan after Newport

Ch. 10: The Importance of Dylan

Ch. 11: Folk Music in the 21st Century

An Overview

Ch. 1: The Roots of Country

Ch. 2: Bristol Beginnings

Ch. 3: The Grand Ole Opry

Ch. 4: Cowboys and the Movies

Ch. 5: Western Swing

Ch. 6: Bluegrass: Hillbilly on Caffeine

Ch. 7: Honky-tonk: Merging Two into One

Ch. 8: The Nashville Sound: Country-Pop

Ch. 9: Rockabilly – Country meets R&B

Ch. 10: Country Feminists Find Their Voice

Ch. 11: The Bakersfield Sound

Ch. 12: Austin “Outlaw” Country

Ch. 13: Neo-Traditionalists at the end of the 20th Century

Ch. 14: Mainstreaming Country in the ‘90s

Ch. 15: Redesigning Country in the 21st Century

An Overview

Ch. 1: What is Jazz?

Ch. 2: Before It Was Jazz

Ch. 3: Jazz is Born!

Ch. 4: Early Jazz Musicians

Ch. 5: Louis Armstrong

Ch. 6: Chicago and Harlem – Hub of 1920s Jazz

Ch. 7: Big Band – Jazz Swing!

Ch. 8: Big Band Musicians and Singers

Ch. 9: Jump Blues and Bop

Ch. 10: Cool Jazz

Ch. 11: Hard Bop

Ch. 12: Free Jazz – Breaking the Rules

Ch. 13: Fusion – The Jazz-Rock-Funk Experience

Ch. 14: Third Stream and World Jazz

Ch. 15: New Age & Smooth Jazz

Ch. 16: Summary – Jazz Lives!

An Overview

Ch. 1: Blues – The Granddaddy of American Popular Music

Ch. 2: Where Did the Blues Come From?

Ch. 3: What Are the Blues?

Ch. 4: How to Build the Blues

Ch. 5: Classic Blues – The Early Years

Ch. 6: Delta Blues – Authentic Beginnings

Ch. 7: Blues in the City – Migration and Power

Ch. 8: Blues in Britain – Redefining the Masters

Ch. 9: Contemporary Blues – Maturity and Respect

Ch. 10: The Relevancy of the Blues Today

Ch. 1: Timelines, Cultures & Technology

Ch. 2: Pre-Rock Influences

Ch. 3: Rock is Born!

Ch. 4: Rock is Named

Ch. 5: Doo-Wop

Ch. 6: Independent Record Labels

Ch. 7: Technology Shapes Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 8: The Plan to Mainstream Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 9: Payola – Rock ‘n’ Roll’s First Scandal

Ch. 1: Crafting Sound in the Studio/Producers and Hit Songs

Ch. 2: West Coast Sound: Beach, Surf, and Teens

Ch. 3: The British Invasion: Two Prongs – Pop & Blues

Ch. 4: Motown and the Development of a Black Pop-Rock Sound

Ch. 5: Soul Music: Gospel and R&B in the Deep South

Ch. 6: The Sounds of Bubble Gum Pop-Rock

Ch. 7: The Arrival of Folk-Rock

Ch. 8: Psychedelic Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 9: Early Guitar Gods of Rock

Ch. 10: Rock Festivals: The Rise and Fall of Music, Peace, and Love

Ch. 11: Anti-Woodstock and Shock Rock Movements

Ch. 1: Technological Breakthroughs

Ch. 2: Electronic Dance Music

Ch. 3: Hip-Hop & Rap – An Introduction

Ch. 4: The Beginnings of Rap

Ch. 5: Old School Rap – Up From the Streets

Ch. 6: Rap’s Golden Age

Ch. 7: East Coast – Political Rap

Ch. 8: West Coast – Gangsta Rap

Ch. 9: The Fragmentation of Rap – Pop, Party & More

Ch. 10: Further Fragmentation – Different Directions

Ch. 11: The Importance of Rap

Ch. 1: Musical Stage Productions in America before the 1800s

Ch. 2: Minstrel Shows and Melodramas

Ch. 3: Stage Presentations in the Late 19th Century

Ch. 4: Early 20th Century: Revues and Operettas

Ch. 5: The Arrival of the Modern American Musical

Ch. 6: Great Partnerships in Book-Musicals

Ch. 7: Musical Theatre Composers in the mid-Century

Ch. 8: Fresh Voices on the Stage in the 1960s

Ch. 9: Two Dominant Forces at the End of the Century

Ch. 10: New Voices at the End of the Century

Ch. 11: New Voices, New Sounds in the New Century

Ch. 12: Musical Theatre Glossary

Ch. 13: Is it “Theatre” or “Theater”?

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