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This Day In Market History: Edison Invents The Phonograph

This Day In Market History: Edison Invents The Phonograph

Each day, Benzinga takes a look back at a notable market-related moment that occurred on this date.

What Happened

On Nov. 21, 1877, Thomas Edison unveiled his phonograph — the first device to play back a recorded sound.

Where The Market Was

The S&P 500 traded around $3.25.

What Else Was Going On In The World

The American Indian Wars continued across the nation, and The Washington Post was weeks away from publishing its first paper.

The iPod Predecessor Is Born

In the 1800s, music patrons could only listen to whatever was played live. They had to wait for the symphony to assemble, buy a ticket and physically get themselves to the venue.

Edison’s invention made music a more remote and timeless experience — enabling consumers to listen when and where they wanted. The communal coin-operated phonograph eventually paved the way for an in-home device, which served as a foundation for CD players, walkmans, iPods, and now the streaming services of Pandora (NYSE: P) and Spotify (NYSE: SPOT).

The phonograph not only changed the way music was experienced but also the way it was written. Producers began condensing their hour-long symphonies to three-minute bits in order to fit them on the audio discs. Some attribute contemporary song standards to Edison’s innovation.

Perhaps one of the phonograph’s biggest impacts was in making music a non-excludable good, which has since caused debates over royalties and consumer payments.

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Thomas Edison and his early phonograph. Cropped from Library of Congress copy.


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