Tuesday, August 1, 2023

On This Day in Music (1942): The American Federation of Musicians’ Strike

August 1, 1942

The American Federation of Musicians Strike

On August 1, 1942, the American Federation of Musicians went on strike against the major American recording companies over disagreements regarding royalty payments. This meant no union musician could record for any record company, WK but it did not prohibit performances on live radio shows or in concert. WK While the move was seen as advantageous for musicians who wanted payment each time their songs were played in jukeboxes or on radio, PBS FCC chair James Fly suggested the 60% of the country’s radio stations could go out of business. DB

As the ban approached, numerous artists rushed to get in last-minute recordings in July 1942. Among them were Count Basie, Bing Crosby, Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, Judy Garland, Benny Goodman, Guy Lombardo, and Glenn Miller. WK

When this stockpile was exhausted, record companies turned to older recordings – some as far back as the dawn of the recording era in the mid-1920s. One of the most successful releases was Harry James’ “All Or Nothing at All”, which featured Frank Sinatra before he became famous. WK

After October 27, 1943, special recordings known as V-Discs were exempt as they were intended for the armed forces and not the general public. WK In addition, some record companies, including Decca and Capitol, caved that 1943 while Victor and Columbia, the two largest companies, held out until November 11, 1944. WK

One unintended consequence of the strike was the hastening of the swing era’s decline and the rise of the “sing era” as the music industry shifted from a focus on big bands to singers. WK The ban only applied to musicians; singers were not union members. Therefore, they could still record a cappella songs consisting of vocal quartets or soloists backed by choruses. PBS As historian Peter Soderbergh put it, “Until the war most singers were props. After the war they became the stars and the role of the bands was gradually subordinated.” WK

For more important days in music history, check out the Dave’s Music Database history page.

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First posted 8/1/2011; updated 8/24/2023.

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