The Mega Brands That Built America Recap for Music on the Move

The Mega Brands That Built America Recap for Music on the Move

The Mega Brands That Built America Recap for Music on the Move

-The Mega Brands That Built America discusses the evolution of music players. Sony, Apple, tapes, CDs….and everything in between.

-The transistor is one of the first pieces of technology that helped play music, do research and communicate….thanks to Bell Labs.

-Tosuko is Tokyo-based company that wanted to come out with a similar piece of technology….not knowing that they would one day be worth billons.

-In the beginning Tosuko’s plan was to put radios in people’s hands so people can listen to the radio on the go. He pays Bell Labs 25 grand to get transistor technology and make this happen. They work around the clock to make this happen and after three years, the first portable radio was born. Akio Morita thinks this is not only perfect for Japan, but the world. His next step it so get this to America.

-The only problem is, the company needs to change its name due America and Japan still being at odds. Hence, Sony is born and the first pocket radio sells over hundreds of thousands of devices.

-In 1960, a Dutch company called Philips wants to get in on the action by making their own product….but one that will allow people to listen to the music they want on the go…not just what the radio is playing. Enter the record player for the car.

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-This idea, while a good one, has its mishaps with scratching, potholes and needing a needle to play. Enter the cassette tape! Lou Ottens, the man with the plan, comes up with the idea to make the tape run without falling apart so it can work in cars.

-Ottens goes to work making not only a tape, but a system to play it. The tape is able to play 45 minutes worth of content, giving ‘birth’ to the cassette and tape player.

-There are glitches with the cassette playing properly, so Ottens must get to work improving the sound quality. It takes a long time, but Philips decides to market the tape player as a dictation device. Ottens is not happy, but the company is at least able to get ahead of the game in electronics.

-Ottens is frustrated by this and continues on working on his passion project. However, he is a bit too late, because RCA, a rival company released the 8-track.

-Despite his frustration, Ottens decides to join forces with Sony to make his dream come true. However, despite liking the idea, Sony doesn’t want to pay for anything.

-In a weird twist of fate, Ottens….AGREES. He licenses the idea for free and is willing to work with the best minds around to make his dream come true.

-Before long, albums are selling like hotcakes on cassette. Nina Simone and the Beatles were among the first to be released.

-The 8-track is still more popular, so Ottens decides to make a portable cassette player….known as the boom box. This not only helped with cassette album sales, but led to the invention of mixtapes.

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-Philips sees business booming, so now Sony wants in on the action. They notice that the dictation device is too cumbersome, so they decide they need something more portable. They also realize that they need a simple device to listen to the dictations, so they work on a smaller device that may not record, but it plays the tapes, which can be heard via headphones. Enter the Walkman.

-The Walkman gets a lukewarm response since it is unable to record and puts Sony in a tough spot. To make more sales, they have young people wear Walkmans in the street and have people listen (read: the OG influencers) so they will buy them. It is a success and before long, people are buying them and using them to listen to their favorite tunes on the go.

-The 8-track soon becomes a distant memory.

-Ottens is not happy with the success of the Walkman and decides he cannot be outdone. He decides to make a new invention….what we now know as the compact disc….aka the CD.

-Before he can get to that, he needs to find a way to play it. Laser disc players are quite expensive and while laser discs can play two days worth of music, his colleagues tell him it is not necessary.

-After a lot of trial and error, he gets the disc to the size he wants and once again works with Sony to make this the next new thing. Norio Ohga, another man behind Sony, wants to make some changes. The two of them go head-to-head to find a way to not only bring CDs to the masses, but to invent a CD player.

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-On October 1, 1982, the first CD player is released by Sony and is the size of a VCR….and super expensive. It would play the same way every time, provided the disc doesn’t get scratched.

-Ottens comes out with his own version of the CD player with a top loading tray and remote control. It is also cheaper than Sony’s.

-Not to be outdone, Sony comes out with a portable CD player, aka the Discman, putting them on the map once again.

-This opens the door for music to be sold everywhere….and would soon be available in digital formats.

-Both companies are now worth billions.

-More next week, stay tuned.

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