We've all heard that the Internet is killing the music industry, just like home taping was supposed to kill it before. As it turns out, accusations that technology would destroy music go all the way back to the 1930s, when musicians claimed tyrannical robots would churn out soulless music.

Synchronized sound may have been a wonder to theater audiences who saw 1927' The Jazz Singer, but to some musicians, it signalled the death knell of live performances. In 1930, the American Federation of Musicians formed the Music Defense League, which launched a $500,000 ad campaign, asking the public to petition for live musicians in lieu of "canned" prerecorded music. The ads featured robots playing instruments, accompanied by claims that soulless machines would destroy the emotional art of music.

Even films were not exempt from these musical doomsayers, who believed that audiences would grow weary at the lack of emotion in filmed performances. Said Joseph N. Weber, president of the American Federation of Musicians:

The time is coming fast when the only living thing around a motion picture house will be the person who sells you your ticket. Everything else will be mechanical. Canned drama, canned music, canned vaudeville. We think the public will tire of mechanical music and will want the real thing. We are not against scientific development of any kind, but it must not come at the expense of art. We are not opposing industrial progress. We are not even opposing mechanical music except where it is used as a profiteering instrument for artistic debasement.

That shows him; thanks to the automated ticket kiosk, we don't need any human contact at our theaters at all.


See more anti-robot ads and read more about the Music Defense League at Paleofuture.