Billboard Magazine, Now A Music Publication, Was Once The Magazine Of Record For Whom?
Answer: Circus Performers
Today, Billboard Magazine is known as the magazine that made (and still makes) music history. Getting yourself on the Billboard music charts is the crowning achievement of many a musician’s career. Long before Billboard tracked music, however, it was a magazine much different than the one we know today. In it’s very first incarnation, brought to press in 1894, Billboard was a magazine, literally, for billboards; it was originally titled Billboard Advertising and it was a trade magazine for advertisement. Very quickly, however, the magazine began to carry primarily advertisements and information about circuses, fairs, amusement parks, carnivals, and other live entertainment. By the turn of the century, Billboard magazine had become the magazine of record for the amusement industry, and circus performers the world over read it to stay abreast of what was happening in the industry.
By the mid 1910s, they began including ranked lists of popular performance music and sales. By the 1920s, they were covering developments in radio, and by the time the 1930s came along and jukeboxes were appearing across the nation, they began to publish what would go on to become the iconic Billboard Music Chart. By the 1960s, the amusement park/performer elements of the magazine were spun off into a separate publication, and Billboard completed its transformation into the music industry icon it is today.
Image courtesy of Billboard Magazine.