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 its very first incarnation, brought to press in 1894, Billboard was a magazine that literally focused on billboards, posters, and paper advertisements placed in public spaces along with bill posters (people who put up advertisement posters).
It was originally titled Billboard Advertising and it was a trade magazine for advertisement. Very quickly, however, the magazine began to primarily carry advertisements and information about circuses, fairs, carnivals, vaudeville, and burlesque shows. From there, Billboard magazine went on to 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 1907, they began covering the motion picture industry, but quickly shifted to covering music. By the 1920s, they even created a radio broadcasting station in addition to covering developments in phonograph and radio technology. 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 publications, and Billboard completed its transformation into the music industry icon it is today.