Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
An industrial musical is a musical performed for the employees of a business, intended to create a feeling of being part of a team, and/or to educate and motivate the management and salespeople to improve sales and profit. It is a form of public relations and advertising that can be used internally within a business.
Other terms for industrial musicals include the corporate musical or industrial show, but the latter can also refer to trade shows, which are publicity events organized by one or more businesses to promote their products to potential buyers.
Industrial musicals are not resticted to corporations or to businesses involved in industry. They should not be confused with industrial music, or with musicals produced by companies to be seen by the general public, for example, Disney's stage production of The Lion King.
Industrial musicals originated from company songs and anthems for promoting enthusiasm among workers. The songs were brought in by the management, as opposed to worker-created work songs. Also, during the 1920s, some companies formed internal musical groups to encourage company loyalty, keep employees happy, and to help advertise the company to the public. For example, the Larkin soap company organized community singing, had a women's drum corps, an orchestra, a ukulele club, and daily recitals on a pipe organ.
At some point, a collection of company songs was extended into a full musical theater format, and the industrial musical was born. Many industrial musicals were made in North America during the economic boom that followed World War II, and this practice continued into the 1980s.
The earliest known industrial musicals were produced by retail and automotive companies such as Ford, General Motors, and the Marshall Field's chain of department stores. By the end of the 1950s and throughout the 1960s, other types of businesses also began to put on shows.
Companies could spend a lot of money to produce shows, hiring talented Broadway composers and lyricists. The pay was very good, the task was challenging, and from the theatre's point of view, the production costs were much higher than a regular Broadway musical. Shows could have as many 30 people in the cast and a 60-piece orchestra. Composer Hank Beebe estimates that the 1957 Chevrolet musical was budgeted at over 3 million dollars (U.S.), because it cost six times the amount it took to bring My Fair Lady to the stage that same year.
The song performances were rarely heard outside of the companies they were written for, but sometimes the employees would be given a souvenir record album. It is largely through these albums that we know these shows existed. Some shows lasted for a limited number of nights, while others traveled from city to city for regional sales meetings.
By the 1980s, industrial musicals were made less and less often. Jonathan Ward, a writer and DJ who collects industrial musical albums, theorizes that the reason for the decline was partially due to rising production costs for stage shows, and the availability of low-cost video and multimedia technology.
Ward thinks another reason for the decline was a change in work attitudes. In the 1950s and 1960s, an employee might have expected to spend the majority of their working career with one company. By the 1980s, employees and the management may have been less inclined to think this way. The feelings of company loyalty and community promoted in the song lyrics would have been met with more cynicism.
Titles of industrial musicals
- The Shape of Tomorrow -- Westinghouse (1958)
- Take It From Here -- Xerox (1963)
- Diesel Dazzle -- General Motors (1966)
- The Bathrooms Are Coming -- American Standard (1969)
- Got To Investigate Silicones -- General Electric (1973) (about Silicones)
Composers and lyricists
- Hank Beebe
- Jerry Bock
- Michael Brown
- Sheldon Harnick
- Bill Heyer
- Kander and Ebb
- Sonny Kippe
- Lloyd Norlin
- Skip Redwine
- Raymond Scott
- Wilson Stone
- "It's an easy thing to write a song about love. It's hard to write a song about spark plugs." -- Wilson Stone.
- Doane, Rex, et al. (2001). Corporate anthems. WNYC's Apr. 7, 2001 broadcast of their radio show, On the Media. An interview with collector Steve Young and others.
- Ebenkamp, Becky (2001). Corporate America sings: musical shows about company products. Brandweek, Apr. 23.
- Kalish, Jon (2005). Industrial musicals offer odes to tractors, toilets. Circulated to many newspapers via Reuters in March of 2005. Retrieved from the Web on April 11, 2005.
- McLaren, Carrie & Prelinger, Rick (1998). Salesnoise: a timeline of music & advertising. Stay Free 15, 14-23.
- Ward, Jonathan (2002). Recruit, train and motivate: the history of the industrial musical. Retrieved April 15, 2005.
- Ward, Jonathan (2004). Top 5 musicals produced by the oil industry
- A Chevrolet sales convention musical, a film in the Prelinger archives.
- The 365 Days Project contains a number of music samples:
- American Standard - My bathroom is a private kind of place. Scroll down to entry #232 (Aug. 20).
- Xerox - Take it from here. Scroll down to entry #104 (Apr. 14).
- General Electric's Silicone Products Division - Sand. Scroll down to entry #196 (July 15).
- Oldsmobile - Gotta get a car. Scroll down to entry #247 (Sept. 5) (about Oldsmobile)
- Hamm's Beer - The young adults. Scroll down to entry #191 (July 10)
- Cole National Corporation - National hooray. Scroll down to entry #248 (Sept. 6)
- That agency thing, a musical promoting advertising agencies.
- Corporate and IT anthems, collected by Peter Judge at Zdnet.
- The 1931 IBM Songbook
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