Vinyl remained the most popular medium, and both 7-inch 45 rpm singles and 12-inch 33 rpm albums were highly popular. The 8-track tape remained strong throughout the 1970s in the US, but it should quickly disappear shortly after. The music cassette (MC) became somewhat more popular while still remaining a niche product, at least in pre-recorded format.
Music piracy became a part of popular culture, as the blank MC made it easy to copy vinyl LPs and to record songs from the radio. Teenagers would spend hours waiting for their favourite songs to be played on the radio, so that they could record them, just hoping that the radio DJ wouldn’t start talking while the final chorus was still playing. Many teens and young adults already owned more illegal copies than legally acquired records or pre-recorded MCs.
But the industry still made billions, as there were tons of albums everyone wanted to own.
A large number of recording studios were founded in the 70s, and the success of popular music allowed them to buy tons of new and expensive equipment. Multitrack recording became standard, with larger mixing consoles featuring EQs and compressors on all channels, as well as with 2” tape recorders that allowed to record 24 tracks at once, a trend that culminated in computer controlled mixing consoles in the late 1970s.
Rupert Neve had founded Neve Electronics in 1961, and he had already built a transistor-based mixing console with an equalizer for Phillips Records at that time, but it was only in the late 1960s and early 1970s that his larger consoles were adopted by recording studios.
Automated Processes Inc. (aka API) was founded in 1968 by Saul Walker and Lou Lindauer, and in 1969 they started producing new modular mixing console designs. By 1974, API consoles and modules had achieved considerable popularity in professional recording studios. Their modular design remains highly popular even today, in form of the API 500 series rack system.
Solid State Logic (aka SSL), a UK company founded in 1969 by Colin Sanders, became one of the leading professional mixing console developers after releasing the 4000 B console in 1977. SSL, Neve and API are still among the leading manufacturers of professional studio equipment today, and their mixing consoles, EQs, and compressors have defined the sound of professionally recorded music since the 1970s.
On the instrument side, one of the most impressive technological advances in the 1970s was the rise of synthesizers that now allowed to create completely new sounds that no human being had ever heard before.
In 1959–1960, Harald Bode developed a modular synthesizer and sound processor, and in 1961, he wrote a paper exploring the concept of self-contained portable modular synthesizer using newly emerging transistor technology. His ideas were adopted by Donald Buchla and Robert Moog in the US, and Paolo Ketoff in Italy.
Robert Moog built his first prototype between 1963 and 1964, in the late 1960s band such as The Monkees and The Doors started using Moogs on their records. The sound of the Moog reached the mass market with Simon and Garfunkel’s Bookends in 1968 and The Beatles’ Abbey Road the following year. Hundreds of other popular recordings subsequently used synthesizers, most famously the portable Minimoog.
In 1973, Yamaha developed the Yamaha GX-1, an early polyphonic synthesizer. In 1974, Roland released the EP-30, the first touch-sensitive electronic keyboard. Other polyphonic synthesizers followed, mainly manufactured in Japan and the US from the mid-1970s to the early-1980s, and included Roland’s RS-101 and RS-202 (1975 and 1976) string synthesizers, the Yamaha CS-80 (1976), Oberheim’s Polyphonic and OB-X (1975 and 1979), Sequential Circuits’ Prophet-5 (1978), and Roland’s Jupiter-4 and Jupiter-8 (1978 and 1981).
By the end of the 1970s, digital synthesizers and digital samplers had arrived on the market around the world.