There is a fascinating blog post today by veteran music executive Steve Greenberg about how the breakout success of the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” might never have happened if not for the mid-1960’s proliferation of small transistor radios.
Moving the release date up had an unexpected benefit. In 1963, the average American teen listened to the radio for slightly more than three hours per day. With kids out of school for all of Christmas week, that number was undoubtedly even higher. And, importantly, the most common stocking-stuffers received by teens that Christmas were transistor radios, which had become cheaper than ever.
Although wildly popular since the mid-50’s, the Japanese-made transistor radio experienced exponential sales growth in the mid-60’s, as inexpensive off-brands proliferated. While 5.5 million sets had been sold in the U.S. in 1962, by 1963 that number nearly doubled to 10 million
As we gear up for the fiftieth anniversary of the Beatles’ American debut on the Ed Sullivan show, it’s fascinating to learn more about this lynchpin of the band’s early popularity.