From the Jukebox to the Joystick: ‘Cash Box’ Magazine, 1980

Exhibit / August 22, 2019

Object NameCash Box magazine
Maker and Year: The Cash Box Publishing Co., 1980
Object Type: Industry periodical
Image Source: Archive.org (originally digitized by the College of William and Mary Earl Gregg Swem Library)
Description (Michael Grasso):

Cash Box magazine was a music industry monthly that was in print from 1942 to 1996. Like its industry counterpart Billboard, Cash Box contained multiple weekly music charts based on music genres, from Pop to R&B to Jazz to Classical. Throughout their respective histories, Billboard and Cash Box used slightly different formulae to determine their music chart standings. Billboard‘s numbers during the rock era (until the development of SoundScan in 1991) were determined by a combination of radio airplay, in-store sales, and jukebox placement. Cash Box‘s charts, right up until the late ’70s, were almost solely based on sales and jukebox play. In fact, one of Cash Box‘s major reading audiences were the manufacturers and sellers of coin-operated entertainments: jukeboxes, midway machines, pinball machines, and, eventually, arcade video games. As Archive.org archivist Andrea Mills says on the Cash Box Internet Archive page, “Not everyone was able to afford a radio, but did frequent places of entertainment and social interaction that had jukeboxes. These places were located in inner cities, rural communities, small towns, and ethnic enclaves. Consequently, Cash Box includes information about under documented communities that are not available in other, similar sources.” In addition, the exclusion of radio airplay as a weighing factor removes the influence of record industry payola, a big problem during the first years of rock and roll (and again in the late 1970s, when cocaine often took the place of cash and gratuities to radio DJs). As such, there are a number of songs that hit #1 on Cash Box that never got near the top spot of the Billboard charts, and vice versa.

The Cash Box issues and excerpts featured in this exhibit all come from the year 1980, after the Cash Box chart method determination switch and during the first bubblings of the video arcade revolution. During this general period, Cash Box covers mostly featured familiar promotional shots of some of the artists detailed within. Within each roughly 30-to-60-page issue are a few front page stories on the music industry, genre charts and breakdowns for each singles chart, the favorite hot singles at some of the biggest radio stations and markets nationwide, record store merchandising and promotional program reports, international music news, and finally the “Coin Machine” section with the latest in coin-operated entertainment news and reviews, where the 1980s industry shift from jukeboxes to joysticks can be vividly seen.

2 thoughts on “From the Jukebox to the Joystick: ‘Cash Box’ Magazine, 1980

  1. Pingback: “Don’t Trust Civilization”: ‘Soldier of Fortune’ Magazine and the Masculine Myth

  2. Cash Box Magazine was side by side with Billboard in the magazine sections of department stores, convenience stores, supermarkets, libraries, newsstands etc., throughout the USA, for decades. Then one day it disappeared, suddenly, mysteriously, completely. WTF happened to Cash Box? No one knew. I guessed the (by then, old) man who’d founded it and operated it for decades had finally died and left his family, if any, enough cash, real estate etc., that it wasn’t even worth disrupting their lives, other careers etc., to operate it, so they closed it. It’s happened a million times to other businesses. Bingo. Later, I learned that another party obtained the archives, etc., refloated it, in an online-only version, and has been publishing new weekly editions for years now, at cashboxmagazine.com.

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