Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive

Soundies: The Music Videos before Music Videos

Short, musical performances with visual accompaniment, Soundies were an early commercial attempt at the modern music video. Paired with Soundies were their semi-portable playing machines, called Panorams, which operated as a visual jukebox and were positioned in public spaces throughout the U.S. in the 1940s. The wartime realities of World War II surrounded the release of the products, limiting their success but also reflecting propaganda and life on the homefront. More so than other film mediums of the era, Soundies also provide a record of minority, particularly African American, performers in a segregated society. While itself failing as a commercial product in 1947, Soundies contributed to the innovation process of moving images, and are regularly credited as a forerunner to the variety television shows of the 1950s and 1960s and to the music video channel MTV. To watch our collection of Soundies continue here. Tune in to the beat of Soundies with a swing through this exhibit, no dime necessary!


Curated by Kate Galbreath and Josh Koepke