I still haven't the time to dig out the documents, but as I recall, there
was great friction crated among Birnbaum, who managed the German satellite
branch of the Gramophone Company, Alfred Clark, who similarly managed the
French satellite branch and had been mentored by Eldridge Johnson and who
later became one of the co-managing directors of the Gramophone Company, and
Eldridge Johnson, of the Victor Company.
We are all record-centric, but the real money was in the machines. From
1900 or so through sometime in the late 1900s, the mechanisms for the
Gramophone Company were made in the US and sent to Europe where they were
installed in cabinets designed to harmonize with the interiors of the better
homes in each country. When there were shortages of Victor mechanisms, as
happened frequently, there was ferocious infighting among the European
branches of the Gramophone Company for supplies, especially around
Christmas. Cargo ships sank, were storm damaged or arrived with rusted
screws that had to be manufactured on the European side, thus causing delays
of ready-to-go mechanisms. US parts were in inches, European were metric.
This meant finding machine shops with the capacity to make parts to US
dimensions, usually at the last minute, since the big shipments usually
arrived in October or November. Somewhere I have copies of the telegrams
piecing this together. To understand them, I acquired a copy of the
business telegram abbreviations book for these years.
Germany was responsible for supplying machines to what was still Imperial
Russia which caused further issues relating to promises Birnbaum made to his
own territorial branches there. Johnson kept writing his European
counterparts for their orders early enough for him to adjust his
manufacturing schedule to have their order in hand in a timely way. This
seldom worked out.
As new models were released and proved to successful, there was informal
rationing at the Camden end. The Gramophone Company had a certain amount of
leverage since they shared the costs of Johnson's R&D lab. I have an
invoice from this period billing England for their share.
There's more to this but many documents exchanged among the lower level
employees are not among those in Johnson's files at the Dover museum. This
story has yet to be written. Until it is, no true history of these years
can be accurate.
From: Steve Smolian
Sent: Friday, November 23, 2012 11:27 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Interesting history of DGG-Polydor-Polygram-Berliner
This needs some work. The three-part process was not used until c. 1903.
Other statements seem to be ok but are in the wrong eras. I've not read it
thoroughly, just a couple of segments.
Important stuff is left out- i.e, the Jones patent, the 12" record, the 14"
record, competition with the cylinder interests (touched on, but not
properly explored), a lot more.
We really need a good outline which explains and links these elements,
particularly the international ones. People assume that because it was this
way in their country, it was the same in others. Sources should be cited.
From: Tom Fine
Sent: Friday, November 23, 2012 11:05 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [ARSCLIST] Interesting history of DGG-Polydor-Polygram-Berliner
I'm not vouching for 100% accuracy, but Peter Burkowitz is not ill-informed
or ignorant, so I'd give
him the benefit of the doubt.
Another interesting written piece by Berkowitz is his 1977 AES Journal
article, "Recording, Art of
In the timeline linked at the top, interesting vector of how the classical
music business went off
the rails in the 1995-2005 period. First they glutted the market with
product, then started nickel
and diming all the most-qualified people to death, then the megaglomeration
consultants (ie "fire anyone who costs anything, in other words anyone with
experience or historical
knowledge" and "why do you have all those slow-selling old CDs in print? cut
them out" -- which
shows a complete ignorance of the lucrative "long tail" aspect of a
classical catalog), then the
outsourcing (what is now called Decca Classics no longer oversees its own
archives, no longer owns
mastering facilities and no longer owns manufacturing plants, so it's more a
production company than
any traditional notion of a record company). Sony has followed very much the
same route, but I think
they own at least some of their manufacturing still, and they do have
small-scale compared to the 90's, in NYC and Japan. EMI has had a similar
but somewhat less drastic
trajectory (we'll see if Abbey Road and Capitol Studios end up staying under
the UMG umbrella). The
result is much less new product, but a last-ditch bonanza for collectors of
back-catalog (all of
those wonderful $2-or-less-per-CD box sets of recent years).
-- Tom Fine