History of Record Labels and the Music Industry 1900s
by Alex Cosper

Introduction 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s

see also American Radio History


- After over a decade in the industry he created, Edison' sales of phonographs climbed to a million dollars for the first time in 1900.

- Barber shop quartets were popular in the early 1900s, along with ragtime music.

- Eldridge Johnson, an inventor who partnered with Berliner on patents, began issuing discs in 1900 and then formed the Victor Talking Machine company in 1901. Edison continued to release cylinders, which was his original concept.

- Victor agreed to share its disc patent with Columbia starting in 1901. During this decade Columbia still produced more cylinders than discs while Edison shifted to metallic cylinders.

- In 1902 Victor purchased Columbia's disc manufacturer Globe, maker of Climax Records for $10,000 from parent company Burt. Victor President Johnson had learned that Globe was unhappy with Columbia's slow payments.

- Victor established the Red Seal label in 1902 following the success of their first major recording star, opera singer Enrico Caruso.

- A new method for archiving and preserving recordings was introduced by Columbia in 1902. Up until that point labels needs to re-record their catalog since stampers for cylinders and discs eventually wore out, although discs had more longevity. The problem was that the stamped that pressed grooves into records could only manufacture about a thousand copies before the master wore out. This meant a song had to be re-recorded all over again. The new technology, however, allowed several stampers to be made from the same master, eliminating the need for re-recording.

- Columbia began recording discs in England in 1902.

- Edison issued about 4 million cylinders in 1902 while Victor delivered close to 2 million discs.

- In 1903 Columbia was mass producing discs and cylinders in the millions. It was also becoming a global marketer, issuing thousands of recordings in Europe, Russia, China and Japan. By the end of the year the label opened a new plant in Mexico City. It was a booming year for Columbia.

- The first big three record labels issuing recordings of the new century were Edison, Victor and Columbia. These companies had a lock on recording technology patents in America until they expired at the 1910s. During this time Carl Lindstrom was a European record baron, owning Odeon and Parlophone.

- The top recording artists of the decade, according to music researcher Joel Whitburn, were Harry McDonough, Billy Murray, Haydn Quartet, Byron G. Harlan and Arthur Collins.

- The biggest hit of the decade, according to Whitburn, was "Put On Your Old Gray Bonnett" by Haydn Quartet on Victor. This band had over 50 hits from 1898 to 1914, including the famouns baseball anthem "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" in 1908, which was one of several recordings they made with Billy Murray on Victor.

Introduction 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s

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