Recording History: The British Record Industry, 1888 – 1931

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9780810882522: Recording History: The British Record Industry, 1888 – 1931

In Recording History, Peter Martland uses a range of archival sources to trace the genesis and early development of the British record industry from1888 to 1931. A work of economic and cultural history that draws on a vast range of quantitative data, it surveys the commercial and business activities of the British record industry like no other work of recording history has before.

Martland’s study charts the successes and failures of this industry and its impact on domestic entertainment. Showcasing its many colorful pioneers from both sides of the Atlantic, Recording History is first and foremost an account of The Gramophone Company Ltd, a precursor to today’s recording giant EMI, and then the most important British record company active from the late 19th century until the end of the second decade of the twentieth century. Martland’s history spans the years from the original inventors through industrial and market formation and final take-off—including the riveting battle in recording formats. Special attention is given to the impact of the First World War and the that followed in its wake.

Scholars of recording history will find in Martland’s study the story of the development of the recording studio, of the artists who made the first records (from which some like Italian opera tenor Enrico Caruso earned a fortune), and the change records wrought in the relationship between performer and audience, transforming the reception and appreciation of musical culture. Filling a much-needed gap in scholarship, Recording History documents the beginnings of the end of the contemporary international record industry.

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About the Author:

Peter Martland is a historian whose books are mainly concerned with the recording industry and the British secret intelligence community.


The present book is in many ways an expansion of Martland’ s previous work. ... Recording History is still a very important book. . . . the part on Columbia is excellent, and the book can also be considered the definitive study of entire British sound recording industry up to 1918, as Martland’s original dissertation also surveyed the industry’s origins and Gramophone’s competitors in great detail. ... Recording History will become a standard reference work on the history of the recording industry. We must be especially grateful to the author for making available a huge amount of economic data from the EMI archives, as this part of the archives seems to have been completely closed to researchers for the past decade. And we should hope that one day Martland will also find the time to continue the history of the British record industry at least up to the 1950s. Certainly no one has the same qualifications for this job as he does. (ARSC Journal)

This book is well-written and a worthy addition to every record collector's library. ... Until now, no book has examined the recording industry itself in detail as a business and examined how the marketing of phonographs and records was handled to become such a major industry. (WFOS.FM)

Dr. Martland is nothing if not thorough and the ready availability of such a wealth of detailed information makes this work an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the business side of the recording industry. Any future rival volume on the subject will be redundant. (Teaching History: A Journal of Methods)

This will surely stand as a major reference book in the field for a long time to come and is highly recommended. (In The Groove)

This book is effectively a secondary source in its own right, bringing together an astonishing range of facts and figures, many not previously exposed to comparative historical gaze. Even the choice of photographs, while including old (and essential) favourites of the pioneers and their efforts, yields pleasing variations, along with reproductions of telling contemporary advertisements. (For the Record)

Until now, no book has examined the recording industry itself in detail as a business and how the marketing of phonographs...and records was handled to become such a major industry. This history is just as interesting as the technological side, which Martland examines in considerable detail....This book is a well-written and worthy addition to every record collector’s library. (Bill Russell, WFOS-FM (Chesapeake, VA))

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