Edison and content providers

BoingBoing’s Frauenfelder has a post about the seminal days of the commercial recording industry in an excerpt from the Edison biography “The Wizard of Menlo Park” in today’s New York Times. Besides the points made about how nothing has changed much in the music industry concerning attempts to keep formats and content proprietary I thought some of the information about Edison’s attitudes toward musicians are interesting.

According to the article, Edison had very specific musical tastes and was loathe to sell music outside that arena, even though his business suffered for it. And then there is this:

A sales manual from this time laid out the company’s defense, which directed the public’s attention to “the great Wizard” who personally tested voice samples using techniques of his own devising and selected “those voices which are most worthy of re-creation by his new art.” Only the voice, not the reputation, mattered to the Wizard.

So determined was Edison to strip artists of their vanity and unreasonable demands that he refused to print the name of the recording artist on the record label.

Edison probably didn’t feel all attribution was vanity. Otherwise he might have reconsidered naming his invention “The Edison Disc Phonograph.”

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