This is a scanned page of a Gramophone Company catalogue from 1902. The company had progressed from making 7″ records to 10″ records by late 1901 and this catalogue shows the new range of discs retailing at 5 shillings a piece. There were 20 shillings to a £, so five shillings expressed in modern money would be 25p. The gramophone cost £10.
Quiz Question: What would these amounts be worth in todays prices? Answer is below the picture.
According to t’interweb, five shillings in 1902 was worth £23 in todays money, so people were paying the equivalent of £23 per track. When compared with todays 79p download from itunes this means that the value of music in 1902 was 30 times greater than today.
Meanwhile the £10 gramophone would have an equivalent price of £910 in todays money. An ipod costs £200 today so the 1902 technology is only 4.5 times the modern equivalent.
Fred Gaisberg the Zelig of early recording was inevitably involved with the record that is featured in the catalogue. The Thunderer March was written by John Sousa who was hugely popular band leader and composer (speciality: marches) and helped develop a new instrument for marching bands that was named after him called a Sousaphone.
Gaisberg new Sousa when he was a child: “I also sang in Sousa’s choir..and I attended rehearsals in his then modest home in the Navy Yard in South Washington…..I can still see the small room that one entered direct from the street and a very old “tin-panny” square piano from which he conducted rehearsals.”
When Fred worked for Columbia he recorded John Sousa’s Band and did so again when he helped set up The Gramophone Company.
The recording of The Thunderer included in the catalogue is not by Sousa himelf but by a London band. Its interesting to see the angel logo on this disc which had been used for only a few months when this record came out. It was one of the labels that The Gramophone Company used over the next few years and successor company EMI turned to the logo when they set up Angel Records in 1953. You can see a detailed history of the Angel logo here.