Rivalry and co-operation

We’ve seen that Alfred Clark left Berliner’s employ in favour of Edison and moved to Paris to set up a rival to the Gramophone Company in Europe. This put the two old friends, Alfred Clark and Fred Gaisberg, in direct competition for new recordings in 1899.

Clark, pictured above, proved to be a canny businessman. He contacted Trevor Williams, the Chairman of the Gramophone Company and persuaded him to pool resources rather than go head to head against each other.. The Gramophone Company would lead the recording programme. Clark would contribute towards the costs of the recording programme and in return would be able to use the recordings on the cylinders that he would sell for playing on Edison’s phonographs. The Gramophone company would be able to sell the same recordings on their own format. This co-operation seems extraordinary today but Clark was able to secure the deal and it had the consequence of putting more pressure on Fred Gaisberg to deliver more high quality recordings.

To this end, the Managing Director of the Gramophone Company, William Barry Owen, decided to step up the recording programme and send Gaisberg on what must be one of the first field recording trips – to the continent with special portable recording kit.

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One thought on “Rivalry and co-operation

  1. Clark clearly already saw where his future lay. But the most intriguing aspect of this plan is the incompatibility of the systems even at the recording stage. To make Gramophone records, hundreds of copies could be pressed from one good take. To make 50 phonograph records, a singer had to sing into five phonographs at once, and do so ten times. Perhaps Clark was intending to make cylinders by pantographing copies from discs- but a cylinder recording dubbed in this way from a 7-inch Berliner would be of very inferior quality. Was this a form of industrial sabotage?

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