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Almost detective story of New Imperial Record

by Yuri Bernikov

In April of 1912 there appeared on the Russian Gramophone market records of a previously unknown label New Imperial Record. The labels were of a very unusual design: the upper half was scarlet with a picture of a lyre and the black inscription New Imperial Record; the lower half was green. After close inspection one could readily discern that in reality they were Syrena Grand Record records with scarlet stickers concealing the upper halves of the original labels. In Saint-Petersburg these records first appeared in the musical shop of well-known trader Melnikov on Sadovaya Street, and were sold for the same prices as the originals. But why was it necessary to hide the original Syrena labels? Gammofonny Mir magazine [2] was thrilled by this mystery and decided to carry out its own journalist's investigation, the results of which were published in issue No.9 of May, 1 1912. Unfortunately, I do not have the original article, but according to materials published in other publications [3][4][5] one can draw the following conclusions:

  1. It turned out that those records were bought out Syrena Record rejects;
  2. Syrena Record by all means distanced themselves from this transaction. For instance, the Companys chief representative in Russia, Mr. Rozmyslov, announced that he did not sell to Mr. Melnikov the rejected records. Later, Syrena Record management even published the following warning: The records with New Imperial Record label have nothing to do with registered Syrena Grand Record Trading Mark. We are requesting customers do not buy those records.;
  3. It remained unclear how Mr. Melnikov had gotten the rejected records.

Its understandable that Mr. Melnikov was accused of dishonesty, and those New Imperial Record discs were called nothing else but piratical ones. Was it really so? Almost 100 years has passed since then, and to unravel the truth that additionally was so thoroughly concealed at the time is nearly impossible task. However, with the help of observation, logic and common sense we can try to reconstruct more or less a truthful picture, and even possibly rehabilitate the good name of trader Melnikov.

Lets start with accusations of piracy. It is a known fact that the basis of business of all piratical companies was manufacturing and selling illegal copies of original records bought in retail. They were doing it against the will and interests of producing companies causing them both: material and moral losses as well as unfair competition pirates did not have to pay fees to artists. All these characteristics are not totally applicable to New Imperial Record discs. New Imperial Record used to sell exclusively original Syrena records that were legally bought in wholesale from the producing company. There were neither material losses nor unfair competition for Syrena because the records were sold for the same price as Syrenas.

In order to fool potential customers some piratical companies used so-called mimicry their label designs were very similar to the originals. Most of all suffered were Zonophon records with the green label. They were imitated by Luxophone, Zolophon and even International Parlophon labels and this is not complete list. Another example is Fonotipia Melodiephon pair. The later one was even called The Russian Fonotipia. The flashy scarlet New Imperial Record sticker is the vivid evidence of exactly the opposite intention to be distinct from the original.

If one discounts the fact that New Imperial Record labels were affixed post-factum, the business of the two companies very well falls into the common scheme when company A places orders to company B for printing of a batch of records bearing company A labels (i.e. today's common practice of outsourcing). Nobody would even think to call company A a piratical one in this case.

By the way, Syrena never tried to bring New Imperial Record to court, it just wanted to distance itself from the latter.

The second accusation is selling faulty records for regular price. From the first glance it may look like a major one, but lets try to understand the nature of the rejects. Thanks to efforts of Russian-Records.com Participants, there have been collected a number of New Imperial Record records, sufficient to draw an interesting conclusion: upon close inspection one can easily see that each record has at least one label with typographical error or mistake. Following are a few examples:

     Printed: ,
Should be:
     Printed: ,
Should be:
     Messed up with quotes: the opening quote is single,
the closing quote is double.
     Printed: ڔ,
Should be: ڔ.
     Extra space: MARI A MARI,
Should be: MARIA MARI.

The following is probably the most vivid example - as they say: find three differences:

      

Such examples are not just numerous, but each New Imperial Record record ever seen by the Author of this article has some kind of typographical error. One may conclude that these mistakes are the only reason for the rejections! By the way, in order for the whole record to be rejected, it is only sufficient to have a mistake on one side.

The indirect proof of long-term friendship between New Imperial Record and Syrena Record is the fact that there are at least 3 varieties of type-faces of New Imperial Record label name.

It means that there were at least 3 separate orders for stickers, possibly for three different batches of rejected Syrenas.

There are also records found with a removed Syrena Record title and with nothing affixed in its stead. It is possible that the sticker originally was there, but someone removed it later because the remaining trace is slightly pink

The Author imagines the following picture: the printing plant that printed paper labels for Syrena Record hired a new linotypist that happened to be negligent of his duties as well as illiterate in the Russian language. As a result, there were printed a large number of paper labels with different kinds of typos and spelling errors that was instantly used in production. Since the factory was located in Warsaw, the natural language of most of the workers was Polish, so faulty paper labels were not immediately discovered, and by the time they were discovered, a huge number of records were already pressed. What to do with them? It was a pity to recycle them the quality of records was perfect! Also, they had to pay salaries to press operators it was not their fault! However, it was not possible to sell them too that would forever spoil the good Syrena Record reputation to respectable customers. That is why they found a simple and reliable solution to sell the records via a third party Company with mandatory affixing of its own sticker. This way the esprit de corps was saved and income from sales was received. In reality it was not a secret that New Imperial Record records were in fact Syrenas, but the latter was not at risk at all since no one could complain on the quality of records, and the majority of customers did not care about misspellings!

Frankly speaking, I would not be surprised if Syrena itself created the New Imperial Record label and then secretly affixed the stickers regardless of multiple public renounces! In the opinion of many Russian researchers, Syrena Record started as piratical company, so such tricks were not really a novelty for it.

Was it really so? We probably will never know

October, 2008

  1. Warsaw Courier
  2. Grammofonny Mir No. 9 of May, 1 1912
  3. A.Zheleznyj. Our Friend a Record.
  4. Tomasz Lerski. Syrena RecordPoland's first recording company.
  5. A.Tikhonov. The Unknown Centennial War. Part 3. Piracy and theft - the two sides of the same record.
  6. A.Tikhonov. The Record of Syrena

Author thanks Jerzy Adamski (Poland), Jurek Gogacz (Poland), Dmitry Golovko (Mezhdurechensk), Alexey Kochanov (Kazan), Piotr Kaczor (Poland), Earl Okin (England), Otto Striebel (Germany), Alexander Scheglakov (Moscow) for label scans, Steven R. Wright for editing.

 

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Added by:

bernikov | 27.10.2008 02:06 | Last updated by:  bernikov | 15.04.2018 19:18
 
 
Author Comment
xprmental
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xprmental
! , .
  27.10.2008 06:52
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Nahon
Expert
Thank you !
It is a very interesting article !!

Thank you !
  27.10.2008 09:08
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Denis
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Comments: 8
Join Date: 04.04.2010
!
!
  08.04.2010 09:49
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Miszol
Member
Wonderful!
I can see that "Mari a Mari" is an label of recording number 10708.
Interesting, that the same mistake is in " "! (6/1911 page 2).
  20.01.2015 21:00
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Svetoslav
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, ( 2 ( , ) 3). ?
  16.05.2016 22:28
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Rus
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New Imperial Record -
♫♫♫ , , New Imperial Record ♫♫♫


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http://www.russian-records.com/categories.php?cat_id=1012&l=russian
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  20.02.2018 09:53
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bernikov
Admin
Re: New Imperial Record -
, :

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2. , . . , , ؔ ! , , - ! , , , - , - .

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  20.02.2018 20:01
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