Phonograph Monthly Review, Vol. 5, No. 10 (1931-07)

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July 1931, Vol. V, So. 10 289 ( l k\ $ r* X Of course, it is hard to impress an industry which is not much troubled with competition. I mean by that that, according to my estimate, over ninety per cent of all record sales accrue to the benefit of the same world-wide corporate family. It is one of the phenomena of our imperceptibly gradual communi- cation that whether we wish to communicate matters of business, social concerns, news, or plain chatter, via wire or ether; whether we take our entertain- ment from stage, screen or antena; whether we buy radios or tubes, refrigerators or fans, lamps or kilowatt hours—directly or indirectly we pay tribute to a single entity existing primarily for the purpose of profiting. Clearly it is not logical to expect such an entity to exert itself to achievements not thrust upon it by the sheer necessity of protecting its posi- tion in its field. Competition is in fact merely ostensible; not real. I have, after all, to take another poke at old General Public. Old General Public passes blithely through an era of miniature automobiles, miniature radios, miniature golf, ping-pong, tabloids, short pants for men, miniature men’s suits for small boys, short haired women, miniature apartments with miniature kitchens, little blue books, miniature moustachios, cafeteria meals, cheap houses in Queens, and so forth. Over its head pass the forces of time. Its opportunities, if greater, are proportionately fewer. The grade is harder to make. Those who hold power become intrenched. The suit called “government” begins to fit the body of business. The ideal of a good job, has given way to the aim of a profitable one. Business, being the govern- ment, protects the objective of profit by means of the law. Competitive foreign goods that might otherwise force domestic goods to less profitable and more meritorious levels are excluded or taxed to the point of exclusion. The duty on phonograph records is 30% ad valorem and on needles 45% plus 8c per M. By whose request? Few comparatively, of the most touted imported records are imported directly by those who sell them. The major companies seek to control even the trade in the products of their foreign affiliates. The public of a free—let us say— country is effectively deprived of its liberty of choice. I ask again, by whose request? Suppose the I-don’t-know-how-many thousand American readers of this letter memorialized Con- gress and the President to the end that a lower tariff on these goods might be promulgated. Would they not get it? When the Hawley-Smoot tariff was in preparation I begged the Senate Committee on Finance to relax the rates on phonographic goods. My request was politely acknowledged. No action was taken al- though I represented that records were to be treated as artistic, cultural and educational mediums and should be made most easily accessible to all, even if it would cut into the American business in records. Though born here, I do not see any reason in the view that an American has a greater right to sur- vive than a man of any other nationality. The man who has a right to go on is he who gives the best value. Such exclusions, as exist in the city of New York where even civil or mechanical engineers of gas companies can not legally connect or direct the connection of the cooling w T ater line to a gas re- frigerator unless they belong to that most ultra of fraternities, the licensed plumbers—or as would deter even an Edison or a Steinmetz from doing a bit of house wiring unless he were a licensed (and, there- fore, union) electrician, result only in higher prices, imperfect development and indifferent workmanship. Stifled under corporate exigencies, obviously stringent governmental restrictions, public ignorance and apathy, the record is in a bad way here, though not yet hopelessly so. A thing which has such incalculable value, such great merit as the record should not perish for want of fanatic zeal on the part of us who should be its evangelists. By setting the example with the purchase of modern reproduc- ing equipment, by buying records almost to the borders of extravagance, by supporting a little be- yond reason the critical publications, we can bring it back, add to its prestige, induce the improvement of the record. But we must hang on like grim death, and until some better medium of preserving audible performances materializes we must, in our own in- terest, remain loyal to the shellac discs and fight every force, economic, social and commercial, that threatens to deprive us of them. I want to make it clear in closing that I intend no part of this to be construed as denunciatory of any of the institutions involved. This writing is primarily expository in a general sense, and its aim is to dispel the fallacious complacency which seems to have enveloped the—er—“music lovers” during the past year and a half, and has brought the com- mercial side of this highly important work almost to the point of stagnation. Richmond Hill, N. Y. A. J. Franck Pizzetti (from a caricature by Dr. Ricardo M. Aleman)