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1909 __ Tel-musici Company — « Distributing Music over Telephone Lines »
Comment : The first Tel-musici site, in Wilmington, Delaware, apparently was also the only one ever to go into operation. In April, 1912, Telephony magazine reported that the Wilmington facility was still operating, but there is no evidence that the plans to set up additional systems nationwide were ever realized. (Thomas H. White, “Articles and extracts about early radio and related technologies, concentrating on the United States in the period from 1897 to 1927”)
French comment : Alors que les maisons de disques cherchent à établir un modèle viable de distribution légale de la musique en ligne, on découvre que la musique à la demande passant par les réseaux est un concept né il y a près de cent ans. Cet article, daté du 18 décembre 1909 et titré "Distributing music over telephone lines", est consacré à Tel-Musici, une entreprise basée à Wilmington, dans le Delaware. Celle-ci avait mis en place un système qui permettait à ses abonnés, moyennant l'installation d'un dispositif dédié dans leur salon, d'écouter de la musique à la demande grâce au téléphone. “Chaque abonné reçoit un catalogue lui donnant le nom et le numéro des disques disponibles, et le numéro du service musical", explique l'article. "Lorsqu'il désire animer une soirée entre amis, l'abonné appelle le service musique, demande le numéro du disque qu'il désire entendre et met son mégaphone en position". Ce service était facturé 3 cents pour chaque morceau "ordinaire" et 7 pour de l'opéra. L'abonnement exigeait qu'au moins 18$ de musique soit acheté chaque année. Le projet, ambitieux, devait être montré dans de nombreux salons et être étendu à tous les Etats-Unis. L'article ne raconte pas comment il a périclité. Mais ses créateurs seraient fiers de voir leur invention déchaîner les passions 94 ans plus tard. (“Musique en ligne - Napster existait… en 1909”, publié le 10/11/2003, sur le site de TF1)
Original excerpt : « Wilmington, Delaware, is enjoying a novel service through the telephone exchange. Phonograph music is supplied over the wires to those subscribers who sign up for the service. Attached to the wall near the telephone is a box containing a special receiver, adapted to throw out a large volume of sound into the room. A megaphone may be attached whenever service is to be given. The box is attached to the line wires by a bridged tap from the line circuit. When plugged up to a phonograph the subscriber's line is automatically made busy on the automatic switches with which the Wilmington exchange is equipped. Several lines can be connected to the same machine at the same time, if more than one happens to call for the same selection. Each musical subscriber is supplied with a special directory giving names and numbers of records, and the call number of the music department. When it is desired to entertain a party of friends, the user calls the music department and requests that a certain number be played. He releases and proceeds to fix the megaphone in position. At the same time the music operator plugs up a free phonograph to his line, slips on the record and starts the machine. At the conclusion of the piece the connection is pulled down, unless more performances have been requested. The rate of charge for this service is very reasonable. It is three cents, for each ordinary piece, and seven cents for grand opera. The subscriber must guarantee $18 per year. This proposition, which, has taken some years of time and patient study to develop, appears to have at last been brought to the point where it can now be employed for practical purposes by telephone companies generally. The more important features of this proposition are briefly stated as follows: At the central telephone office is kept a supply of phonographic records, embracing a complete line of all the latest productions. By turning a switch, operators can throw any subscriber who may call for music over onto the music board which is divided in two sections--one for a general program, the other for special selections, the latter coming a little higher. A subscriber, who merely calls for "music," is thrown onto the general board, where the regular program for the week or month is furnished. In addition to this, pay stations are installed in restaurants, cafes, hotels and other public places, where selections can be obtained by depositing a coin in the box. It must not be imagined from the superficial description of this proposition herewith, that this service is merely a reproduction of phonographic records. The apparatus perfected by the Tel-musici Company not only greatly intensifies and enlarges the volume of sound of all phonographic records but eliminates the metallic, rasping and grating features which have heretofore constituted an objectionable feature of phonographic concerts. As a matter of fact, the music, as reproduced over telephone lines by means of the Tel-musici apparatus, possesses a sweetness and an almost-human quality not hitherto to be found in any kind of mechanical music. Much of the success of the system is due to the unique and remarkable loud speaking transmitter developed by Mr. Comer. Another feature of the Tel-musici service, which will be appreciated as a strong point in its favor, is the fact that the cost of the original installation is very low and that the special receiver and horn attached to it can be mounted in any room however remote from the telephone itself, thus enabling the subscriber to place it where it will be least conspicuous and in the way. It will also be appreciated that another point which appeals strongly to prospective subscribers is the fact that no initial expense is necessary on his part and that all he has to do in order to have the most entertaining of music, while at the same time without venturing out into cold or inclement weather, is to merely step to his telephone and notify the central office. It is reported that the Tel-musici Company is preparing for thorough campaign to introduce its system among the telephone companies of the United States and that it will very soon establish a Chicago agency to co-operate with its Eastern offices in the placing of its musical and other apparatus properly before the public. » (George R. Webb)
Source : Webb, George R. (1909), “Distributing Music over Telephone Lines”, Telephony, December 18, 1909, pages 699-701.
Urls : http://earlyradiohistory.us/1909musi.htm (last visited ) http://earlyradiohistory.us/sec003.htm (last visited ) http://tf1.lci.fr/infos/high-tech/2003/0,,1455398,00-napster-existait-1909-.html (last visited )

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