Written by our Staff Editor

It seems that old 78s are becoming big business all over again…

The New Yorker Magazine recently featured an article on the growing popularity of old 78rpm recordings available for sale online.

Alex Cross; music critic; for the New Yorker Magazine noted:

The other day, with a few clicks on my computer keyboard, I travelled in time to 1943. On November 28th of that year, Arturo Toscanini led the NBC Symphony in orchestral excerpts from the Wagner operas. A remastering of the performance is available from the Web site Pristine Classical, which offers historic recordings in various downloadable formats. I selected a CD-quality version, paid with a credit card, and within minutes had gone into the golden age of radio.

He argues that the internet has made listening and appreciating 78s; and in particular, remastered 78s; popular again. Listeners can download 78rpm recordings that match or exceed CD quality and can have them made available instantly. Most websites offering 78 rpm sound files, nearly always sell them in a remastered format – often free from unnecessary surface noise.

He argues:

For a century or so, the life of a home listener was simple: you had your disks, whether in the form of cylinders, 78s, LPs, or CDs, and, no matter how many of them piled up, there was a clear demarcation between the music that you had and the music that you didn’t. The Internet has removed that distinction.

The internet has made it possible for small companies devoted to reissuing early 78rpm recordings to thrive in an industry where the giants dominate but are significantly shrinking.

Take the following companies as proof of this resurgence:

  1. Pristine Audio
  2. Legendary Treasures
  3. Mainly Opera
  4. Norbeck, Peters; Ford
  5. Dutton Vocalion
  6. Marston Records
  7. Beulah

Additionally, it appears that as the copyright for many of these recordings expire; (many countries have a 50 year rule for sound recordings); many are now being cataloged on large internet repositories (such as archive.org and charm.co.uk). These recordings can then be streamed live or downloaded for later listening using an mp3 device or computer.

At the heart of this renewal of interest in old sound recordings, is the internet, which is changing the models of distribution and access to this vast repository of material. While larger record labels sit on vast repositories of old recordings; and fail to release few titles, if any; other smaller companies are filling this void using the copyright loophole.

The mid-range label, Naxos Historical was one of the first labels to exploit this loophole. At the heart of this renewal of interest in old sound recordings, the internet is changing the models of distribution and access to this material. with many of their historical reissues – available in countries featuring the 50 year rule on sound recordings – such as the U.K., Canada and Australia.

Coupled with new, worldwide, 24 hour available internet markets and audiences, and the simplicity of accessing and downloading materials from anywhere, many of these smaller music labels are finding profitable niches with new customers and interest groups.

Other Sites To Explore (Opens New Windows)


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