Friday, October 07, 2011

"Decca" v. "London" in music provides a trademark story; Amazon changed everything

If you want to read a good trademark story, look up the history of Decca Records in Wikipedia, as well as London Records (both labels are easy to find with searches). 

In the United States, the Decca name was sold off as a separate company, so for years British Decca sold classical music in the US on the London Label, which usually had a “red seal”.  In the 1960s, many audiophiles considered London the most consistent label as to high quality of manufacturing in the US (the best competition was Columbia, then belonging to CBS).  Decca was sometimes used to press Deutsch Grammophone recordings, but sometimes had inferior pressing quality (as I found out with a Furtwangler Schubert 9th, and a Decca Bruckner Fifth).  That was not good for the Decca “brand” but in the 1960s news spread more slowly. Audiophiles then paid more for imported “DGG’s”.

When CD’s came into vogue in the 1980s, Polygram pressed CD’s for DG, London and Philips with the same facility.

Now, it seems, British Decca is sold directly through Amazon as if it were equivalent to "London", was with a recent recording of music of Nico Muhly (my "drama" blog Oct. 4).  Both London and Decca use the same-look "trade dress".  The presence of e-commerce (especially Amazon) has made old arrangements to use brands differently across the Pond infeasable. 

Branding was important in the 1960s in another sense in the way classical records were sold. Stores had “reputations” based on the discounts they offered, which were considerable in places like Record Sales in downtown DC (in days when mono records listed at $4.98).  Other stores (like the Disc Shop on Dupont Circle)  branded themselves around quality, offering pre-listening in the store but few discounts.  In those days, collectors took manufacturing and retail care seriously.

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