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Traveling Entrepreneurs, Traveling Sounds: The Early Gramophone Business in India and China

  • Christina Lubinski and Andreas Steen
Abstract

During the first global economy, roughly from Western industrialization to World War I, the gramophone, much like other consumer goods, circulated relatively freely around the world. This paper compares the market in India and China asking how gramophone companies established themselves there and focuses on the interaction between Western businesspeople and local partners. The article first shows how agents started exploring strategies for “localizing” music and, second, how in both countries their interaction with local partners was first shaped by curiosity and commercial interest, and later by traditionalism and nationalism, the latter of which paradoxically both inhibited and enabled Western business. Based on diaries, corporate files, trade journals, and consular reports, the paper shows that the highly localized and politicized demand for music made access to local knowledge a crucial competitive advantage.

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Corresponding author
E-mail: cl.mpp@cbs.dk, ostas@cas.au.dk
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Christina Lubinski is associate professor at the Centre for Business History at Copenhagen Business School. Her main research interest is the history of foreign business in India. Her article “Global Trade and Indian Politics: The German Dye Business in India before 1947” (Business History Review) received the Henrietta Larson Article Award in 2016. Andreas Steen is associate professor of Modern Chinese History and Culture at Aarhus University, Denmark. He studied Sinology, English Philology, and Modern Chinese Literature at the Free University of Berlin and Fudan University, Shanghai. His current fields of interest and research concentrate on modern Chinese history and popular culture, in particular popular music, the cultural industries, sound, and memory studies.

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References
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Unpublished primary sources
EMI Group Archive Trust Hayes, UK (EMI), Courtesy of EMI Group Archive Trust.
Federal Archives Germany [Bundesarchiv] Berlin, Germany.
Siemens Archiv-Akte [Siemens Corporate Archives] (SAA), Munich, Germany.
Thomas Edison Papers, Rutgers University, US, Available online: http://edison.rutgers.edu.
Published primary sources
Record catalogues, British Library Collection (http://sounds.bl.uk/sound-recording-history/early-record-catalogues).
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Germany: Zeitschrift für Instrumentenbau, Phonographische Zeitschrift, Die Sprechmaschine
US: Talking Machine World
UK: Talking Machine News, The Voice
Advertisements:
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Itinerario
  • ISSN: 0165-1153
  • EISSN: 2041-2827
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