Odeon Records

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Odeon Records was a record label founded in 1903 by Max Straus and Heinrich Zuntz of the International Talking Machine Company in Berlin, Germany.[1] It was named after a famous theatre in Paris, whose classical dome appears on the Odeon record label.


Straus and Zuntz bought from Carl Lindström the company that he had founded in 1897. They transformed the Lindström enterprise into a public company, the Carl Lindström A.G. and purchased in 1903 among many other record companies Fonotipia Records including their Odeon-Werke International Talking Machine Co. m. b. H.[2]

In 1904 Odeon launched the first double-sided gramophone records. The American Record Company began doing pressings of 10¾-inch blue-shellac discs for Odeon to export to Europe in 1905 or 1906, all double-sided.[1] In 1909 it created the first recording of a large orchestral work — and what may have been the first record album — when it released a 4-disk set of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite with Hermann Finck conducting the London Palace Orchestra.[3]

On January 30, 1904,[4] Odeon became a part of the Carl Lindström Company, which also owned Beka Records, Parlophone and Fonotipia, Lyrophon, Homophon and other labels. Lindström was acquired by the English Columbia Graphophone Company in 1926. In 1931 Columbia merged with Electrola, HMV and other labels to form EMI.

The Berlin Odeon plant recorded, processed and exported records to many countries. There were extensive national catalogs for some of these countries: Greece, Scandinavian countries, India, all of Arabia, Netherlands, Estonia, Portugal, South and Central America, Rumania, Turkey, Hungary, China, Dutch East Indies, Siam, the Balkan countries etc. In the 1920s and 1930s about 70% of the German Odeon production was exported.[5] Some Odeon recordings were leased to the American Okeh Records for distribution in the United States.

In 1936 the director of the Odeon branch was forced to retire and replaced by Dr. Kepler, a Nazi party member. In 1939 Odeon and Electrola were placed under a Nazi-appointed administrator. The huge Odeon factory on Schlesische Strasse in Berlin-Kreuzberg was completely destroyed by 8th U.S. Air Force bombs in the February 1945 air raids.

After 1945 Odeon continued to be used, in the United Kingdom, as a label for pressings made for West Africa. In Spain, Argentina and Brazil the label survived as an EMI subsidiary until the end of the LP era, mid 1980s, when it finally disappeared altogether. After World War II, Odeon in West Germany reissued many pre-war recordings, issued newly recorded German music on this label, as well as imported recordings.

Most official Beatles releases, including solo, appeared on Odeon in many non-Anglophone markets like West Germany, Japan, Spain, Scandinavia, South America, and France, some of which were slow to recognise Apple Records until up to 1971 (or Parlophone), then switched back to Odeon by 1976.

Direct EMI-HMV exports to the United States, where the His Master's Voice label was owned by RCA Victor Records, bore pasted-over Odeon stickers. This was also done with albums on EMI's Columbia when sold in North America where CBS Records had rights to the name.

EMI's Argentinian branch still traded as EMI Odeon SAIC until Universal Music Group bought EMI.

Odeon in the United States[edit]

In 1919, the Columbia Records subsidiary, OKeh Records, began issuing foreign recordings in the United States on the Odeon label.[6]

In 1929, OKeh started a new ONY-series, first using selected standard OKeh releases and then starting the ONY-36000 series. These releases are quite scarce and no consensus has been reached as for whom they were made. (Some have suggested that these ONY Odeons as well as PNY Parlophones may have been produced for US possessions and offshore military bases, since about half of the records in these series were specially recorded non-vocal takes.)

OKeh continued producing Odeons through 1931.

Odeon in India[edit]

Odeon recorded and issued over 2700 titles of Indian music from the period 1900-1940.[7] [8]

Odeon's shellac record issues were in two phases: (1) 1912-1916, and (2) 1932-38.[8] During the first phase their engineers visited many cities to record the diverse regional music of India, and after production in Berlin shipped records back to India.[8] The company was based in Mumbai and Madras during the second phase. However the outbreak of World War II, and the subsequent trade embargoes, meant that the company had to wind-up its operations in India.[8]

The company's output included "drama songs, speeches, folk music, classical music, drama sets, skits and plays, vocal and instrumental music".[8] It has been estimated that about 600 titles have survived in private collections.[7] The British Museum have digitised some of these records which are free in an online archive.[8][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Sutton, Allan (1999). "Odeon in America". Mainspring Press. Retrieved 3 April 2010. 
  2. ^ Alfred Gutmann: 25 Jahre Lindström 1904 - 1929. Berlin 1929, p.12
  3. ^ Peyser, Joan (2006). The orchestra: a collection of 23 essays on its origins and transformations. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 42. 
  4. ^ 25 Jahre Lindström, p.12
  5. ^ 25 Jahre Lindström, pp 75-119
  6. ^ Spottswood, Richard K. (1990). Ethnic Music on Records Volume 1: Western Europe. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. p. xxix. ISBN 0-252-01719-6. 
  7. ^ a b c "Odeon record label recordings from the Indian subcontinent". The British Library. The British Library. Retrieved 8 May 2016. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f Newitz, Annalee (7 May 2016). "These rare Indian records survived over a century and are now online". Ars Technica. Retrieved 8 May 2016. 

External links[edit]