Ranking Edison’s 40 Best-Selling Artists of 1906 – 1908
Compiled by Allan Sutton
from the Edison Dealers’ Order Sheets
(From the Raymond R. Wile Research Library)
The following artists were the top sellers on new releases made during the height of the Gold Moulded cylinder’s popularity, based upon the initial dealer-order reports of 1906 through mid-1908. The leading sellers of the period, by far, were Ada Jones (who captured the top three spots), Len Spencer, and Billy Murray. It’s interesting to note that Murray as a soloist ranked only #12, followed by Spencer at #13; but paired with Jones, they ranked in the top two spots.
(1) The figures are only for initial dealer orders. Some of these records remained in the catalog for long periods, and final total sales figures have not survived, nor have statistics for dealer returns or scrapped copies. However, most sales to dealers occurred in advance of, or immediately following, the initial release date.
(2) The list covers only artists on new releases of the period. Some top-selling artists, like Cal Stewart, do not appear here because Edison did not issue any new records by them during this period, although many of their earlier releases were still in the catalog. Several other very popular artists, including Billy Golden and Murry K. Hill, are not represented because they made so few Edison recordings during this period that the sample size is too small to establish a reliable ranking. Both made the top-seller list (along with Stewart) during the Amberol and early Blue Amberol periods, which will be covered in a future post.
(3) There is strong evidence to suggest that many record buyers of the period were more interested in a given song than in the artist who recorded it. Artists who made a weak showing might have done so, at least to some degree, because they were assigned less-popular material. Conversely, some artists’ rankings might be inflated because they were consistently assigned current hit tunes.
The poorest-selling artists of the period? Those on the Edison Grand Opera cylinders, with average initial orders in the 1,100–1,250 range.
|Artist(s)||Average Initial Order|
|1||Ada Jones & Len Spencer||44,076|
|2||Ada Jones & Billy Murray||42,261|
|3||Ada Jones (solo; see also #1 and #2)
|4||Edison Vaudeville / Minstrel Company||38,767|
|5||Frank C. Stanley & Byron G. Harlan||38,186|
|6||Arthur Collins & Byron G. Harlan||37,957|
|8||John J. Kimmel, as “John Kimmble”||36,944|
|11||Haydn Quartet, as “Edison Male Quartet”||35,095|
|12||Billy Murray (solo; see also #2)||34,794|
|13||Len Spencer (solo; see also #1)||34,494|
|14||Frederick H. Potter||34,306|
|17||John Young & Frederick J. Wheeler, as “Anthony & Harrison”||33,389|
|18||S. H. Dudley||33,223|
|19||Byron G. Harlan (solo; see also #5 and #6)||33,161|
|21||Vess L. Ossman||32,761|
|23||Arthur Collins (solo; see also #6)||32,346|
|25||Edward M. Favor||32,048|
|27||Will F. Denny||31,537|
|32||Edison studio bands / orchestras||29,865|
|33||Henry Burr, as “Irving Gillette”||29,078|
|34||J. W. Myers||28,259|
|36||Will H. Thompson||28,147|
|37||Frank C. Stanley (solo; see also #5)||27,854|
|39||John Young, as “Harry Anthony” (solo; see also #17)||27,178|
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