The South American Connection: Efraín Band’s
Early Record Piracy Operation
The following translated excerpt from Efraín Band y los Inicios de la Fonografía en Chile, by Francisco Garrido Escobar and Renato D. Menare Rowe, exposes an early record-pirating operation in Santiago, Chile.
Band, who was also a legitimate record producer, obtained his pirated masters by electroplating other companies’ commercial pressings. Although the records he pressed from these masters are not known to have been marketed in the United States (where similar operations had been shut down earlier, by court order), they sometimes turn up here, usually to the bafflement of American collectors.
Our thanks to Renato D. Menare Rowe for permission to quote from this fascinating work. Read the complete article.
Efraín Band employed a very simple method of illegally copying other companies’ records. It consisted of electroplating a regular commercial pressing to obtain a negative metal stamper from the disc, which could be used to press numerous shellac copies. While the resulting copies lacked the same quality as the originals, the advantage for Band was that he didn’t need to hire artists, and could sell these records at a much lower price than the imported records from which they were copied. In addition, Bain placed popular selections on each side, rather than coupling a popular selection with another that was not so well known, as the major companies used to do.
Among other examples of discs pirated by Efraín Band, it is worth highlighting Fonotipia Nos. 39046 and 39056, which coupled Charles Gounod’s “Ave Maria” Charles Gounod and “The Holy Book,” respectively, both by Giannina Rus. These appeared on a record which on one side has a World Records label 2805, and on the other corresponds to an Eagle Disc No. 2804, without indication of composers or artists. The fact that this record has both labels allows us to directly connect both labels with the same manufacturer.
Because this activity bordered on the illegal, the artists and composers usually were not shown on the labels, which were limited to indicating the rhythm or nature of the musical piece. It was not unusual that a “Tenor” turned out to be a great baritone, or that a “Tiple” was actually an internationally renowned mezzo-soprano. As can be seen, Band’s phonographic production was not limited to Chilean repertoire, but covered all type of music.
Band left tell-tale original markings clearly visible in his early pirated copies. These examples are from electroplated copies of Victor (top and center) and Gramophone Company (bottom) commercial pressings. In later years, however, he effaced the original markings.
In those years the main commercial house of Efraín Band was located in Calle Estado No. 359. However, the pirated discs were mostly marketed through traveling salespeople, who worked on commission. They toured provincial towns with a briefcase with “the latest news.” As one of those salespeople recalls, “I I sold him a lot of records and he paid me a good commission. I went out for a walk with a special briefcase. Once my briefcase was opened I sold all the records.”
The Águila discs co-existed with another label created by Efraín Band, called Mundial Record. He then created the Mignon label, which was very short-lived. Later, these records were replaced by a new label called Royal Record, which bore a red label with gold lettering and a cat figure.
The Royal Record labels boasted of international awards. The last to appear were Radio-Tone records, whose labels and envelopes claimed they were electrically recorded. Radio-Tone records remained in production for a long period, finally concluding in 1936 with the death of Efraín Band.
On the oldest specimens of these discs, today called “pirates,” it is possible to distinguish in the wax the catalog numbers (and in some cases, even the matrix numbers) of the original recordings, which has allowed us to identify them fully. However, in later productions, like Radio-Tone, these numbers were carefully erased, along with any other evidence that would allow their later identification.
Early Records Pirated by Efraín Band:
A Representative Listing
Compiled by Renato D. Menare Rowe
Editor’s Note: Titles and descriptions are shown verbatim and unedited. All pressings are double-sided, with reverse-side numbers indicated, “Rev.” The records were issued in Chile on the following labels:
AG = Disco Águila
FA = Fonografía Artística
MI = Mignon Record
MU = Mundial Record
Discographical information (catalog and matrix numbers, and recording dates) has been supplemented in some instances with data from Alan Kelly and John R. Bolig.
2802 (FA) Rev.: 2803
Tosca – E lucean le stelle – Tenor con acompañamiento de orquesta.
Enrico Caruso, con orquesta
Victor 87044 (Mx. B-8346) — Nov 6, 1909
2803 (FA) Rev.: 2803
Manon – Il sogno – Tenor con acompañamiento de orquesta.
Enrico Caruso, con piano
Victor 81031 (Mx. B-1001) — Feb 1, 1904
2834 (AG) Rev.: 2835
Rigoletto – Questa o quella – Tenor
Enrico Caruso, ac. Piano
Victor 81025 (Mx. B-994) — Feb 1, 1904
2835 (AG) Rev.: 2834
Rigoletto – La donna è mobile – Tenor
Enrico Caruso, ac. Orquesta
Victor 87017 (Mx. B-6033) — Mar 16, 1908
2839 (MU) Rev.: 2840
Mignon (Thomas) Ah, non credevi tu
Fernando de Lucia
Gramophone 2-52518 (Mx. 8054b) — May 1906
2840 (MU) Rev.: 2839
Mignon (Thomas) La tua bell’alma
Fernando de Lucia
Gramophone 2-52475 (Mx. 7342b) — 1905
2842 (AG) Rev.: 2872
El Guaraní (Gomes) Sento una forza indomita
Giannina Russ – Gino Martínez-Patti.
2844 (AG) Rev.: 2845
Madama Butterfly [Tu, tu piccolo iddio]
Victor 87030 (Mx. B-8270) — Oct 2, 1909
2845 (AG) Rev.: 2844
Cavallería rusticana – Siciliana
Gramophone 53418-XIV (2876b) — Nov 30, 1902
2846 (AG) Rev.: 2848
Cavallería rusticana – Brindis
Gramophone 52193-VII (Victor Mx. B-2344, as A2344) —
Feb 27, 1905
2848 (AG)– Rev.: 2846
Mefistofele – Giunto sul passo
Gramophone 52347-X (Mx. 1787) — Apr 11, 1902
2855 (AG) Rev.: 2870
Aida – Celeste Aida – Tenor
Fonotipia 39695 (Mx. Xph-1985) – 1905
2870 (AG) Rev.: 2855
Fausto – Serenata – Bajo
Tu che fai l’adormentata
Fonotipia 39486 – Feb 23, 1906
2872 (AG) Rev.: 2842
Mefistofele (Boito) – Ave Signor
Nazareno De Angelis.
2920 (MI) Rev.: 2923
Il trovatore – Miserere
2923 (MI) Rev.: 2920
I pescatori di perle – Del tempio al limitar
Caruso y Ancona
Victor 89007 (Mx. C-4327) — Mar 24, 1907
3425 (AG) Rev.: 3424
La Casta Susana – Vals
Banda Rodríguez, Cond Walter B. Rogers
Victor 65326-B — 1913
3439 (AG) Rev.: 3823
Victor Military Band
Victor 17281-A (Mx. B-12854) — Jan 27, 1913
3620 (MU) Rev.: 3622
Vieni sul mar – Tenor – Rep. Italiano – Orquesta.
Enrico Caruso, con orquesta
Victor Mx. B-23139 – Sep 8, 1919
3622 (MU) Rev.: 3620
Manon – Il sogno – Rep. Italiano – Orquesta.
Tito Schipa, con orquesta
Victor Mx. B-26140 – May 2, 1922
3624 (MU) Rev.: 3625
Granadinas – Canción
Victor 66039 (Mx. B-26108) — Feb 3, 1922
3625 (MU) Rev.: 3624
A la Orilla de un Palmar – Canción
Victor 992 (Mx. B-27599) — Mar 12, 1923
3627 (MU) Rev.: 3630
Victor 66102 (Mx. B-26167) — Sep 25, 1922
3630 (MU) Rev.: 3627
Padre nuestro – Tango
Odeon 18078-A (Mx. 1485)
3823 (AG) Rev.: 3439
Paul Whiteman Ambasador [sic] Orch
Victor 18690-A (Mx. B-24393) – Aug 23, 1920
3836 (AG) Rev.: 3837
Apple Blossoms – One step
Joseph C. Smith’s Orchestra
Victor 18646-A (Mx. B-23396) – Dec 26, 1919
3837 (AG) Rev.: 3836
Arrah Goon [sic: Go On] – One step
Victor Military Band
Victor 18082-B (Mx. B-17818) – Jun 8, 1916
3849 (AG) Rev.: 3855
3849 (MU) Rev.: 3855
My Man – Fox trot
Orquesta (Paul Whiteman & his Orchestra)
Victor 18758 (Mx. B-25028) – Apr 4, 1921
3855 (MU) Rev.: 3849
Cuentos de Hoffmann
Orquesta Rep. Dancing. Solo de violín
Victor — 1916
Renato D. Menare Rowe is a genealogist and a researcher and collector of historical recordings living in Santiago, Chile.
Francisco J. Garrido Escobar is an archaeologist and graduate in social anthropology (Universidad de Chile) and curatorial advisor of the Museum of Science and Science and Technology of Santiago.