Bertelsmann Schallplattenring

“Good music to accompany good books” – in 1955, a good year before the founding of the Bertelsmann Schallplattenring, Bertelsmann Lesering adds the first records to its range. Through its mail-order company Heim und Buch, Lesering members can purchase records at a discounted price from an as-yet modest selection. Meanwhile, preparations for the Bertelsmann Schallplattenring, which officially launches on July 1, 1956, are underway in the background. The new music club initially encounters resistance from the major German record companies, which refuse to grant licenses for their recordings. The record factories are usually tied to these companies, so that the Schallplattenring is forced to resort to smaller factories for the production of records as well. In the long run, they cannot able to meet the club's growing needs – so in 1958, Bertelsmann founds its own record company, Ariola Schallplatten GmbH, which takes over the previous Schallplattenring productions and enters into its artist contracts. It works with the Sonopress record factory, which opens in the same year. Ariola also successfully sells its productions through regular retailers and celebrates its first No. 1 hit in 1959: Dalida’s “Am Tag als der Regen kam.” Bertelsmann's music business picks up speed – as its membership numbers rise, the music club becomes interesting for the music industry, too. In 1959, Bertelsmann Schallplattenring signs a long-term licensing contract with Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft. The other major record companies soon follow suit, so that from the mid-1960s all the major labels are represented in club’s range. The attractive music program pushes membership past the million mark. In the 1970s, the Bertelsmann Clubs, with their 4 million members, are among the highest-revenue players in the German music business. In 1981, the programs of the three Bertelsmann clubs – Lesering, Schallplattenring, and Europaring – are combined into a single catalog and continued under the joint Bertelsmann Club brand. Compact Discs are available through the Club since 1985. Here, too, they gain popularity and become the preferred recording medium for club members at the end of the 1980s. Due to decreasing demand, the Bertelsmann Club finally stops selling records in the third quarter of 1992.

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