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MMD > Archives > January 2001 > 2001.01.07 > 04Prev  Next

Pianocorder & Yamaha & QRS
By Bob Baker

In 1986 (or so), the Chicago-based manufacturer of Cobra CB equipment
was looking for its own in-house line of audio equipment.  They
purchased the entire Marantz line.  Along with that purchase came the
Pianocorder Division.  In my conversation with one of their vice
presidents, he explained that they had no interest in keeping the
Pianocorder Division and so sold it to Yamaha.

I believe that there were several reasons for Yamaha's purchase of the
Pianocorder Division.  First, without their ownership of Pianocorder
System patents, Yamaha would have infringed the pulse width modulation
(PWM) patents that belonged to Marantz had they sold their Disklavier
line in the U.S.

Secondly, the Pianocorder System library was a ready treasure-trove of
automatic music that was well-known.  The expensive conversion of paper
music rolls into Pianocorder System format had already been done under
Joseph Tushinsky's stewardship.  Also, more contemporary music had been
live-recorded by a number of accomplished artists.  It was much more
economical for Yamaha to purchase this body of music than to undertake
the extremely expensive proposition of doing it themselves.

Early Disklavier catalogs document that a significant part of their
repertoire came from the Pianocorder System library.  Even the 1999
PianoSoft catalog still has some Pianocorder System-based music in it.

Having helped QRS set up their Pianocorder System cassette tape
duplication system, I can relate that they were given reel-to-reel
copies of Pianocorder System master tapes.  Unfortunately, the original
Pianocorder System high-speed tape duplication system was sold off when
the Chatsworth facility was closed.  To the best of my knowledge, none
of that equipment ever wound up at QRS Music, Inc.

Fortunately for Pianocorder System owners, QRS Music, Inc., continues
to manufacture new Pianocorder System cassettes at their Buffalo, NY
facility under the able stewardship of Robert Berkman, C.O.O.

During one of the two times I personally spoke with Joseph Tushinsky
(at one of the Chicago McCormick Place Summer NAMM Expos), he related
how he used to call Ramsi Tick, then the owner of QRS Music Rolls, to
negotiate Marantz' payment of royalties for all of the QRS Music rolls
that had been converted to the Pianocorder System.

Mr. Tushinsky told me that he would always make it a point, at the
beginning of each such call to Mr. Tick, to inquire "How Mother was."
His inquiry about Mr. Tick's mother's health was designed to curry
favor with Mr. Tick so that he might give Mr. Tushinsky a better
(i.e., lower) royalty rate.

It must have worked because the Pianocorder System library has dozens
of cassettes devoted to QRS Music, with expression added, no less!
With individual Pianocorder System cassettes still selling for about
$15.00 each and providing 10 to 12 complete QRS songs per cassette,
they are a very economical source of great tunes.

In retrospect, Yamaha's purchase of the Pianocorder Systems assets,
including the patents and music library, turned into a very shrewd
investment indeed.  When I took the 1992 Disklavier service seminar at
Yamaha's Buena Park facility, our class was told that Disklavier sales
constitute a very sizeable proportion of Yamaha Music Corporation sales
and income!


Bob Baker - Electric Orchestras, Inc.
Libertyville, IL

(Message sent Mon 8 Jan 2001, 01:21:45 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Pianocorder, QRS, Yamaha

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