The first Tel-musici site, in Wilmington, Delaware, apparently was also the only one ever to go into operation. In April, 1912, Telephony magazine reported that the Wilmington facility was still operating, but there is no evidence that the plans to set up additional systems nationwide were ever realized. This article, however, mentions plans to develop the concept in Chicago, and four years later, Tel-Musici's General Manager, John J. Comer, now affiliated with the Automatic Electric Company, would briefly establish a similarly designed Musolaphone service.
Telephony, December 18, 1909, pages 699-701:
Distributing Music Over Telephone Lines
Wilmington, Delaware, is enjoying a novel service through the telephone exchange. Phonograph music is supplied over the wires to those subscribers who sign up for the service. Attached to the wall near the telephone is a box containing a special receiver, adapted to throw out a large volume of sound into the room. A megaphone may be attached whenever service is to be given. The box is attached to the line wires by a bridged tap from the line circuit. At the central office, the lines of musical subscribers are tapped to a manual board attended by an operator. A number of phonographs are available, and a representative assortment of records kept on hand.
When plugged up to a phonograph the subscriber's line is automatically made busy on the automatic switches with which the Wilmington exchange is equipped. Several lines can be connected to the same machine at the same time, if more than one happens to call for the same selection.
Each musical subscriber is supplied with a special directory giving names and numbers of records, and the call number of the music department. When it is desired to entertain a party of friends, the user calls the music department and requests that a certain number be played. He releases and proceeds to fix the megaphone in position. At the same time the music operator plugs up a free phonograph to his line, slips on the record and starts the machine. At the conclusion of the piece the connection is pulled down, unless more performances have been requested.
The rate of charge for this service is very reasonable. It is three cents, for each ordinary piece, and seven cents for grand opera. The subscriber must guarantee $18 per year.
In most cases the actual amount of music used makes that revenue greater than the regular telephone rent.
The working of the system attracted much attention at the International convention in Chicago last week, where it was exhibited by the Tel-musici Company, which has its headquarters in the Hoen Bldg., Baltimore, Md. Mr. Geo. R. Webb is president of the company, and Mr. J. J. Comer the general manager, had a very fine working exhibit in the Auditorium Annex.
This proposition, which, has taken some years of time and patient study to develop, appears to have at last been brought to the point where it can now be employed for practical purposes by telephone companies generally. The more important features of this proposition are briefly stated as follows:
At the central telephone office is kept a supply of phonographic records, embracing a complete line of all the latest productions.
By turning a switch, operators can throw any subscriber who may call for music over onto the music board which is divided in two sections--one for a general program, the other for special selections, the latter coming a little higher. A subscriber, who merely calls for "music," is thrown onto the general board, where the regular program for the week or month is furnished.
In addition to this, pay stations are installed in restaurants, cafes, hotels and other public places, where selections can be obtained by depositing a coin in the box.
At Wilmington, Del., where this proposition has been carefully developed, under the supervision of Webb and Comer, there are now eighty residence subscribers taking this musical service regularly, while something like forty pay stations are installed. During the past year, there has been a gain in the patronage of the musical service, without the loss of a single subscriber.
The returns from residence stations run from fifteen to twenty cents per day, while pay stations have averaged as high as $10 in a week. On the whole, it has been estimated by its introducers that the service will pay local telephone companies from thirty to thirty-five per cent on their investment.
In addition, to the direct returns it is believed the musical feature tends strongly to popularize the service of those companies, which furnish it to their subscribers. For instance, in the various localities of the United States where there are competitive telephone companies, it is claimed that the company which provides its patrons with the Tel-musici feature will not only be the one which will have a good paying by-product, not enjoyed by the other company, but will have a very strong inducement to offer for securing new subscribers, as well as holding old ones.
It must not be imagined from the superficial description of this proposition herewith, that this service is merely a reproduction of phonographic records. The apparatus perfected by the Tel-musici Company not only greatly intensifies and enlarges the volume of sound of all phonographic records but eliminates the metallic, rasping and grating features which have heretofore constituted an objectionable feature of phonographic concerts. As a matter of fact, the music, as reproduced over telephone lines by means of the Tel-musici apparatus, possesses a sweetness and an almost-human quality not hitherto to be found in any kind of mechanical music.
Much of the success of the system is due to the unique and remarkable loud speaking transmitter developed by Mr. Comer. Another feature of the Tel-musici service, which will be appreciated as a strong point in its favor, is the fact that the cost of the original installation is very low and that the special receiver and horn attached to it can be mounted in any room however remote from the telephone itself, thus enabling the subscriber to place it where it will be least conspicuous and in the way. It will also be appreciated that another point which appeals strongly to prospective subscribers is the fact that no initial expense is necessary on his part and that all he has to do in order to have the most entertaining of music, while at the same time without venturing out into cold or inclement weather, is to merely step to his telephone and notify the central office.
It is reported that the Tel-musici Company is preparing for thorough campaign to introduce its system among the telephone companies of the United States and that it will very soon establish a Chicago agency to co-operate with its Eastern offices in the placing of its musical and other apparatus properly before the public.