Sunday, September 10, 2023

K-TEL Archeology

K-Tel is still in business today. But their music footprint is mostly limited to licensing songs for film and television now. Not that they were always in the business of cheap comps. K-Tel was selling Teflon pans back in 1962. Their first compilation album didn't come until 1966. That gem was a collection of 25 country songs entitled "25 Country Hits".  I should point out that at that time, compilation albums were still a brand new thing. Prior to about 1952 all commercial releases were singles, 78s, 45s and even cylinders.  (I am going to collate a post on that topic at come point.) 

But that chintzy comp sold 180,00 copies back in. That proved the market viable and opened up the floodgates to a river of drivel. I like most audio enthusiasts mostly disdain most various artists comps, especially "hits" comps. But Phillip Kives was able to license those singles for pennies, so he was raking in the cash. The record labels were all-in as well, to them it was just a new way to monetize their dusty back catalogs.

Anyway, the compilations let to K-Tel amassing the rights to a whole library of songs they eventually licensed to Apple. They're mostly out of the comp business but if you check discogs, [LINK] you can see that they've mostly left the physical media market, but not entirely. 2023 has been mostly kids compilations released in AAC on iTunes. But even last year there were still single artist, "hits" comps Percy Sledge, Chubby Checker, Sam & Dave, The Surfaris... etc all digital of course. The last CD comps were some 2xCD techno comps in 2017.

That back story makes this K-Tel catalog an interesting artifact. K-Tel sold their comps on bad TV adverts at night, but they also spent a lot of their music marketing at Point-of-sale locations. You probably saw them at truck stops, and car washes back in the 1970s and 1980s. That's very consistent with printing a tiny catalog right on the J-card of the cassette, something I haven't seen in decades.


  1. ValdVin10:51 PM

    I'm obliged to leave this SCTV link: