For the 60th anniversary of the Melodiya record label

The history of the record label Melodiya begins on April 23, 1964, when the USSR Council of Ministers issued a decree that placed recording studios and record factories under the jurisdiction of the Ministry for Culture. In turn, the Ministry for Culture founded the All-Union Melodiya gramophone record company by a decree of May 11, 1964.

As the successor of the All-Union Recording Studio, Melodiya was the only recording company in the country until the collapse of the USSR. The Melodiya recording studios were located in Moscow, Leningrad, Riga, Tallinn, Vilnius and many other cities. Melodiya stores were in every republic of the Soviet Union. Melodiya company reflected the sound history of the past century in all the diversity of genres (from light music to classics, from folklore to the work of composers of all republics that were part of the former USSR), brought together masterpieces of world music art performed by the prominent Soviet musicians, ensembles, orchestras, musical theatres.

The Melodiya trademark on the envelope of a gramophone record was as recognizable as the State quality mark of the USSR and the logo of the Moscow Olympics. No wonder: Melodiya records, be they Soviet songs, children's fairy tales, "melodies and rhythms of foreign pop music" or concerts of Rachmaninoff, were played in almost every home.

The production of gramophone records was mainly based on phonograms recorded at the All-Union Recording Studio and other studios of the company. The All-Union Recording Studio became the central studio of Melodiya company, determining recording plans, selecting repertoire and performers. The All-Union Recording Studio exclusively produced standards of records on special disks and nickel originals of gramophone records for all factories in the country, arranged and published catalogues of gramophone records, liner notes and quarterly basis reports on release of new records. Melodiya produced mignon, super mignon (shellac), grand (including shellac), and giant format gramophone records. Some formats were available in colour (mignons, grands and giants) and flexible (mignons and giants). Record playing speed: 78 rpm (super minions, grands), 33 rpm (all formats) and 45 rpm (mignons, grands). Some matrices were provided for printing under the labels of other organizations: "Bureau of Propaganda of Soviet Cinema Art”, “All-Union Theatrical Society”, Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga*, Intourist. Export gramophone records were issued with Latin inscriptions, designed, as a rule, differed from that of gramophone records for the domestic market.

The company recordings, exported to more than 90 countries, received worldwide recognition and were repeatedly recognized with prizes and international awards, and were released by well-known foreign companies. One of Melodiya most important projects of the Soviet period was the Anthology of Russian Symphonic Music. It took more than 25 years to complete. Hundreds of hours of Russian music composed for a century and a half – including not only internationally recognized masterpieces by Mikhail Glinka, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Alexander Borodin, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Modest Mussorgsky, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Alexander Scriabin and Igor Stravinsky, but also recording of all orchestral works by Alexander Dargomyzhsky, Mily Balakirev, Alexander Glazunov, Sergei Taneyev, Anatoly Lyadov.

Melodiya published the magazine, designed and printed its own records. The mission of the Melodiya management was educational, which explains its editorial policy: the part of records with new music was only 5% of the total volume, while the remaining 95% were released in huge circulations of non-commercial music, radio plays, children's and educational publications.

Melodiya had a monopoly on all legal music sales from the mid-1960s until the collapse of the USSR in 1991. It was one of the largest companies in the world in terms of sales with 100-200 million records send annually in the 1970's and 1980's to the country's stores.

Naturally, the only way for foreign artists to sell their music in the USSR was through the Melodiya company. The reasons for the small number of releases of contemporary Western music were censorship and very expensive licensing. The Soviet Union signed a convention on copyright only in 1973.

In 1991, Melodiya ceased to be a dominant company. The factories that were part of it became independent enterprises, and later ceased to exist altogether: the era of cassettes, CDs and market piracy continued. The legendary Aprelevka record plant, which released its last record in 1997, lasted the longest. On February 7, 2020, the company Formax LLC bought 100% of shares of Melodiya JSC from the Federal Property Management Agency at an auction.

Melodiya was undoubtedly the most interesting phenomenon of the Soviet era, despite all the contradictory moments of its history, its monopoly abuse, and its ideological attitude system. Before the collapse of the USSR, Melodiya was for many years the monopolist in the production of gramophone records in the country. Representing Russian art at home and abroad, in all continents, Melodiya has become the custodian of the national musical heritage created by many generations.

We present our new musical selection with digitized records of gramophone records released by the Melodiya record label in different years of its existence.