K-Tel compilations were the Spotify of the 70s, thanks to a Sask. man

A poor Saskatchewan farm boy would grow up to change the music industry for decades.

During the first half of the 20th century and the Great Depression, Philip Kives grew up in the hamlet of Oungre, Saskatchewan, about 60 kilometers west of Estevan and about 17 kilometers north of the border. with the United States.

Decades later, starting in the 1960s, his label K-Tel popularized the compilation album, also known as comps, by adding as many hits from different artists as possible onto a single disc.

While this new concept of music consumption was a practical pleasure for some, it would actually shape the lives of others in more meaningful ways.

“K-Tel compositions, when I was a kid, me and my older brother and my older sister, I mean, we lived off of those things,” said Joey Cape, lead singer of California punk band Lagwagon.

“I think in a weird way this guy is responsible for a very, very big part of, you know, my life in music.”

From infomercials to compilations

Before K-Tel and its compilation albums affected Cape and the music industry in general, Kives moved from Saskatchewan to Manitoba.

The child of Eastern European immigrants hoped for a better life in Winnipeg.

After working various jobs, Kives tried his luck as a door-to-door salesman, offering pots, pans and other kitchen gadgets.

To better sell these products, he created what is considered to be the first infomercials for television and established K-Tel International in 1962, also known as “The Original As-Seen-On-TV Company”. , according to the K-Tel website. .

Kives, however, wouldn’t stop at the ads.

“The late ’60s and ’70s were an amazing time for K-Tel because they were often alone in the market,” said filmmaker Cam Bennett in 2016, who produced the documentary. As Seen On TV: The K-Tel Story.

“Their compilation albums were kind of the first; they kind of owned that space.”

People could now listen to a variety of genre-specific songs from multiple artists on a single album – operating in the 1970s and 1980s as a precursor to modern music apps such as Spotify.

The company’s first compilation album 25 country hits became a huge success and paved the way for 25 big polka and many more music compilations to follow.

The successful years of the compilation format

Before the internet took over, the decades that followed were a hotbed of compilations.

California punk label Fat Wreck Chords would break new ground with their series of compilations, and Lagwagon became the first band the label ever signed.

“In the early days of punk, there were all kinds of compilation records,” Cape said.

“These are the coolest ways to discover bands…. If you liked that band that was on the demo, you’d buy it, and then all of a sudden there were 12 other bands that you liked.”

LISTEN | The history of the compilation album and its connection to Saskatchewan:

Saskatchewan Weekend10:56The history of the compilation album and its connection to Saskatchewan

CBC’s Taron Cochrane joins Saskatchewan Weekend guest host Tory Gillis to talk about the story of Philip Kives. In the 1970s, Philip introduced something to K-Tel that changed the music industry for decades. 10:56

The affordability of punk compilations has made them even more popular, Cape said.

However, it wasn’t just the punk rock genre that capitalized on the success of compilations in the 1990s.

Canadian music station Much, formerly known as MuchMusic, has had particular success with its series of Big Shiny Tunes compilations.

According to Mark Teo, author of Shine: How a MuchMusic compilation came to define Canadian alternative music and sell a million copies.

“All of these compilations, just like MuchMusic itself, have always had a certain percentage of Canadian artists,” he said.

This was in line with the Canadian Content Requirement, CanCon for short, of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which required broadcasters to produce or air a certain percentage of music with at least some connection to Canada.

“It kind of did what CanCon set out to do, which was to elevate Canadian artists to, you know, a global stage,” Teo added.

Including songs by Canadian musicians on these compilations was like a statement, saying that the artists deserved to be added alongside big international names like Radiohead or the Red Hot Chili Peppers, according to the author.

Changing music listening

The evolution of technology over the years has also changed the music industry and the way people consume songs today.

24/7 music streaming may now be available to online users, but Teo said compilations still serve certain roles in the industry.

“There are many, many different ways and many different publishing platforms that groups can use to get discovered,” he said.

“We don’t necessarily need a compilation anymore to discover new music or regional sounds or labels or whatever, okay. But I still think they have a role. And I see it particularly as far as subgenres are concerned.

Like compilation CDs, K-Tel has not only had years of success.

WATCH | Phil Kives, founder of K-Tel International, dies at 87

Phil Kives, founder of K-Tel International, dies at 87

Winnipeg businessman Phil Kives, who brought you everything from burger patty stackers to music records with his company K-Tel International, died Wednesday. He was 87 years old. 1:46

In 1984 the company filed for bankruptcy, but was revived after Kives convinced the banks to give it a second chance.

The prairie businessman died in 2016 at the age of 87, but K-Tel still operates out of Winnipeg today, holding the music rights and licenses.

“Oscar-winning films like green paperto Emmy-winning shows like [The] Queen’s Gambitto multinational commercials for brands like Versace and Visa, K-Tel songs are the soundtrack to the most viewed properties of our time,” the company said on its website.

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