Sunday, November 08, 2009


Another Victim of the Recession: Player Piano Rolls

After last week's post, I belatedly came across this extraordinary story: player piano rolls were still being manufactured in Buffalo, NY for the old instruments, right up until last year. (!)

Until Thursday, QRS was the only continuously operating mass producer of piano rolls in the world. The only other company, in Australia, stopped earlier this decade. Sales dropped about 80 percent from 15 years ago to around 50,000 annually, Berkman estimated...

Berkman said reassembling the piano roll factory elsewhere will be difficult.

One machine dates back to the 1880s when it was used to make shoes, and for the past 100 years has made the tabs with brass eyelets used to hook the roll into a piano. There are also aging machines to perforate and punch the holes, to cut the stencils to print the lyrics, to spool the rolls and to glue the roll boxes together.

“There are so many facets of it. The perforating machines are old and cantankerous, and they’re one star in a constellation of machines that all have to be functioning,” Berkman said.

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