Monday, November 28, 2011

Korg "Where's the portamento?" ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1978

Korg "Where's the portamento?" 1-page advertisement from page 25 in Contemporary Keyboard March 1978.

Happy Movember, people!   :)

Do you know hard it was to try and line up this ad featuring Kerry Livgren of Kansas sportin' a kick-ass 'stache so it would  fall on the last blog post in November?   Best thing about that moustache? It has aged like good wine!

When this ad appeared in the March '78 issue of CK, across the pond, UK readers were opening up their March issue of International Musician to find that two-page "Seven hundred and fifty words..." ad I had just blogged about. Although the two appeared at approximately the same time, they couldn't have been more different from each other.

While Korg/Rose-Morris/Hohner were trying a little too desperately to take on the role of "expert" by using valuable advertising space to "educate" UK readers on the basics of sound, Korg/Unicord featured well-known musician Kerry Livgren to help promote Korg synthesizers in the US.

The largest of three photos in that 2-page UK ad? A kid playing a penny whistle. Meanwhile the US ad featured - unsurprisingly - a large photo of Kery Livgren playing a Korg PLS-series synthesizer that also featured a large KORG logo strategically placed in the centre of the instrument in the photo.

Do I need to go on? Needless to say, I'd bet that US ad was probably a lot more effective at both getting readers attention and keeping it.

To be fair - that UK ad was trying to push a lot more instruments in the two-page spread. The 1-page US ad was focusing mostly on Korg's Professional Laboratory Systems (PLS) line of synthesizers. Although, interestingly, the actual models of these synthesizers - the 3300 and 3100 (and possibly the 3200) - are not mentioned directly.

Mistake or not - this wasn't the first kick at the can to get the actual names of the synths in a PLS ad. The first Korg PLS ad that started to appear in CK in October 1977  also didn't mention the synth model numbers.

I find that odd - but, then again, the March UK ad doesn't mention the PLS synthesizers at all. Nothing. 

This ad also introduced US reader to the new Micro-Preset synthesizer by Korg - and mentioned that at the time there were 10 products in the Korg product line. My guess is these would include the Maxi-Korg (aka 800dv), 700s, Preset, 770, Synthebass, Ensemble P (aka Poly Ensemble 1000) and Ensemble S (aka Poly Ensemble 2000), Micro-Preset, 3100 and 3200.

US readers could consider themselves even more lucky - because it wasn't just in ads that readers could find info on the PS-series synths. Well before this ad or even the first PLS ad ran in CK, the July/August 1977 issue of Synapse featured a small promo for the two synths in the "What's Happening" section on page 40 that included a lot of good reference material like list prices.
"Two new polyphonic synthesizers have been released by Unicord Inc. The Korg PS3100 is a fully polyphonic synthesizer in which each note has it's own VCF and VCA. Six waveforms are available from the Modulation Generator and a Polyphonic Same and Hold is also featured. Unlike most polyphonic synthesizers, patching is allowed on the face panel. The PS3100 lists for $2995. The Korg PS3300 is a modular polyphonic system composed of three PSU-482 modules featuring signal processors, low pass filters, envelope modifiers, resonators, amplitude modulator, and two modulation generators. The PSU-483 module features mixer with VCA, sample and hold, envelope generator and voltage processors. As with the PS3100, patching is allowed and many inter-connections are possible between the two systems. The PS3300 lists for $7500 with remote keyboard"
Contemporary Keyboard also included a Spec Sheet promo on the PS3100 in the December 1977 issue (why not include the PS3300?!) that also included some good reference info:
"Korg Polyphonic Synthesizer. Capable of producing separate envelopes for each of its 48 notes, the PS 3100 polyphonic synthesizer is modular in construction. Waveforms available are triangle, sawtooth, and pulse in four frequency ranges: 2', 4', 8' and 16'. An external pulse width modulation control input and a frequency modulation control input are supplied. Two modulation oscillators, a filter section, a polyphonic sample & hold, a voltage processor bank, and an envelope generator section are included on this unit. The 48-note eyboard features selectable single or multiple triggering. Unicord 75 Frost St, Westbury, NY 11590."
But don't fret - it would only be another four months before UK readers would get some news on the PS3100 and 3300 in another two-page Rose-Morris ad that ran in the July 1978 issue of IMRW.

That ad is on deck for the next blog post! :)

Long end note: If you recall the end of my last blog post, I pointed out there were three logos at the bottom of that ad and I was trying to find the connection between them - Korg, Rose-Morris and Hohner. I knew Rose-Morris was a distributor of Korg, but what was Hohner doing in there? Turns out I found the answer quite by accident in a Korg WT-10A tuner ad that also appeared in that March 1978 (UK) issue of International Musician and Recording World on page 202.

A lot of ads in this UK magazine were actually paid for by the distributors of the products - unlike in the US where most synth ads seemed to have come directly from the companies themselves. Early on, Korg tended to let their distributors do the talking. Like for these Contemporary Keyboard ads from Unicord for the Polyphonic Ensembles and MaxiKorg. In the UK, I knew that Rose-Morris was often responsible for the Korg ads that appeared in IMRW.

In the case of that Korg WT-10A tuner ad I mentioned above, Korg looks to have paid for the ad because at the bottom it includes a list of all of their distributors - I doubt a distributor would include their competition in their own ads. These include CBS Musical Instruments in Australia, Erikson Music in Canada and Unicord in the US. But in the UK it looks like they have TWO distributors - Rose-Morris and M. Hohner!

So, here I was coming down hard on Rose-Morris for that two-pager, when in fact, it looks more likely that Korg probably paid for the ad themselves, and included *both* of their UK distributors logos - Rose-Morris and Hohner logos.

The other explanation is that Hohner and Rose-Morris paid for the ad together (again - can't see this happening).

Either way - my apologies to Rose-Morris! My frustration should have been distributed equally to Rose and Hohner - or to Korg itself.   :)

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