I think that these D.E. Jannon songs were parlour music. Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parlour_music) says that “Parlour music is a type of popular music which, as the name suggests, is intended to be performed in the parlours of middle class homes by amateur singers and pianists.” … “As the 19th century wore on, more and more songs were newly composed specifically for use by amateurs at home.” So these were the equivalent of a home stereo in a world where *all* music was live.
Sheet music was a utilitarian object which was pretty much ubiquitous. There was no other way to store music, and it had a lot of advantages over player-to-player transmission, such as being more durable. Being able to read and write music notation was much more common.
I’m really enjoying this project. Rooting around in the archives and bringing these dead songs back into the real world is like going to a flea market. It’s all fresh turf. Also, the songs leave a lot unwritten for the player to create for themself, unlike classical music where everything is pretty much set in stone. This is similar to rock songs.