BMG Music Canada Inc / Musique BMG du Canada Inc.

BMG Music Canada Inc / Musique BMG du Canada Inc. (successively, 1929-86, RCA Victor Co, Ltd, RCA Inc, RCA Limited/Limitée). Record company which began as the Victor Talking Machine Co in Camden, NJ, in 1901.

BMG Music Canada Inc / Musique BMG du Canada Inc.

BMG Music Canada Inc / Musique BMG du Canada Inc. (successively, 1929-86, RCA Victor Co, Ltd, RCA Inc, RCA Limited/Limitée). Record company which began as the Victor Talking Machine Co in Camden, NJ, in 1901. Its records were pressed and distributed in Canada by the Berliner Gramophone Co of Montreal. In 1924 Victor purchased Berliner and formed the Victor Talking Machine Co of Canada. Edgar Berliner remained president until 1930. Victor in turn was purchased by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in 1929 and RCA Victor was created. (Artists recorded by Victor before 1929 are discussed in the Berliner entry.)

RCA Victor was one of two record companies in Canada to survive the Depression. RCA retained the North American rights to the Berliner mascot, 'Nipper,' associated with the HMV (His Master's Voice) series and maintained him until the early 1970s. At that time the Victor name also was dropped in view of RCA's increased activity outside the recording industry. The Canadian company relocated its head office to Toronto in 1972 (and in 1991 had branch offices in seven other locations). The parent company was sold in the early 1980s to General Electric which in turn sold RCA's music holdings in 1986 to Bertelsmann AG of Gueterlsh, West Germany. The name BMG Music Canada Inc (for Bertelsmann Music Group) was in commercial use by 1987. BMG Musique Que was established in 1990 to service the French-speaking market.

Under the direction of A. Hugh Joseph and others, RCA Victor recorded many Canadian performers in the 1930s and 1940s for its Victor or Bluebird labels, among them the country and folk artists Joseph Allard, Joe Bouchard, Paul Brunelle, Wilf Carter, Omer Dumas, Willie Lamothe, Hank Snow, Isidore Soucy, and George Wade. Other performers in the Bluebird line included Mart Kenney and His Western Gentlemen, and various artists in the series La Bonne Chanson.

A major RCA Victor recording that employed Canadians took place in 1941, when crew and equipment were sent to St-Laurent, near Montreal, to record, in the historic chapel there, the Montreal Festivals performance of Fauré's Requiem, Mozart's 'Ave Verum' K618, and the Agnus Dei from the latter's Mass in C Minor K427, with Les Disciples de Massenet, the Montreal Festivals Orchestra under Wilfrid Pelletier, the soprano Marcelle Denya, and the baritone Mack Harrell.

Country music remained a staple of the RCA/BMG catalogue in the later LP and CD eras. The company's roster has included Carroll Baker, Marie Bottrell, Carlton Showband, Dick Damron, Family Brown, Good Brothers, Tommy Hunter, Mercey Brothers, Prairie Oyster, and Ronnie Prophet. It also has recorded the MSO, the NACO, the TS, and other orchestras, the Festival Singers and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir among choral groups, the Canadian Brass and Tafelmusik among chamber ensembles, and several individual artists including the tenors Raoul Jobin and Richard Verreau, and the cellist Ofra Harnoy. Its has distributed pop and rock recordings by the Cowboy Junkies (recorded for Latent), Crash Test Dummies and Jeff Healey (Arista), the Guess Who (Nimbus Nine), and the Parachute Club (Current), as well as several albums (by the Boss Brass, Spitfire Band, etc) leased from the Canadian Talent Library. RCA/BMG also has distributed other independent Canadian labels - eg, Book Shop (see Gilles Godard) and Tembo.

RCA Victor collaborated with the CBC's RCI to issue commercially the series Music and Musicians of Canada (17 records) and Canadian Folk Songs: A Centennial Collection (9 records), as well as several individual LPs. In 1969, with RCI, RCA released 10 records in the JMC 20 series which commemorated the YMC's 20th anniversary. In 1990 BMG issued three volumes of Made in Canada: Our Rock 'n' Roll History; a fourth followed in 1991.

In addition to A. Hugh Joseph, several later RCA/BMG executives have played important roles in the production or promotion of Canadian music, among them Jack Feeney (an employee 1952-84 who produced more than 70 country albums before retiring in the positions of president of music publishing and director of country music artists and repertoire), J. Edward Preston (vice president and general manager 1976-82), and the guitarist David Bendeth (appointed vice president and director of artists and repertoire in 1988). Don Kollar was president and general manager of BMG Music Canada Inc at its inception, succeeded in 1991 by Robert Jamieson.

Further Reading

  • 'RCA Victor records releases seventeen centennial albums,' CanComp, 12, Nov 1966

    'RCA-CBC music anthology an important step forward,' ibid, 2 instalments, 18 and 19, May and Jun 1967

    'Jack Feeney and country music,' CanComp, 126, Dec 1977

    Roll Back the Years