Recorded sound production | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Recorded sound production

The first recordings made in Canada were those made 17 May 1878 by the Governor-General, Lord Dufferin, and his guests at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. On 17 May 1878 Lady Dufferin wrote in her diary (My Canadian Journal 1872-1878, Toronto 1969, p 292): 'This morning we had an exhibition of the phonograph.

Recorded Sound Production

Canadian Recordings from the Beginning until World War II

The first recordings made in Canada were those made 17 May 1878 by the Governor-General, Lord Dufferin, and his guests at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. On 17 May 1878 Lady Dufferin wrote in her diary (My Canadian Journal 1872-1878, Toronto 1969, p 292): 'This morning we had an exhibition of the phonograph. Two men brought this wonderful invention for us to see. It is quite a small thing, a cylinder which you turn with a handle, and which you place on a common table. We were so amazed when we first heard this bit of iron speak that it was hard to believe there was no trick! But we all tried it. Fred sang "Old Obadiah," D. made it talk Greek, the Colonel sang a French song, and all our vocal efforts were repeated. As long as the same piece of tinfoil is kept on the instrument you can hear all you have said over and over again... The last performance was for D. to say something which should be repeated by the machine to a public exhibition in Ottawa in the evening'.

Unlike the Dufferin recording, one made 10 years later, 11 Sep 1888, by another Governor-General, Baron Stanley of Preston, has survived, if only in the form of a copy made in 1935. One of the world's earliest extant recordings, it was misattributed for many years to Sir Henry Stanley, the explorer of Africa. In fact, it was made at the Toronto Industrial Exhibition (CNE) as a message of greeting to the president and people of the USA. During the 1890s the new invention was put to use in the service of the emerging field of ethnomusicology for the purposes of preserving and studying folk and Indigenous musics. Again Canada was one of the first countries in which this was done. Some of the earliest recordings of aboriginal music anywhere were made in British Columbia by Franz Boas and James A. Teit in the early 1890s and by Alexander T. Cringan in Ontario 1897-1902.

The first Canadian commercial recordings, by the E. Berliner company in Montreal, were released in 1900. From the list of these 18-cm (7-inch) discs given in Roll Back the Years it is difficult to judge which were recorded in Montreal and which merely pressed there; it appears that the baritone Joseph Saucier was the first Canadian to record (ca 1904) for a Canadian label. Other Canadians who made recordings at home or abroad in the first decades of the new century included Emma Albani 1904-5, Henry Burr 1903-ca 1930, Pauline Donalda 1906-8, and Harry Macdonough 1898-1919. Herbert L. Clarke, US-born but raised in Canada, recorded as both a bandleader and a cornet soloist. The first Canadian ensemble to have recorded (1902) was the Belleville (Ont) Kilties Band (see Bands: 6/Civilian Bands) under William F. Robinson.

The tenors Burr and Macdonough, who embarked on careers as professional recording artists in the USA, were among the world's most prolific, each making several thousand discs for a variety of companies. Another Canadian who made recording his main career early in the century was Rosario Bourdon, who began recording for Victor as a cellist in 1909, and two years later became co-director of music for Victor in the USA. By and large, those Canadians who made records did so outside their home country. Canada itself was mainly an importer of recordings, although there was a steady market for homegrown products in French Canada, which had musical traditions of its own. Before 1930 and in the early 1930s this market was supplied by recordings of such folk performers as the violoneux Joseph Allard, the singers La Bolduc, Conrad Gauthier, and Charles Marchand (alone or with his Bytown Troubadours), and the harmonica player Henri Lacroix. Unfortunately Canadian pianists, violinists, and other concert virtuosos have left lamentably few recorded performances: there are some discs by Kathleen Parlow, Rosario Bourdon, and Boris Hambourg, but the performances of Alfred De Sève, Harry M. Field, or Émiliano Renaud, among many others, do not appear to have been preserved on record. Renaud's teaching recordings, the Renaud-Phone Piano Method, Inc (1918), feature his demonstrations of the method but are not typical of his playing in a wider, artistic sense.

The number of singers who recorded in the first three decades of the century is considerable, but usually even the opera stars, such as Pauline Donalda, Louise Edvina, Sarah Fischer, Jeanne Gordon, Edward Johnson, Irene Pavloska, and Rodolphe Plamondon, had to content themselves with singing popular parlour ballads rather than operatic arias, though Donalda, Edvina, Gordon, and Johnson did record a few of the latter. Other Canadian singers, among them the tenors Craig Campbell, Charles Dalberty, José Delaquerrière, Paul Dufault, Émile Gour, Harold Jarvis, Édouard LeBel, and Geoffrey O'Hara, and the baritones Arthur Blight, Louis Chartier, Charles-Émile. Brodeur, Placide Morency, Frank Oldfield, Hector Pellerin and Joseph Saucier, specialized in the light concert repertoire. As the list shows, the field was a male preserve.

The same restriction to entertainment music applied to performances by symphony orchestras and to choirs. A few dance bands and other ensembles devoted to light music made records in the first third of the century. Roll Back the Years documents the discs made by the Six Brown Brothers, Dave Caplan's Toronto Band, Jack Denny and his Mount Royal Hotel Orchestra, Willie Eckstein, Henri Miro's Orchestra (and Band), the Windsor Hotel Orchestra of Harold Leonard, Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, and Gilbert Watson.

Canadians who made recordings during the 1930s include Les Allen, Wilf Carter, Omer Dumas, Percy Faith, Henri Lacroix, Lombardo, Will Osborne, Hank Snow, and Isidore Soucy. The Canadian Victor Company's recordings of Wilf Carter represented the entry of Canadian recording companies into the country music field. (For a discussion of Canadian recordings and record companies involved in the genre, see Country music: 1/Early history and 3/Media.) However the Depression years and World War II dealt recording a blow. Discs featuring major Canadian concert ensembles such as the Hart House String Quartet, the TSO, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, or the CSM (MSO) were few, and were restricted to short items usually from the light repertoire. The 1941 recording of the Fauré Requiem by the Disciples de Massenet and the Montreal Festivals Orchestra under Wilfrid Pelletier (see BMG Music Canada Inc) was a notable exception. And despite the Depression the discs of La Bolduc, the Alouette Vocal Quartet, and Father Gadbois's La Bonne Chanson had a devoted audience.

The Post-World War II Era: English-language Recordings

Since recording companies operate on the principles of the market, the Canadian industry, and hence the Canadian performer and composer, have historically been at a disadvantage in comparison with their counterparts in more heavily populated industrial countries. Thus, of two composers of similar merit, the Canadian had less of a chance of achieving international exposure through recordings than a colleague in the USA or western Europe. The need for domestic recording, vital to the development and foreign projection of Canadian culture, could be met only by public support. Fortunately the CBC was in a position to assume this role to a large degree.

Indeed a new era for concert music was ushered in by the CBC's 1945 issue of an album featuring Willan's Piano Concerto and Champagne's Suite canadienne. The CBC continued its recording series (see CBC recordings), but most of its more than 1300 releases were intended for broadcast purposes, not for sale to the public. Nevertheless, without the CBC's pioneer role a great portion of Canadian music might remain almost unknown beyond Canada's borders.

Fortunately after World War II recording opportunities for Canadian performers, both at home and abroad, increased enormously. It is true, however, that the opportunities were greatest for those performing pop music (about 90 per cent of the records sold in Canada) and for those having established contacts with US or European recording companies. Nevertheless, several companies endeavoured to bring out discs of concert music by Canadian performers. Beaver and Hallmark in 1952 were among the first, the former recording the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, the latter helping to make known young performers of the day, including Forrester, Gould, Marshall, and the Festival Singers. Canada Baroque Records, Melbourne, Boot, Aquitaine, and others, came into existence later. Concert music releases by such enterprises, to be economically feasible, have had to be subsidized or alternated with releases of pop music (as in the case of Boot Records, or the CAPAC-CAB recordings). It needs hardly to be emphasized that the dissemination and appreciation of the work of Canadian composers and performers more than ever depend on recordings. But as countless EMC entries for composers and performers in all fields of music reveal, the overall number of recordings increased enormously in the years after 1960.

In the popular music field, trends in Canada in the post-war period paralleled those in the USA, as the large instrumental (ie, dance and jazz) bands of the 1930s and early 1940s were displaced by smaller instrumental ensembles and solo vocalists. Throughout the 1950s, Canadian vocal groups seeking success were virtually compelled to record in the USA, as the Diamonds, Crew Cuts, and Four Lads in fact did. Few were the records made in Canada (eg, Moe Koffman's 'Swinging Shepherd Blues' in 1957) that enjoyed popularity in the USA. While most Canadian cities had burgeoning rock scenes in the 1960s, the domestic recording industry (Yorkville, Red Leaf, Revolver, among other small labels) could undertake the release only of (45 rpm) singles and, occasionally, LPs which in turn were rarely more than locally popular in face of overwhelming competition from abroad. However, with the international successes in the late 1960s of Canadian-made recordings by the Guess Who, Motherlode, Stampeders, and the Poppy Family (Terry Jacks), and with the advent in 1970 of the CRTC regulations governing Canadian broadcast content, the industry gained the necessary competitive foothold. Such independent Canadian labels as MWC (Music World Creations), Aquarius, GRT, Daffodil, True North, Boot, and Attic flourished in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Foreign subsidiaries in Canada took an increasingly active interest in Canadian artists and were rewarded by the international success 1970-2 of recordings by Edward Bear and Anne Murray (Capitol), The Bells (Polydor), and others. The development of Canadian acts, however, would remain only a small part of the multi-nationals' activities in Canada. The greater responsibility in this area has fallen to the independents, whose most successful efforts were often taken over, or at the very least distributed, by the multi-nationals.

In face of the recording industry's preoccupation with the most commercial forms of rock and pop music, the 1970s also saw the rise of the musician-run labels - eg, Nick (Stringband), Royalty (R. Harlan Smith), Salt (Sylvia Tyson), Squash (Pied Pumpkin), and Woodshed (David Essig) - which in turn were forerunners of a plethora of self-produced recordings in all fields during the 1980s. Such limited distribution as was available to these recordings was augmented by sales 'off the bandstand' - ie, at personal appearances. Due to the cost first of recording and then of manufacturing LPs (and later CDs), many folk, jazz and country albums would be issued only in the relatively inexpensive cassette format - at least until their commercial potential could be assessed. The cassette in particular has increased dramatically the documentation available to future historians of music in these idioms.

A similar independent spirit mobilized the so-called 'alternative' scene that, beginning in the late 1970s, paralleled the recording of mainstream rock and pop. Punk, new wave, heavy metal, 'hard core,' and other rock styles deemed extreme or uncommercial by the industry's major labels were taken up still other independent labels (notably Nettwerk, established in 1985 in Vancouver); the musicians and bands themselves worked an alternative circuit of clubs while their recordings received airplay on (FM) community and campus radio stations. Some bands and performers in the 1980s eventually made a successful transition from the alternative (or 'indie') to mainstream scenes, without substantially altering their styles - eg, Martha and the Muffins (M+M), Parachute Club, and Cowboy Junkies. Others, including several heavy metal bands (Sword, Voivod, Annihilator, etc), found the international alternative market large enough to compensate for their limited success at home.

The Post-World War II Era: French-language Recordings

In Quebec, since the early 1950s, the chansonniers and other pop artists singing in French have pursued careers on record and in live performance. Robert Charlebois, Pauline Julien, Félix Leclerc, Ginette Reno, René Simard, and Gilles Vigneault, to name only a few, made highly successful recordings for both Canadian and French labels (see also Chansonniers). The Yé-Yé craze of the early and mid-1960s in Quebec saw large numbers of Francophone groups (such as the Les Classels and the Baronets) play local variations of the rock and roll emerging in Great Britain and the USA at the time. By the 1970s, Quebec popular music had come to draw on older, folk-based traditions, as in the music of Harmonium and Beau Dommage. After a period from the late 1970s through to the middle of the 1980s of relative quiet, the French-language music industry in Canada entered a period of renewed prosperity in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In some measure the result of exposure offered by MusiquePlus, the music video cable TV channel, pop artists such as Céline Dion, Julie Masse, Mitsou and Roch Voisine (among literally dozens of others) achieved significant levels of popularity and record sales.

Some Factors Affecting Canadian Recordings in the 1980s

In Canada, the size of the domestic market is relatively small; Canadian recording artists must compete with foreign artists and find it increasingly difficult to gain commercial success without recourse to international promotion and distribution. With the rise of cable television channels (such as MuchMusic and MusiquePlus) devoted entirely to music video during the early 1980s, the recording industries have become partners - technically, economically and culturally - in an emerging multimedia entertainment complex.

A downturn in the recording industry, and the general apathy shown towards Canadian artists by major international labels, resulted in a reduction in the number of Canadian content recordings made during the early 1980s. The federal government, through the Dept of Communications, responded in 1986 with the Sound Recording Development Program which contributed $5 million per year to the production of Canadian recordings, videos, and syndicated radio programs, and international marketing and touring (initially proposed for a five year period, the program became permanent after 1990). Some of these funds have been distributed through FACTOR and Musicaction. This program, in combination with other programs and tax incentives for the Canadian film industry, helped many studios to survive and others to expand into new areas of production during the late 1980s.

Non-commercial, Archival and Educational Recordings

Canadian folk and Indigenous music sung by traditional or professional singers has not been neglected by the recording industry. A good deal was done in this field in the LP era by the US company Folkways Records, and by the CBC in the set of nine LPs Canadian Folk Songs/Chansons folkloriques du Canada issued with RCA in 1967 (RCI/RCA CS-100) and reissued in a set of five CDs in 1990 by RCI's Anthology of Canadian Music (ACM 39).

There have been occasional releases by other companies, and a vast amount of field-recorded folk music has become available to the student through the holdings at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Archives de folklore at Laval University, and other archives. Some ethnic minorities have issued private printings of their folk music, often in harmonized arrangements for choir or instrumental ensemble.

The reissuing of out-of-print recordings of Canadian interest has occured only intermittently, although the advent of the compact disc has encouraged activity in this area. One step in this direction was the release of The Original Dumbells, made in 1977 from discs then in the collection of Edward B. Moogk. Another was the reissue of songs of La Bolduc as part of MCA's 'Héritage québécois' series. This series also includes recordings by Tommy Duchesne, Marcel Martel, Isidore Soucy, Aimé Major, Gérard Lajoie, Roland Lebrun, Oscar Thiffault, and Louis Blanchette. RCI's Anthology of Canadian Music series has also assembled historical and contemporary recordings of music by 36 Canadian composers as well as sets of electroacoustic music and jazz. In 1986 Jack Litchfield prepared the LP Jazz and Hot Dance in Canada 1916-1949 for the Harlequin label of England and in 1990 Paul White produced the three-record set Made in Canada/Our Rock 'n' Roll History, containing 54 Canadian hits from the period 1960-74, for BMG Music Canada Inc. The Vancouver Record Collectors Association organized The History of Vancouver Rock and Roll series documenting Vancouver's rock scene in the 1950s and 1960s. The German companies Bear Family and Cattle Records have reissued Canadian country music from the 30s on including the complete recordings of Hank Snow and Wilf Carter. Canadian Keyboard Incredibles (Montgomery Archives) is a cassette reissue of piano rolls and 78s recorded 1916-37 by Willie Eckstein, Vera Guilaroff, Harry Thomas, and Millard Thomas. Several Canadian reissue projects not specifically concerned with Canadian content also deserve mention: the Rococo series, initiated by Ross, Court & Co, and the Cantilena series (established in 1966) compiled by John Stratton, both of which included Canadian singers, and the Masters of the Bow label of James Creighton's Historic Recording Society, started in the early 1970s.

Another important category of Canadian recordings is that devoted to educational aims. As early as 1918 Émiliano Renaud made a set of discs to accompany his course of piano study by correspondence. More recently Rachel Cavalho's Music for Young Pianists was recorded by Hallmark, and Waterloo issued her two-volume Contemporary Canadian Music for Young Pianists. The New for Now/Dans le vent series on the Dominion label devoted volume 1 to Canadian piano pieces played by Warren Mould, with commentary by David Ouchterlony; volume 2 to music for clarinet played by Avrahm Galper and others; and volume 3 to music for the flute, played by Robert Aitken. The CMEA has released three sets of cassettes as part of the Canadian Artists Series/Série de cassettes d'artistes canadiens featuring recordings by various artists and an accompanying booklet.

Canadian children's records, while not always specifically educational, have achieved national and international prominence. Labels include Berandol, Classical Kids, Elephant, Kids Records, Oak Street Music, and Troubador.

Structure of the Canadian Recording Industry

Since the beginnings of the Canadian recording industry, it has been dominated, in economic terms, by foreign-based firms operating in Canada. For the most part, these firms have preferred to establish subsidiaries to manufacture and distribute recordings in Canada rather than to import foreign-produced recordings in finished form from other countries. Prior to the 1970s, the Canadian recording industry consisted of large numbers of recording firms of varying size, some of which engaged in distribution while others used the distribution facilities of other companies.

By the end of the 1970s, foreign-owned record companies (the so-called 'majors') had established their own uniform 'branch' distribution systems in Canada, just as they had in the USA. Under a corporate umbrella (such as 'CBS Music'), multinational firms operating in Canada distributed recordings by their own subsidiaries and by other companies (both Canadian and foreign) with which they had signed agreements. By the mid-1980s all of these major, foreign-owned companies had signed distribution agreements with smaller, Canadian-owned recording companies - eg, A & M with Attic Records, Capitol/EMI with Anthem, and MCA with Duke Street Records. Such agreements allowed the majors to operate their distribution systems at full capacity and to remain active in the distribution of recordings by Canadian performers without incurring much of the risk involved in producing and marketing such recordings. In 1991, after a period of consolidation and re-organization in the international entertainment industries, the following multinational firms were operating in Canada as distribution umbrellas for a large number of record labels: BMG (formerly RCA), Capitol-EMI, MCA, PolyGram, Sony Music (formerly CBS), and Warner Music (formerly WEA Music).

Recording Companies Operating in Canada

The following chronological list includes a selection of Canadian record companies and labels and provides brief notes on the date and scope of activity where known. No attempt has been made to indicate all name changes and take-overs. Other Canadian record companies are listed in David Whatmough's '50 Year Directory of Canadian 45 rpm and 78 rpm Records 1940 to1990' and his '40 Year Directory of Canadian LPs 1950-1990' (both in preparation in 1991) and elsewhere.

E. Berliner, Montreal, established in 1899 (Berliner Gramophone 1904-24)

Edison label cylinders and, from 1913 on, also discs, distributed by R.S. Williams, Toronto, ca 1900-26. Music in a variety of genres. Apparently no Canadian production.

Columbia (see Sony; Canadian branch 1904-23 under various names, 1924-Depression and 1954-76 as Columbia Records, as CBS to 1991, then Sony Music).

Pathé Frères (Paris). Distribution centre established in Montreal 1915; Pathé Frères Phonograph Co of Canada 1918-ca 1921.

Brunswick-Balke-Collender of Canada, Toronto. Subsidiary of American firm. Active in Canada in recording business 1917-34.

Phonola Co of Canada (Pollock Manufacturing Co), Kitchener, Ont. Records 1918 to mid-1920s. By 1914 made Phonola equipment and distributed Fonotipia, Odeon, Jumbo labels; from 1918 on also Otto Heineman records.

Starr Co of Canada (at first Canadian Phonograph Supply Co), London, Ont, 1917-30.

Compo, Lachine, Que, 1918-64.

RCA, Toronto (see BMG Music Canada Inc).

Sparton of Canada, London, Ont. Established in 1930.

Celtic, Antigonish, NS, 1933. Label of Scottish music, taken over by Rodeo. Scottish and Irish fiddle music; Gaelic and Cape Breton songs.

CBC recordings, established in 1945, RCI Transcription Service established in 1947. Domestic series 1966-90.

Capitol Records of Canada, London, Ont, ca 1946.

Regal Records, London, Ont. Pressed Capitol Records 1947-54.

Tip Top, Newmarket, Ont, 1948-80. Founded and operated by Max Boag (pseudonym Harry Glenn). Commercial and (especially after 1962) custom recordings.

Rodeo Records, Montreal 1949-56, Halifax 1956-69, Peterborough, Ont 1969.

Beaver Records, Toronto, 1950-6.

Dominion, Toronto, 1950-early 1970s. Label of pop music records issued by Canadian Music Sales.

Quality Records, Toronto, established in 1950.

Allied Record Corp, Montreal, 1950s-early 1960s (see Sam Gesser).

Alouette, Montreal, established in 1952. Label of Archambault.

Hallmark Recordings, Toronto, 1952-9 as a label, 1958-ca 1968 as a recording studio.

Gavotte, Toronto, 1952-5. Label of G.V. Thompson, Ltd.

Banff Label established in 1953 by Rodeo (above).

CBS Records Canada Ltd., Toronto. See notes under Columbia, 1904, of which this is a Canadian revival.

Orfeo, Montreal, 1954.

Alvina, fl 1954. Label for pop music records.

Aragon, Vancouver, fl 1955. Label for pop music records.

Rococo, Toronto, established in 1955.

Club de disques JMC, Montreal, established in 1956. See YMC/JMC.

Arc Records, Toronto, established in 1958.

Select, Montreal, 1959. Recording label and distribution arm of Ed. Archambault Inc. Classical, church, and pop music. Distributes Les Disques Audiogram, Guy Cloutier Productions, and Star.

Canadian Talent Library, Toronto, 1962-85.

Waterloo Music Co. Began producing records in 1971.

Canada Baroque Records, Montreal, 1962-ca 1973.

CAPAC-CAB recording project, established in 1963. Distributed through various commercial record companies. Features light and serious Canadian music. See CAPAC.

Gamma Records Ltd, Montreal, established in 1965.

Cantilena, Toronto, 1966 (see John Stratton).

Polydor Records of Canada, Montreal, 1966-73; became Polydor Ltd in 1973, PolyGram in 1978.

London Records of Canada, Montreal, established in 1967 (London Gramophone Corp of Canada, Montreal 1948-67).

Aquarius, Montreal, established in 1968.

Sackville, Toronto, established in 1968. Jazz label (see Coda).

GRT of Canada Ltd, London, Ont (later Toronto), 1969-79.

A & M Records of Canada, Toronto, established in 1970.

Daffodil Records, established in 1970. Pop label formed by Ronnie Hawkins and Frank Davies. Currently specializes in reissues and compilation recordings, with distribution through various multinational firms.

True North Records, Toronto, established in 1970.

Fundy Records, Sackville, NB, established in 1971.

Kanata Records, Toronto, established in 1971. Pop music label.

Boot Records, Toronto, established in 1971.

ASTRA Records, Montreal, established in 1972. Formed by Canadian Association of Broadcasters.

Goldfish, Richmond, BC, established in 1973. Pop music label distributed by London Records, then A & M.

Melbourne, Peterborough, Ont, established in 1973. Classical music label of Rodeo; taken over by Waterloo Music in 1977.

Royalty Records, Edmonton, established in 1973 by R. Harlan Smith and others

Attic Records, Toronto, established in 1974.

Kébec-Disc Inc, Montreal, established in 1974.

Masters of the Bow, Toronto, established in 1974. Re-issues of historical discs (see James Creighton). Also produces Baton label for similar series devoted to conductors.

Solid Gold, Toronto, Pop label with roster including groups Chilliwack, Good Brothers, Headpins, Toronto and others.

Woodshed, established in 1974 by David Essig

Aquitaine, Toronto, established in 1975 (see Eleanor Koldofsky).

Berandol Records, Toronto, established in 1975.

Stony Plain Records, Edmonton, established in 1975.

Music Gallery Editions, Toronto, established in 1976.

McGill University Records, classical music, established in 1976

Troubador, established in 1976 by children's entertainer Raffi.

Umbrella, Toronto, established in 1976. The direct-to-disc label introduced by Nimbus 9 Productions. Classics, jazz. Acquired in 1979 by Sine Qua Non, Toronto. Records reissued on Ultra-Fi label.

Anthem Records, Toronto, established in 1977.

Société nouvelle d'enregistrement (SNE), Montreal, established in 1977 by Gilles Poirier.

Elephant Records, Toronto, established in 1978 for children's music including Sharon, Lois & Bram

Tapestry Records, Ottawa, established in 1978. Recordings of carillon, Canadian Brass, distributed by RCA.

Pigeon Inlet Productions, St John's, Nfld, established in 1979 by Kelly Russell

Aural Tradition, Vancouver, established in 1980 by Festival Records, the recording distribution wing of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. Canadian and international folk musicians. The 300 series is reserved for Canadian contemporary songwriters.

Book Shop, Cornwall, Ont, established in 1980 by Gilles Godard.

Star, Montreal, established in 1980 by André Di Cesare. Roster has included Patrick Norman and Roch Voisine. Distributed by Select.

Centrediscs, established in 1981. Recording arm of the Canadian Music Centre

Ready Records. Toronto-based pop label, formed in early 1980s, discontinued in 1986. Performers included The Spoons, Santers, The Extras.

Les Disques Audiogram, Inc, Montreal, established in 1982.

Latent Records, Toronto. Founded 1982, by Michael Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies.

Kids Records, Toronto, established in 1983 by Bill Usher. Children's records.

Duke Street Records, Toronto, established in 1983.

Justin Time Records, Montreal, established in 1983 by Jim West. Production arm of Distribution Fusion, handles mostly Montreal-based jazz artists, Jubilation Choir, rock groups like Favourite Nation.

Savannah Records, Toronto, established in 1983

Somersault Records, Toronto. Established in 1983 as a branch of DJ&B Record Sales, a one-stop operation specializing in dance-oriented music. Initial releases included single by Sweet Ecstasy, distributed in Canada by Quality. Reactivated in late 1980s with dance music repertory consisting of licensed foreign masters and domestically produced recordings.

Alert Records, Montreal, then Toronto, established in 1984. Pop label, partnership of former Anthem Records executive Tom Berry and manager/promoter Marc (manager) Durand. Artists have included Bundock, The Box, Andy Curran, Holly Cole, and Kim Mitchell. Distribution first through PolyGram, then through Capitol-EMI.

Fanfare Records. Production and licensing company specializing in classical and nostalgia recordings, with an emphasis on compact disc product, established in 1984. The first Canadian label to produce CDs domestically. Recorded performers include the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Orford String Quartet, and Maureen Forrester. Recordings released worldwide through ProArte/Fanfare, with distribution via Intersound. Mastersound subsidiary label, with domestic distribution through Ky-Cam, launched in 1990.

Ambiances Magnétiques, Montreal established in 1985 by René Lussier, Jean Derome and others as a co-op, musique actuelle label.

Nettwerk Productions, Vancouver, established in 1985, with an emphasis on alternative rock and dance music. As of 1986, it has been distributed by Capitol-EMI, and has opened its own US and European subsidiaries. Artists include Lava Hay, Moev, The Grapes of Wrath, Sarah McLachlan, Skinny Puppy.

Risque Disque, Toronto. Pop label 1985-90. Roster included Blue Rodeo, Crash Vegas, Basic English. Distributed through WEA.

Cambridge Street Records, Burnaby, established by Barry Truax in 1987 to record computer and electroacoustic music.

Classical Kids, Toronto, established in 1987 by Susan Hammond. Award winning recordings include Mr. Bach Comes to Call (1987 SAN-CD-1002), Beethoven Lives Upstairs (1989, SAN-CD-1003), and Mozart's Magic Fantasy (1990, SAN-CD-1023).

Oak Street Music, Winnipeg, founded in 1987 by Gilles Paquin. Children's music including Fred Penner, Carmen Champagne, and others

Analekta, Montreal, classical label, established in 1988. Artists include Anton Kuerti, Angèle Dubeau, Bruno Laplante, and the Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal.

Unity Records, Toronto, jazz label established by John MacLeod in 1988

Justin Entertainment, Toronto, established in 1990. Pop label, performers include the The Blondes, Manteye, Seventh Sun.

UMMUS (University of Montreal), classical music, established in 1990.

For information about some major retailers see International Music Store Ltd, and Sam Sniderman. Another retail firm, specializing in mail-order, André Perrault Ltée of St-Hyacinthe, Qué, established in 1958 and treated in the first edition of EMC, no longer exists. By 1991 HMV, a subsidiary of the British Thorn EMI, had opened 47 stores in Canada, including large outlets in Montreal (opened in 1989) and Toronto (opened in 1991). Major distributors of folk and traditional recordings include the CSMT Mail Order Service and Festival Records of Vancouver.

Industry Organizations and Awards

In 1990 the main organisations serving the recording industry were CRIA (the Canadian Recording Industry Association /Assn de l'industrie canadienne de l'enregistrement), established in 1963 as the Canadian Record Manufacturer's Association, and CIRPA (the Canadian Independent Record Producers Association /Assn canadienne des producteurs de disques indépendants), formed in 1974 with headquarters in Toronto. Another organization, the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) was formed in 1975 in Toronto and in 1977 became the sole governing body of the Juno Awards. In Montreal ADISQ (the Association du disque, de l'industrie du spectacle québécois et de la vidéo) was founded in 1978 and established the Felix Awards in 1979.

Formal recognition of achievement in the recording industry in Canada began in the mid-1960s, when the annual Juno Awards were established. Others (see Awards: 1/Honours bestowed) include the Big Country Award, the Canadian Music Council citation for the Canadian record of the year (offered in solo, chamber music, orchestral, choral, educational, folk, jazz and composition categories, and for Canadians' recordings made in foreign countries), the Festival du disque, the Moffat Awards, the CASBY Awards, and the CCMA awards. Levels of commerical success in Canada, monitored through record sales by CRIA, are marked in the form of 'gold' records (for 50,000 albums or singles sold), 'platinum' (100,000), 'double platinum' (200,000), 'triple platinum' (300,000), etc. (Sales requirements for platinum and gold singles were reduced in 1982 from 150,000 and 75,000 copies, respectively.) A 'diamond' record signals the sale of 1 million units. As of January 1991, 31 albums released in Canada had qualified for this last award, including ones by the Canadians Bryan Adams, Corey Hart, and Alannah Myles.

Statistical Survey of the Canadian Recording Industry

In1977 Statistics Canada began to collect and publish information about the Canadian recording industry. In mid-1991 the most recent information available covered the period 1988-9. During that year the total value of record sales at the distributor's net selling price was estimated at $481 million. This included sales of both album and singles in the vinyl, cassette tape, and CD formats. The market shares for vinyl, cassette tape, and CD albums were 19 per cent, 52 per cent and 26 per cent respectively. The elimination of vinyl recordings by 1992 was widely predicted. The market share of foreign-controlled record companies operating within Canada in 1988-9 was 85 per cent. Neverthless, as has been the case throughout the history of the Canadian recording industry, the bulk of recordings considered to carry Canadian content were produced by domestically-owned corporations: 69 per cent of recordings released in 1988-9 and deemed to contain Canadian content were produced by Canadian-owned firms. It is significant, if not surprising, that the percentage of recordings containing Canadian content was highest in the case of French-language releases: 52 per cent of French-language recordings contained Canadian content, compared to 13 per cent of English-language releases. (Source: Sound Recordings 1988-89 Cultural Statistics, Ottawa 1991.)


The largest collection of Canadian recordings in 1990 was that of the NL of C, which held over 100,000 of these. Under the terms of a 1969 law, recording companies have been required to send the library a copy of each new release of Canadian interest. A collection of earlier recordings, dating back to 1900, was initiated as a Centennial project by Edward B. Moogk and deposited at the NL of C; historical records have been added from time to time through purchases, donations, and bequests, and there is a supplementary collection of private recordings. Other large collections with substantial Canadian components are those of the CBC in Montreal and Toronto and of the University of Toronto. The CMCentre's various regional libraries and the CBC program archives contain many non-commercial tapes of concert and broadcast performances, as do various folklore archives of field recordings of folk music. The Moving Images and Sound Archives Division of the NAC has specialized in collecting documentary recordings of political and historical rather than artistic interest. The author, poet and critic Ralph Gustafson has amassed a considerable collection of early piano recordings, and made many of these available commercially in his Gustafson Piano Library tape series.

See also ADISQ; Archives; Charts; CIRPA; CRIA; CRTC; Discography: FACTOR; Libraries; Music videos.



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Pionniers du disque folklorique québécois


Canadian Music and Trades journal 1900-33

Phonograph Journal of Canada, fl 1923. Later Phonograph Journal and Radio Trades (no copies located)

RPM 1964-

Sound 1970-6; Sound Canada 1976-84; Sound and Vision 1984-

Sono; Sonorisation au Canada 1973-

AudioScene Canada 1974-

Music Market Canada 1977-

Radio activité 1981-

The Record 1981-

Qui fait quoi 1984-

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