EMI and Historic Masters

With EMI, it all started in Great Britain. The first series of Historic Masters appeared in 1972. Twenty records by great singers of the past were made available by the British Institute of Recorded Sound (BIRS – now part of the British Library, see below) on an advance subscription basis. So check out this article about EMI and Historic Masters.

The records were pressed on vinyl and the scheme represented a collaboration between the BIRS and EMI Ltd. It was a great loss to the collecting world when this series – which enjoyed considerable worldwide sales – was not converted into a continuing project.

A committee was formed under the Chairmanship of Lord Harewood in the hope of reviving the project and after the withdrawal of the BIRS, this became Historic Masters Ltd.

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History of EMI – the 70s, 80s, and 90s

In an earlier post, we took a closer look at the History of EMI over the 1950s and 60s. Here, we’ll review the three last decades of the 20th century: the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.


All through its existence, EMI had been a very internationally-oriented company and had offices across the globe. The company had, however, mainly been involved in producing and selling classical records.

During the 1960s, the massive explosion in producing and selling popular music by frontrunners such as The Beatles and some other British, generally EMI-signed, performers and bands who were following in their wake, had changed all of that. This development now had given EMI a global outlook on an unprecedented scale.

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History of EMI – the 1950s-60s


During the 1950s, EMI held the worldwide license and distribution rights the American recording companies Columbia Records and RCA Victor except for North and South America. Columbia Records was the North American descendant of Columbia Graphophone, the parent company. So in this post, we’ll look at the History of EMI – the 1950s-60s.

One of the artists on the RCA label was a young performer from Mississippi named Elvis Presley. Elvis’ first records that were released outside America (it all started in 1956 with Heartbreak Hotel) were released on EMI’s HMV (His Masters Voice) Pop label.

Over the two following years, EMI released around a dozen of Elvis’ first hit records including Love me tender, Blue Suede Shoes, Hound Dog as well as Elvis’ first UK number one hit, All Shook Up. In 1957, however, EMI’s license agreement with RCA Victor ended and RCA set up its own London office.

Similarly, Columbia had decided to market its international record releases by itself and had ended its contracts with EMI already in 1952. Together, RCA Victor and Columbia supplied the majority of EMI’s U.S. music representations so, in response, EMI set out to look for American performers and artists all by itself.

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The Birth of EMI

Wherever are people, whatever their society, whatever their culture, you will find music. During most of our history, we could hear that music if we were only close enough to the people who played it, the musicians. For many, many years, music was a transient, live form of art. So in this article, let’s dig a little deeper into the Birth of EMI.

See also this video about when Sony bought EMI:

Then something important happened. Just a few years before the turn of the 19th century, it all changed and things wouldn’t be the same any longer.


In the year 1887, Emile Berliner, an inventor who was born in Germany, presented his invention, the “Gramophone” which was a totally new technique for recording and reproducing sound. He used discs and this process would revolutionize the way we would listen to and experience music.

The history of EMI started at one of Berliner’s companies, the London-based Gramophone Company which was founded in 1897, taking a leading role in bringing musicians and the revolutionary sound recording machines together.

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Anne Murray – EMI-Canada Icon

One of Canada’s most prominent vocalists and recording artists of all time is Anne Murray – EMI-Canada Icon. Anne was born in 1945 in  Spring Hill, Nova Scotia, and made her debut in 1968.

She was the first Canadian female artist that scored gold for a record in the United States with the song “Snowbird”. Just listen to Anne Murray sing “You Needed Me” and you’ll understand why she is among the greatest Canadian vocalists of all time:

Anne Murray was awarded three “Single of the Year” Juno Awards, two “Album of the Year” Juno Awards and nine “Vocalist of the Year” Juno Awards. She won four Grammy awards and the CRIA (Canadian Recording Industry Association) elected her as the most prominent Canadian artist of the 1970s. Anne was awarded altogether an incredible 31 Juno Awards throughout her singing career.

Overall, Anne Murray sold more than 54 million records across the globe including five number-1 hit singles and two number-1 albums in Canada. Her biggest hits include “You needed me” (1978) which reached the number-1 position in Canada and the United States, “Snowbird” (1970), “Danny’s Song” (1972), to name just a few masterpieces of her incredible oeuvre.

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University of Calgary’s Annie Murray: Crazy Fun

Annie Murray is a librarian at the University of Calgary and responsible for the entire EMI Canada collection that was donated to the University by Universal Music Canada that took over EMI Music Canada a few years way back. So let see what “University of Calgary’s Annie Murray: Crazy Fun” is all about.

Annie says that this collection is probably the most exciting collection she has ever (and will) ever be working with. She says her work is just crazy, super fun.

The U of C librarian can only with difficulty hide her enormous excitement over the impressive archive that was donated to the University and the huge task it is to take care of the beautiful and historically very important collection.

This is definitely the most exciting music collection she’ll ever work with, says the music fan, and the chance to do this kind of work professionally is absolutely mind-blowing. She loves to work on the collection that spans the EMI Canada years until it was taken over by Universal Music Canada in 2012.

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EMI Archive Trust – Iconic album covers at EMI Music Canada Archive Exhibit

It’s really not that long ago since cassette tapes, compact discs, and vinyl were ruling the world of music. Numerous music lovers and fans would be flocking to their local record or music shops where they often lost track of time while browsing through the available albums. These were the places where they admired the artwork on the albums’ covers and discussed their passions with so many other lovers of great music. So let’s see what it is all about: EMI Archive Trust – Iconic album covers at EMI Music Canada Archive Exhibit.

Now there’s a fantastic new exhibit in the Taylor Family Digital Library that will take you back to those days as it highlights design mock-ups and original artwork of numerous iconic album covers dating back to the 1970s through the 1990s. All artwork comes from from the impressive EMI Music Canada Archive.

The EMI archive was donated by Universal Music Canada in Toronto to the University of Calgary’s Library in 2016. The entire EMI collection is being cataloged and preserved by the University of Calgary’s Archives & Special Collections Department.

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University of Calgary received crucial music history with the EMI Canada archive

The massive EMI archive of music history in Canada has found a new home at the University of Calgary’s Archives & Special Collections. So let’s see how the University of Calgary received crucial music history with the EMI Canada archive. To learn more about the school’s Archives & Special Collections Department, watch this video:

Thousands and thousands of boxes filled with historically import artifacts and pictures of artists like Anne Murray, Nickelback, and Tom Cochrane and numerous studio recordings were donated to the University’s Library by Universal Music Canada, the owners of EMI Music Canada, in 2016.

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The EMI Music Canada Exhibit

Tom Hickerson, vice-provost of libraries and cultural resources at U of C.

Tom Hickerson, vice-provost of libraries and cultural
resources at U of C. Photo by Riley Brandt.

The University of Calgary’s Archives & Special Collections preserves the EMI Music Canada archive. The Virtual Exhibit highlights numerous items from this important collection that was given to the university by Universal Music Canada which has acquired EMI in 2012. So let’s take a look at what The EMI Music Canada Exhibit is all about.

The collection is a goldmine of Canadian Music history. The EMI Music Canada Archive is packed with historic material from the company’s 63-year history.

The history of EMI Music Canada goes back to its beginnings in 1949 when Capitol Records Canada, under the wings of EMI started music production and distribution in Canada.

The EMI collection contains numerous early ’60s and ’70s studio recording, demo tapes, video music tapes, posters, photographs, record and music awards, as well as artwork for record covers, marketing plans, publicity material, and studio master tapes from a few of the label’s most famous Canadian performers like Tom Cochrane, Anne Murray, Helix, Glass Tiger, and The Rankin Family.

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The EMI Archive

In March 2016, the University of Calgary made public that Universal Music Canada made a fantastic donation to the school. The university’s Libraries and Cultural Resources department was to become the proud owner of the entire archive of EMI Music Canada. The EMI Archive came to Calgary!

The impressive EMI Music Canada collection consists of more than 5,500 boxes with over 21,000 music recordings, over 18,000 videotapes and some two million files and documents and photographs that picture a great period in Canadian music history in a perfect way.

The vast EMI Archive offers students, teachers, researchers, and music lovers from around the world a unique insight and access to wonderful documentation of over six decades of contemporary Canadian and worldwide music history.

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