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.

Everybody has their private stories and memories about music: where they were when they heard a certain song for the first time, what their first or best concert was, how they perhaps danced for the first time to what sing, and so on.

When you sift through all the wonderful the treasures found in the University of Calgary’s EMI Music Canada Archive, you’ll be overwhelmed with a thunderbolt of nostalgia. EMI Music Canada was the recording company and distributor for a lot of the music we all grew up listening to.

EMI Canada invested pretty heavily in domestic talent, and the company was also a major distributor of international performers. It brought music from the entire world to Canadian audiences and it was the distributor of the music of hundreds of international performers like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Davis Bowie, Duran Duran, Radiohead, Frank Sinatra, Tina Turner, The Beach Boys, Pet Shop Boys, Paul McCartney, Smashing Pumpkins, Poison, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Garth Brooks, Barry Manilow, Iron Maiden, Bonnie Raitt, and Stevie Ray Vaughn.

The EMI Music Canada’s archive traces back to its beginnings as the company’s Capitol Records label started out in 1949 up to when EMI International was acquired by Universal Music Group in 2012. The collection includes master recording tapes, numerous publicity photos, album cover art, demo tapes, outlines for videos, marketing strategies, tour programs of major acts, lots of music awards, song lyrics and concepts, and countless correspondence items between artists, engineers, producers, and company executives.

The massive collection has something for everyone, regardless of age, music preference, or whatever. The EMI archive is spanning 63 years and includes music of all sorts of genres, from pop and rock to jazz, folk, country, classical, heavy metal, and rap. From a music standpoint, it provides an overarching history of the last five decades of the 20th century in what way that music has had a profound impact on society,

The entire EMI archive contains almost 40,000 audio-visual tapes in over 40 different formats. Many of these recordings are becoming obsolete, like reel-to-reel and U-matic tapes. These recordings will be reformatted, though, to make sure they can be played while the originals are preserved. The archive’s diversity makes it one of the best-preserved treasures for anyone who studies music, recording technology, history, performing arts, business, or Canadian culture.

Chances are that there will never be an archive again. It contains numerous analog tape recordings, memos, penned letters, artwork for record covers, hand-drawn band logo mockups, music cassette covers, and so much more, and all perfectly preserved. This is an era we’ll never see again, and it must be protected in the best way so future generations can enjoy and study it.