His Master's Voice
|His Master's Voice|
|Parent company||EMI (British Commonwealth except Canada)
RCA (western hemisphere)
|Status||Defunct (fate: trademark sold to HMV)|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
His Master's Voice, abbreviated HMV, is a trademark in the music business and was for many years the unofficial name of a large British record label. The name was coined in the 1890s as the title of a painting of the dog Nipper listening to a wind-up gramophone. In the original painting, the dog was listening to a cylinder phonograph.
The trademark image comes from a painting by English artist Francis Barraud, A.R.A. and titled His Master's Voice. It was acquired from the artist in 1899 by the newly formed Gramophone Company. According to contemporary Gramophone Company publicity material, the dog, a terrier named Nipper, had originally belonged to Barraud's brother Mark. When Mark Barraud died, Francis inherited Nipper, along with a cylinder phonograph and a number of recordings of Mark's voice. Francis noted the peculiar interest that the dog took in the recorded voice of his late master emanating from the horn, and conceived the idea of committing the scene to canvas.
In early 1899, Francis Barraud applied for copyright of the original painting using the descriptive working title Dog looking at and listening to a Phonograph. He was unable to sell the work to any cylinder phonograph company, but The Gramophone Company purchased it later that year, under the condition that Barraud modify it to show one of their disc machines. The image was first used on the company's catalogue dated December 1899, and additional copies were subsequently commissioned from the artist for various corporate purposes. In July 1900, the gramophone's inventor Emile Berliner, took out an American copyright to the picture and was adopted as a trademark by the Consolidated Talking Machine Company, reorganized as the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1901. Victor used the image more aggressively than its UK partner, and from 1902 most Victor records had a simplified drawing of the dog and gramophone from Barraud's painting on their labels. Magazine advertisements urged record buyers to "Look for the dog."
The Gramophone Company becomes "His Master's Voice"
In British Commonwealth countries, the Gramophone Company did not use this design on its record labels until 1909. The following year the Gramophone Company replaced the Recording Angel trademark in the upper half of the record labels by the Francis Barraud picture commonly referred to as Nipper, or The Dog.
The company was not formally called "HMV" or His Master's Voice, but was identified by that term because of its use of the trademark. Records issued by the company before February 1908 were generally referred to as "G&Ts", while those after that date are usually called "HMV" records.
This image continued to be used as a trademark by Victor in the USA, Canada and Latin America, and then by Victor's successor the Radio Corporation of America. In Commonwealth countries (except Canada) it was used by subsidiaries of the Gramophone Company, which ultimately became part of EMI.
The trademark's ownership is divided among different companies in different countries, reducing its value in the globalised music market. The name HMV is used by a chain of music shops owned by HMV, mainly in the UK, Ireland, Canada, Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, and Japan.
In 1921 the Gramophone Company opened the first HMV shop in London.
In 1929 RCA absorbed Victor, and with it a major shareholding in the Gramophone Company which Victor had owned since 1920.
In 1931 RCA was instrumental in the creation of EMI, which continued to own the "His Master's Voice" name and image in the UK. In 1935 RCA sold its stake in EMI but continued to own Victor and the rights to His Master's Voice in the Americas. HMV continued to distribute RCA recordings until RCA severed its ties with EMI in 1957 which led EMI to purchase Capitol Records.
World War II fragmented the ownership of the name still further, as RCA Victor's Japanese subsidiary The Victor Company of Japan (JVC) became independent, and today they still use the "Victor" brand and Nipper in Japan only. In late 1968, RCA introduced a modern logo and restricted the use of Nipper to the album covers of Red Seal Records. The image was reinstated to most RCA record labels in the Western Hemisphere beginning in late 1976. The trademark was once again widely used in RCA advertising throughout the 1980s and was also used for a time on RCA television sets and the CED videodisc system. EMI owned the His Master's Voice label in the UK until the 1980s, and the HMV shops until 1998.
In 1967, EMI converted the HMV label into an exclusive classical music label and dropped its POP series of popular music. HMV's POP series artists' roster was moved to Columbia Graphophone and Parlophone and licensed American POP record deals to Stateside Records.
The globalised market for CDs pushed EMI into abandoning the HMV label in favour of "EMI Classics", a name they could use worldwide; however, it was revived between 1988 and 1992 for Morrissey recordings. The HMV trademark is now owned by the retail chain in the UK. The formal trademark transfer from EMI took place in 2003. The old HMV classical music catalogue is now controlled by the Warner Classics unit of Warner Music Group. Reissues of HMV pop material that EMI previously controlled are now reissued on Warner's Parlophone label.
Meanwhile, RCA went into a financial decline. The dog and gramophone image, along with the RCA name, is now licensed by RCA Records and RCA Victor owner Sony Music Entertainment from Technicolor SA, which operates RCA's consumer electronics business (still promoted by Nipper the dog) that predecessor company Thomson SA bought from General Electric in 1986, after GE bought RCA. The image of "His Master's Voice" now exists in the United States as a trademark only on radios and radios combined with phonographs, a trademark owned by Technicolor subsidiary RCA Trademark Management SA.
With that exception, the "His Master's Voice" dog and gramophone image is in the public domain in the USA, its United States trademark registrations having expired in 1989 (for sound recordings and phonograph cabinets), 1992 (television sets, television-radio combination sets), and 1994 (sound recording and reproducing machines, needles, and records).
The "His Master's Voice" logo was used around the world, and the motto became well known in different languages. In Europe these include "La Voix de son Maître" (France), "La Voz de su Amo" (Spain), "A Voz do Dono" (Portugal), "La Voce del Padrone" (Italy), "Die Stimme seines Herrn" (Germany), "Husbondens Röst" (Sweden), "Głos Swego Pana" (Poland), "Sin Herres Stemme" (Norway) and "Sahibinin Sesi" (Turkey).
The 1958 LP album Elvis' Golden Records shows pictures of various RCA 45s with Nipper on their labels. On the British version, these images were blacked out, for obvious copyright reasons. This type of editing took place with many other RCA releases in England. Similarly, EMI imports which were sold in the United States often had a sticker placed over the Nipper trademark.
The movie Superman Returns (2006) contains a scene early on set in Kansas, in which a "His Master's Voice" radio is clearly shown. His Master's Voice radios have never been sold in the USA, due to RCA holding the "Nipper" copyright. The movie was made in Australia, and the nearest "prop" was obviously used.
In the 2008 film Valkyrie, a Deutsche Grammophon recording of "Ride of the Valkyries" with Nipper and the "Die Stimme seines Herrn" motto on the label was shown spinning on a 78-rpm wind-up gramophone as the music played in the protagonist's living room.
Homage is paid to the iconic dog-and-gramophone image in the 1999 feature film Wild Wild West in which a dog resembling Nipper runs to the side of a recently departed character and looks into an ear horn. The film, however, is set in 1869, 30 years before Barraud created his work.
The name HMV is still used by the chain of entertainment shops founded by the Gramophone Company in the UK and Canada, which continued to expand internationally through the 1990s.
In 1998 HMV Media was created as a separate company, leaving EMI with a 43% stake. The firm bought the Waterstones chain of bookshops and merged them with Dillons the UK booksellers. In 2002 it floated on the London Stock Exchange as HMV Group plc, leaving EMI with only a token holding.
HMV shops in Australia, Ireland and the UK also use the Nipper trademark. HMV applied for trademark status in order to use Nipper at HMV stores in Canada but in 2010 abandoned the application, presumably because the rights to Nipper in Canada are part of the RCA brand portfolio now owned by Technicolor SA and licensed to other companies.
On 15 January 2013, HMV Group plc entered receivership; stores in Ireland closed 16 January 2013 and were no longer accepting vouchers. The HMV website posted a receivership notice and no further online sales were made.
According to the HMV website, the organization was restructured by Hilco and, while some stores were closed, it has reopened debt-free and continues to trade.
- "The Nipper Saga". Retrieved 27 May 2006.
- HMV shops in Canada and Japan are still not allowed to use Nipper for these reasons; nor did the shops HMV operated in the United States in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
- Billboard - Google Books. Books.google.com. 11 November 1967. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
- "Trade Mark Details as at 28 February 2013: HMV Group plc". Patent.gov.uk. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
- "CLAUDE DEBUSSY // Vladimir Horowitz: Complete HMV Recordings 1930-1951". Warner Classics.
- Thomson SA bought the RCA trademarks, including Nipper in the Americas, from GE in 2003.
- "Gromit steps into HMV logo role". BBC News. 1 April 2007. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
- "CANADIAN TRADE-MARK DATA: 1396181 - Canadian Trade-marks Database - Canadian Intellectual Property Office". Ic.gc.ca. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
- "HMV Adds Gaming". marketnews.ca. 28 August 2006. Retrieved 13 September 2006.
- "More Uncertainty for HMV". thedailyshift.com. 18 January 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
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