His Master's Voice

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His Master's Voice (1898) by Francis Barraud

His Master's Voice (HMV) was the name of a major British record label created in 1901 by The Gramophone Co. Ltd.[1] The phrase was coined in the late 1890s from the title of a painting by English artist Francis Barraud, which depicted a dog named Nipper listening to a wind-up disc gramophone and tilting his head.[2][3] In the original, unmodified 1898 painting, the dog was listening to a cylinder phonograph. The painting was also famously used as the trademark and logo of the Victor Talking Machine Company, later known as RCA Victor. The painting was originally offered to James Hough, manager of Edison-Bell in London, but he declined, saying "dogs don't listen to phonographs". Barraud subsequently visited The Gramophone Co. of Maiden Lane in London where the manager William Barry Owen offered to purchase the painting if it were revised to depict their latest Improved Gramophone model. Barraud obliged, and Owen bought the painting from Barraud for £100.

In the 1970s, an award was created with a copy of the statue of the dog and gramophone, His Master's Voice, cloaked in bronze, and was presented by (EMI Records) to artists, music producers and composers in recognition of selling more than 1,000,000 recordings.

His Master's Voice (Music Award EMI-Bovema)

The painting[edit]

The trademark image comes from a painting by English artist Francis Barraud titled His Master's Voice. It was acquired from the artist in 1899 by the newly formed Gramophone Company and adopted as a trademark by the Gramophone Company's United States affiliate, the Victor Talking Machine Company.[4]


A coloured vinyl single released by HMV
Victor Talking Machine Company advertisement from 1921 with "His Master's Voice" trademark

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 William Barry Owen, the American founder of the Gramophone Company in England, offered to purchase the painting under the condition that Barraud modify it to show one of their disc machines. Barraud complied and the image was first used on the company's catalogue from December 1899. As the trademark gained in popularity, several additional copies were subsequently commissioned from the artist for various corporate purposes.[5]

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.[6]

The globalised market for the compact disc resulted in EMI retiring the HMV label in favour of "EMI Classics", a name that could be used worldwide; however, between 1988 and 1992 Morrissey's recordings were issued on the HMV label. The HMV/Nipper trademark is now owned by the retail chain in the UK. The formal trademark transfer from EMI took place in 2003.[7] The old HMV classical music catalogue is now controlled by the Warner Classics unit of Warner Music Group.[8] Most reissues of HMV pop material that EMI previously controlled are now reissued on Warner's Parlophone label.[9] In the UK, Warner Classics's online presence was launched as 'Dog and Trumpet' on Spotify, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in January 2017.[10]

Nipper worldwide[edit]

Advertisement for "His Master's Voice" gramophones in the Dutch East Indies, 1930s

On 1 April 2007, HMV announced that Gromit, the animated dog of Wallace and Gromit, would stand in for Nipper for a three-month period, promoting children's DVDs in its UK stores.[11]


Logo (in blue circle) at HMV's former flagship store, Oxford Street, London

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.[12]

As of August 2006, there were over 400 HMV stores worldwide.[13]

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.[14]

As of 28 December 2018, HMV has confirmed that it has called in KPMG as administrators and entered administration for the second time in six years.[15]

On 5 February 2019, the Canadian retailer Sunrise Records announced its acquisition of HMV Retail for an undisclosed amount (later reported to be £883,000).[16] Sunrise planned to maintain the HMV chain and five Fopp stores, but immediately closed 27 locations.[17] By late-February, HMV had reopened a number of stores (including 1 Fopp branch).[18][19]

On 24th November 2023, the flagship store on Oxford Street in London reopened. [20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "His Master's Voice (Multinational label)". Discogs. Retrieved 31 January 2020.
  2. ^ Sommese, Andrea; Miklósi, Ádám; Pogány, Ákos; Temesi, Andrea; Dror, Shany; Fugazza, Claudia (2022). "An exploratory analysis of head-tilting in dogs". Animal Cognition. 25 (3): 701–705. doi:10.1007/s10071-021-01571-8. PMC 9107419. PMID 34697669.
  3. ^ Wetzel, Corryn, Why Do Dogs Tilt Their Heads? New Study Offers Clues, Smithsonian, 3 November 2021
  4. ^ Rye, Howard (2002). Kernfeld, Barry (ed.). The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. Vol. 2 (2nd ed.). New York: Grove's Dictionaries Inc. p. 249. ISBN 1-56159-284-6.
  5. ^ "The Nipper Saga". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 27 May 2006.
  6. ^ Billboard. 1967. Retrieved 28 February 2013 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ "Trade Mark Details as at 28 February 2013: HMV Group plc". Patent.gov.uk. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  8. ^ "Claude Debussy – Vladimir Horowitz: Complete HMV Recordings 1930–1951". Warner Classics. Archived from the original on 11 May 2018.
  9. ^ "At Abbey Road" – via Amazon.
  10. ^ "Gramophone". reader.exacteditions.com. May 2017. Archived from the original on 30 July 2017.
  11. ^ "Gromit steps into HMV logo role". BBC News. 1 April 2007. Archived from the original on 9 October 2007. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  12. ^ "Canadian Trade-mark Data: 1396181 – Canadian Trade-marks Database". Ic.gc.ca. Canadian Intellectual Property Office. Archived from the original on 5 December 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  13. ^ "HMV Adds Gaming". marketnews.ca. 28 August 2006. Archived from the original on 23 September 2006. Retrieved 13 September 2006.
  14. ^ "More Uncertainty for HMV". thedailyshift.com. 18 January 2013. Archived from the original on 28 March 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
  15. ^ "Music retailer HMV calls in administrators". BBC News. 28 December 2018.
  16. ^ "Sunrise Records paid £883000 for HMV". Financial Times. 25 February 2019. Archived from the original on 10 December 2022. Retrieved 28 February 2019.(subscription required)
  17. ^ Monaghan, Angela; Butler, Sarah (5 February 2019). "HMV reveals which 27 stores have closed after sale to Canadian music boss". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  18. ^ Hope, Fiona. "HMV brings back nine shuttered stores". PSNEurope. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  19. ^ "hmv stores: Details of Re-Openings..." HMV.
  20. ^ "BBC News - HMV Oxford Street flagship store reopens four years after closing".

Further reading[edit]

  • Barnum, Fred (1991). His Master's Voice in America.
  • Southall, Brian (1996). The Story of the World's Leading Music Retailer: HMV 75, 1921–1996.

External links[edit]