Canada’s first indie label was founded 100 years ago

In the beginning, all record labels were indie, but once the recording industry became more established, bigger companies started buying up the smaller ones. The first Canadian indie label seems to have been The Compo Company, founded in Montreal in 1918 by Herbert Samuel Berliner, the son of Emile Berliner, the inventor of the gramophone (i.e. the turntable).

It would eventually be bought up and folded into MCA Records Canada in 1970. MCA is now Universal Music Canada.

This excellent article appears at

A number of Canadian indie label milestones were acknowledged during the 4th annual CIMA Celebration and Awards Gala last Monday evening including the 25th anniversary of Sonic Unyon, the 15th for Open Road Recordings and the 10th for MDM Recordings. Also acknowledged was the Compo Company, which was founded in Montréal a century ago, in 1918, by Herbert Samuel Berliner.

Herbert was the son of Emile Berliner, who was born in Hanover, Germany and emigrated to the U.S. in 1870. He was a born inventor who eventually became interested in audio technology as it related to the telephone and sound recording, the latter becoming a crowded field in the late 19th century.

Thomas Alva Edison, scion of a Canadian family, had his “Phonograph,” a machine initially with a tin-foil cylinder with two diaphragm-and-stylus units, one for recording and the other for playback. Alexander Graham Bell, known primarily for his work with the telephone, his cousin Chichester Bell, a chemical engineer, and English scientist and instrument maker Charles Sumner Tainter, developed a wax cylinder player with a floating sapphire-point stylus instead of a rigid needle, called the “Graphophone.” Emile Berliner had his “Gramophone,” which utilized zinc discs instead of wax-covered cylinders. The Berliner Gramophone Company would subsequently market the first commercial flat disc recordings. The company also revolutionized the recording industry by introducing an electroplating process by which their wax-coated zinc discs could be mass-produced using a “stamper” which, when pressed into a ball of vulcanite (hard rubber), could produce final recordings in large numbers.

Keep reading. Fascinating stuff. I had no idea. Here’s additional information.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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