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HMV logo

His Master's Voice, often abbreviated to HMV, is a famous trademark in the music business, and for many years was the name of a large record company. The name was coined in 1899 as the title of a painting of the dog Nipper listening to a wind-up gramophone.


The Origin of the Trademark Image

The famous trademark image came from a painting originally titled Dog looking at and listening to a Phonograph, and then retitled His Master's Voice. It was painted by British artist Francis Barraud in 1898, based on memories of his dog Nipper. The original version of the painting showed not the disc gramophone familiar in the trademark today, but rather a cylinder phonograph.

Barraud failed to sell it to any cylinder phonograph company, but in 1899 was able to sell it to the Gramophone Company under the condition that he modify it to show a disc machine. The Gramophone Company first used the image on publicity material in 1900. At the request of the gramophone's inventor Emile Berliner, the American rights to the picture became owned by the Victor Talking Machine Company.

Victor used the image more aggressively than its U.K. partner, and from 1902 on all Victor records had a simplified drawing of the dog and gramophone from Barraud's painting on their label. Magazine advertisements urged record buyers to "Look for the dog".

The Gramophone Company becomes "His Master's Voice"

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Photo of a 1920s HMV record label

In 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 famous picture painted by Frances Barraud, commonly referred to as Nipper or The Dog. The company was never 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 RCA. In Commonwealth countries (except Canada) it was used by the associated company HMV Records, which was later acquired by EMI. The trademark's ownership is divided between different companies in different countries, reducing its value in the globalised music market. The name HMV is used by a chain of music shops, mainly in the UK, Canada and Japan.

In 1921 the His Master's Voice Company opened the first HMV shop in London. In 1929 RCA bought 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 American rights to His Master's Voice. 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 (HMV shops in Japan are not allowed to use the trademark because of this). Nipper continued to appear on RCA Victor records in America while EMI owned the His Master's Voice label and shops in the UK until the 1980s. The globalised market for CDs pushed EMI into abandoning the HMV label in favour of "EMI Classics", a name they could use worldwide. Meanwhile RCA went into a financial decline; the RCA Victor label (complete with the dog and gramophone image) is now licensed by RCA Records owner BMG-Bertelsmann from trademark owner General Electric, while RCA's consumer electronics business (still promoted by Nipper the dog) is owned by Thomson. (Thomson also produces other "GE"=branded products under license.)

Over the years the HMV label for records was abandoned by EMI, only to be revived in the nineties for Morrissey recordings.

The name HMV is still used by their chain of record shops in the UK, which continued to expand internationally through the 1990s. In 1998 HMV Media was created as a separate company and bought the Waterstone's chain of bookshops, leaving EMI with a 43% stake. In 2002 it floated on the Stock Exchange as HMV Group plc, leaving EMI with only a token holding.

See also

External links

ja:HMV sv:HMV


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