His Master's Voice

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His Master's Voice, 1898 by Francis Barraud His Master's Voice.jpg
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 Jack Russell Terrier 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.


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

His Master's Voice (Music Award EMI-Bovema) Gouden Hond alias His Master's Voice.jpg
His Master's Voice (Music Award EMI-Bovema)

The painting

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 His Master's Voice (red trans m) ubt 24.jpeg
A coloured vinyl single released by HMV
Victor Talking Machine Company advertisement from 1921 with "His Master's Voice" trademark VictorTalkingLogo.jpg
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 abandoning 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

Advertisement for "His Master's Voice" gramophones in the Dutch East Indies, 1930s His Master's Voice Advertisement, Surabaya (c 1930s).jpg
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]


The former flagship HMV store at 150-154 Oxford Street, London HMV - Oxford Street 1.jpg
The former flagship HMV store at 150-154 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]

See also

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Nipper Dog mascot of HMV, RCA, and the Victor Talking Machine Company

Nipper was a dog from Bristol, England, who served as the model for an 1898 painting by Francis Barraud titled His Master's Voice. This image became one of the world's best known trademarks, the famous dog-and-gramophone that was used by several record companies and their associated company brands, including Berliner Gramophone and its various affiliates and successors, including Berliner's German subsidiary Deutsche Grammophon; Berliner's American successor the Victor Talking Machine Co. ; Zonophone; Berliner's British affiliate the Gramophone Co. Ltd. and its successors EMI and HMV Retail Ltd.; the Gramophone Co.'s German subsidiary Electrola; and onetime Victor subsidiary the Japan Victor Company (JVC).

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Columbia Graphophone Company Record company in the United Kingdom

Columbia Graphophone Co. Ltd. was one of the earliest gramophone companies in the United Kingdom.

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Francis Barraud English painter

Francis James Barraud was an English painter. He is best known for his work His Master's Voice, one of the most famous commercial logos in the world, having inspired a music industry trademark used by corporations including HMV, EMI and RCA Victor. The image, which depicts a dog named Nipper listening to a wind-up disc gramophone and tilting his head, helped popularize the nascent field of sound recording and brought Barraud worldwide fame. He subsequently established himself as an artist for corporate clients, spending the rest of his career producing two dozen copies of the painting which made his name.

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Further reading