Yesterday Once More: Canada’s Music Industry in Portraits

Do you have a favourite popular musician or rock group from the last three or four decades of the 20th century? There’s a good chance you’ll be able to find their photographs documented in the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) Portrait Portal.

The Portal contains photographs taken between 1963 and 2000, selected from LAC’s RPM fonds, an archive that includes thousands of Canada’s and the world’s most popular artists and bands. It also features actors, music and entertainment executives, broadcasters, politicians and sports figures rubbing shoulders with music industry greats. These portraits have been digitized and added to the Portrait Portal as part of LAC’s ongoing digitization initiatives.

What is the significance of the RPM archive to the Canadian music industry?

Founded in Toronto in 1964, RPM was a Canadian weekly trade publication that focused on the Canadian music recording and radio industries. In 1964 it established the RPM Gold Leaf Awards (also referred to as the Maple Leaf Awards), which would soon evolve into the JUNO Awards. RPM was among the parties that lobbied for Canadian content regulations in the broadcast media, and it inaugurated the RPM MAPL logo (with MAPL standing for music, artists, production, lyrics) that has been widely used to identify the Canadian content of commercial sound recordings. The periodical ceased publication in 2000.

According to Cheryl Gillard, a Library and Archives Canada music specialist, the collection of RPM photographs, now available online through the Portrait Portal, “allows anyone, anywhere to take a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of the music industry. Also, for the first time, the Portal’s collection of RPM photos allows less high-profile but historically important Canadian music professionals to be documented and honoured.” This collection showcases Canadian popular culture and reflects the interconnection between the music industries in Canada and the United States.

You can search for photographs of popular musicians in the LAC Portrait Portal simply by entering the name of your favourite band or musician into the keyword search field.

For more information about Canada’s music industry, check out LAC’s RPM database, which contains the digitized versions of the music charts in RPM Weekly from 1964 to 2000. The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) website is also a great place to search for a list of past JUNO award recipients—and more!

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