Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

CBC music library goes Into the Music

Local record store acquires 'the crown jewel of Winnipeg radio collections'

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Expect to see some new genre categories on the shelves at Into the Music.

The independent music retailer on McDermot Avenue has acquired a large part of the Winnipeg CBC music library totalling 26,000 CDs and 16,000 vinyl records.

"I'll have to come up with creative sections for some of them. Like Folkways Records -- they did all kinds of oddball things like sound effects records, barnyard sounds and an ethnic series with stuff from all over the world. CBC had a bunch of this stuff I've never seen before, which is fantastic," says Into the Music owner Greg Tonn.

The local Canadian Broadcasting Corporation collection dates back to the 1960s and fills 300 boxes. Into the Music staff are sorting through the library and examining and appraising each album individually as per normal store policy. Titles are being placed on the store's shelves and online at its eBay site (Into the Music Winnipeg) as they are catalogued.

Tonn figures the entire process will take about a year.

"We got what I think is the crown jewel of Winnipeg radio collections. We really wanted to keep it local and let locals benefit from it. It's part of what keeps people coming back to the store, so it's a win-win: customers are finding rare stuff and they are coming into the store. The CBC collection is like rocket fuel for our eBay store and our in-store sales. I'm beside myself; it's already spawned a whole bunch of pretty pricey sales," he said.

Some of the items for sale on eBay (as of press time) include Vancouver psychedelic band Mother Tucker's Yellow Duck's 1970 album, Starting a New Day; the Folkways album Sounds of North American Frogs (The Biological Significance of Voice in Frogs); soul-pop artist Jack Tobi's 1978 album Free at Last on the CBC's own record label; and Cult Music of Cuba on the Ethnic Folkways Library label.


"If I'm buying stuff across the counter and I've never seen it, I'll buy it just because I know it is interesting and other collectors will think it's interesting. I've been doing this for 30 years, and in this collection there's tons of stuff I've never seen before," Tonn says excitedly.

"One of the treasure troves of this collection is the CBC recordings. CBC used to record artists for internal distribution to other CBC stations. Most was recorded in the '60s and '70s, stuff like the Perth Country Conspiracy, a hippie collective from Stratford, Ontario who had some releases on Columbia. They were kind of acid-folk-psychedelia. Their first album was on CBC only and a couple have sold in the area of $1,000 and one recently went for $600, and that was probably from the CBC collection."

The CBC has been consolidating and digitizing its entire musical library since 2009, explains John Bertrand, managing director of CBC Manitoba English services.

Prior to the sale of its collection, CBC Winnipeg shipped 88 boxes to the main Toronto headquarters where all the music will be catalogued, digitalized and stored so the entire CBC network will have access to the complete music library.

The same process is happening at affiliates across Canada.

"It's really about digitizing all of our music and making it accessible to the whole country in an accessible way. It's in no way a loss of music; it's actually an enhancement of music," Bertrand says.

When the process began three years ago, the CBC had 660,000 albums in its system with a total of 138,000 unique titles. It was decided at the time to sell off or donate all duplicate copies and to digitize the rest.

Locally, all the classical music and jazz CDs were donated to the Canadian Mennonite University music program. As part of the agreement, the CMU will make the collection available to other educational institutions.

Part of the mandate of the sale was to include local non-profit groups. Tonn's winning bid, which he is not allowed to disclose, included donating 60 per cent of the collection to local community organizations, which in turn will hold their own music sales as fundraisers.

Into the Music's non-profit partners are West Broadway Youth Outreach and Winnipeg Citizen Advocacy. Members of the two groups put in some sweat equity by helping to move and catalogue items. It took 15 people and five trucks a full six hours to haul the entire collection from CBC to a storage facility where the albums are being held.

"I have, right now in the store, about 11,000 LPs and 9,000 CDs, so I've tripled my CD size, although there's probably about 50 per cent I won't be able to use, and about 80 per cent of the records I won't be able to use," says Tonn, who will celebrate Into the Music's 25-year anniversary next month.

The collection includes a wide variety of genres from rock to classical. Albums were arranged by genres by the CBC then catalogued chronologically as they were received, so when Into the Music staff are going through the boxes they have no idea what they might pull out next, Tonn says.

"There's lots of psychedelic stuff, soft psych and sunshine pop. Think Poppy Family and Canadian artists in that genre. We've been selling that stuff to places like Asia, China and South Korea where these little micro genres are really hot. We just found them in there and we want to share that excitement with people in tune with that. Not everyone collects that, though, of course," Tonn says with a laugh.

The music from the collection won't have its own special "CBC" section at Into the Music, but will be placed in whatever category it falls into, if one exists.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 19, 2012 D1

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