CBC Radio’s record collection goes to used vinyl heaven…
CBC AND THE INNER SLEEVE
how one local retailer obtained CBC Calgary’s entire music library
It’s no secret that the CBC has gone digital. Downsizing and eliminating physical record collections has become par for the course for an institution that is systematically divesting all of its branches of physical record libraries. Sold off part-and-parcel, according to the desires of the individual CBC offices, the thousands of vinyl records and compact discs that have so dutifully filled the airwaves in decades past are now up for grabs. Scoring a major coup in the world of record dealing and collecting, one of Calgary’s own independent record stores had the good acumen and fortune to purchase the entirety of our city’s CBC record library. According to store owner Marilyn Hall, the windfall of archival music is both a bountiful find and an exciting challenge.
“Right from when we first opened as a small bookstore with a small music section, The Inner Sleeve has always maintained an interest in vinyl collecting,” Hall confirms. “I heard about the CBC selling off its collection through a Globe and Mail article that was forwarded to me by an employee. The Mother Corp said they had to get rid of their record libraries and each of the CBCs was responsible for figuring out what to do about disposing of theirs. I contacted them and my husband, a couple of store employees and I went down to check it out. We didn’t have a lot of time, but we took in excess of 800 pictures. We did our research and came up with a reasonable offer. And they accepted!” In addition to the daunting task of packing up over 20,000 vinyl records, Hall also acquired the additional 38,000 compact discs that made up the CBC’s catalogue. Given the impressive volume of merchandise involved, the record store also purchased some of the library’s shelving to help accommodate their newly won inventory.
“I’m still previewing some of the more eye-catching material from the record haul. There are some very interesting looking albums on some very unusual labels. Like the self-titled Rush album on the original Moon label. Quite sought after!” says Hall. “As one might expect, the jazz and classical sections are extremely strong with a large French presence shown throughout. We’ve already had quite a bit of interest from people who collect rare and specifically Canadian releases. Other people are looking for more commonly found titles, but they want to own the actual CBC copy for themselves.”
From folk to psych rock to the greatest soundtracks from the films of the ‘60s, the outgoing CBC collection was built to encompass a wide variety of tastes. Hall explains that according to the CBC’s cataloging alchemy, the majority of contemporary artists were lumped under a broad “Male Vocals” umbrella that sheltered everyone from Frank Sinatra to Bob Marley. So, a bit of flipping will be in order for those eager browsers who would head down to The Inner Sleeve with their wish lists of must-have vinyl nuggets. “As we were going through this collection we knew that even if we didn’t buy it – it was an experience,” Hall surmises. “This library is impressive in that it wasn’t necessarily fine tuned in alphabetical order or according to genre, but they kept the materials in really excellent condition. We drove to Edmonton to search through some of the thrift stores that had received the CBC’s collections as a donation. Those records were in nowhere near as good of shape as ours.
“Another advantage is that Calgary’s collection went solely to one purchaser. The fact is the CBC collection is owned by Canadians because it’s something we all pay into. I think when it comes down to the end of day decision, each radio station had to make its own business decision and, in this case, they have decided they will be donating the whole amount of the sale to charity. It’s admirable and we will be following suit by tracking the sales of the CBC items and donating a portion of the proceeds to the same worthy cause. It’s a good way to give something back to the community.”
By Christine Leonard
Originally published in BeatRoute Magazine