Unless you've been living on another planet, you've caught some of the buzz…
- Posted on Sep 24th 2012 10:35AM by Jason MacNeil
According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, Sniderman became a Member of the Order of Canada in 1976, received the 1989 Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award at the Juno Awards and was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Association Hall of Fame in 1997. Sniderman also played a role in the East Coast Music Association and CARAS among countless other music organizations.
"Sniderman was very much the musical equivalent of theatre's Ed Mirvish, a booster of Canadian talent who turned his love of the arts into a thriving business -- at least until technology changed the game," Michael Hollett, publisher of NOW magazine, wrote in an obituary Sunday evening. "Sniderman was a keen fan of Canadian music and made sure this country's artists were always featured prominently in his stores. Sam's even had significant space for indie Canadian acts in addition to the country's established artists."
Born and raised in Toronto, Sniderman's brother Sidney operated Sniderman Radio Sales and Service, which opened in 1929. In 1937 Sam began selling albums at his brother's College Street store. Sam opened another outlet in a furniture store on Yonge Street in 1959 before combining both stores into one in 1961.
By the late 1960s, Sniderman decided to go nationwide with the outlet, creating well over 100 stores with the chain reaching its peak of approximately 137 shops in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The heyday was a worry-free time for brick-and-mortar record retailers before the internet's digital music revolution and illegal downloading.
Sniderman appeared in several of the chain's television ads, some of which can be found on YouTube. The Sam's Yonge Street location was also referred to in the Barenaked Ladies song "Brian Wilson" with former member Steven Page singing "Drove downtown in the rain, 9:30 on a Tuesday night/Just to check out the late night record shop."
By the late '90s, however, with music piracy and online options becoming a growing trend among music lovers, Sam the Record Man began to feel the financial pinch. In 2001 -- a year after Sam Sniderman retired and left the business to sons Jason and Bobby as well as his brother Sidney's children Arna and Lana -- the Sniderman family declared Sam the Record Man bankrupt. The result was all but a handful of stores nationwide closing. The Yonge Street store remained open, as did a store in downtown Halifax.
But despite the downsizing, the stores were unable to succeed financially, resulting in the Halifax location closing in February 2007. In a 2007 CBC article, Bobby Sniderman said one of the main reasons for closing the Halifax store was music downloading.
"It's a responsible and necessary business decision given the circumstances in the industry," he said. "We were really optimistic about continuing the store and making a contribution to the community, and it's a difficult decision for us to have to make."
In June, 2007, the Sam the Record Man on Yonge Street closed and was later torn down. The iconic neon store sign resembling two large vinyl LPs would be relit one last time in 2008 as part of the city's Nuit Blanche festivities. The property would be purchased by Ryerson University.
Meanwhile two stores carried on: one in Sarnia which closed in 2009, and another in Belleville, Ontario which is still open. Although there was no mention of Sniderman's passing Sunday night on the Belleville store's Facebook page, dozens of people took to the page to express their condolences for Sniderman.
Those sentiments were echoed throughout the Canadian music scene via Twitter, with organizers of the Polaris Music Prize ceremony tweeting shortly after news of his death broke: "RIP Sam. Tomorrow's gala will be dedicated to you."
"How many music fans and Canadian music industry peeps spent time in Sam the Record Man as a teenager? Everyone," music executive Eric Alper tweeted. "RIP Sam Sniderman."
"End of an era with the passing of Sam 'The Record Man' Sniderman," CBC Q host Jian Ghomeshi said in a series of tweets. "One of the good guys who shaped the Canadian music business. RIP Sam's. Lining up at 6am at Yonge/Dundas for deals...Sam The Record Man was heaven for a music obsessed teen in the 80s. A Cdn institution. RIP #Sam."
In 1988 Sniderman was also the subject of an album entitled A Tribute to Sam Sniderman for his half-century in the music business. The University of Toronto's Faculty of Music Library also benefited from Sniderman and former wife Eleanor Koldofsky donating to its archive beginning in 1963. By 2003 the archive held an estimated 175,000 items.