Black Swan Records — 1921–1924: From a Swanky Swan to a Dead Duck

Posted: September 2, 2011 in David Davis & Ivo De Loo, History, Technology and Market, The Colour Line

Authors : David Davis, Ivo De Loo

Source : Copyright © 2002 The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand.


“In 1921, Harry Herbert Pace founded a highly influential record company, the Pace Phonograph Corporation, in Harlem, New York. Pace both initiated and operated the famous Black Swan label, which was one of the first to enable black musicians to record music in their own style. Many famous black artists, such as Ethel Waters, Fletcher Henderson, the Harmony Five and Alberta Hunter made their early appearances on the Black Swan label. In its heydays of
1921-1922, the company was the most successful Afro-American owned business of its time. Several factors that led to the company’s demise after its initial success and rapid growth can be identified. In addition to economic and technological factors, it is likely that poor management accounting, underestimation of overheads, under capitalization and ‘ad hoc’ decision making all led to financial distress. Racial prejudice and discrimination also played a crucial role. By today’s standards, the company’s fall in 1924 would have been easily foreseen, but in the business climate of the 1920s, better
management may have been no more successful in keeping the company afloat. Nevertheless, today’s recording industry, particularly in the field of jazz, owes much to the pioneering work of Harry Pace and the Black Swan label.”



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