TORONTO — Sam “The Record Man” Sniderman oversaw tremendous changes in the music business, including the demise of the 78, the brief appearance of the four-track cartridge that preceded the eight-track, and the eventual appearance of the cassette, which was finally replaced by the CD and Internet downloads.
Whatever comes next, he will not be around to witness further changes in the music industry. Sniderman died on Sept. 22 at age 92.
Despite being best known for his music emporium, which he helmed from his flagship store on Yonge Street at Dundas for four decades, Sniderman’s first love was the legal profession.
“I would have loved to have been a lawyer,” Sniderman told The CJN in 1989. “What a difference that would have made.”
A single incident in Sniderman’s youth steered him away from seeking to be a valued member of the legal profession and resulted instead in his becoming the father of the Canadian recording industry.
At the time, Sniderman was a bright 16-year-old in his fifth year at Harbord Collegiate, and he had the opportunity to receive a scholarship in ancient languages and modern history.
However, while helping out at his brother Syd’s radio store on College Street one day, Sniderman said, a judge came in, and in their conversation, the judge said there would be no future for lawyers and there was no sense in Sniderman’s going to university.
“I just pitched it all in and went to work in the radio business with my brother,” Sniderman said.
From this small radio business in Toronto’s old “Jewish district,” the national record chain gradually grew – and kept on growing.
Sniderman said success was often complicated by the fact that he was Jewish, and doors were often closed to him.
“I remember once when I had a little bit of success. I was invited to speak at a club at that didn’t accept Jews. I refused, telling them, ‘You didn’t want me then, you don’t get me now.’”
The continued evolution of the music scene in the 1990s, eventually forced the company to file for bankruptcy, and the downtown flagship store closed in December 2001. It was briefly reopened by his sons the following year, but finally sold to Ryerson University in 2007.
Reflecting on his contribution to the music industry back in 1989, Sniderman lauded his own role.
“I think I’ve done an awful lot of good for Canadian talent. I’ve been a major part of helping strengthen the Canadian recording industry and enjoy having such friends as Anne Murray, Gordon Lightfoot and Getty Lee from Rush.”
Sniderman is survived by his sons Bobby and Jason, as well as their wives Marlaina and Karen, grandchildren Zachary, Jhase, Cosmo and Echo.
Sniderman’s funeral was scheduled for Sept. 25 at Benjamin's Park Memorial Chapel. Interment will be at Mt. Sinai Memorial Park, Pride of Israel section.
A public memorial is planned for October.