True North Records/Bernie Finkelstein

bruce cockburn album cover

  True North Records, founded by Bernie Finkelstein, is Canada’s longest-running independent record label.
  Finkelstein, the son of an Air Force warrant officer, was born in Toronto in 1944. He became involved in the Yorkville music scene in 1963, taking odd jobs and eventually dropping out of high school. While working in a club called El Patio, he met a young band called the Paupers and soon became their manager (often conducting business from a payphone on Yorkville Avenue). Finkelstein found further success managing the band Kensington Market between 1967 and 1969. After a brief period spent living on a farm in Eastern Ontario, Finkelstein returned to Toronto and founded True North Records.
  Finkelstein met singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn at a Ryerson University coffeehouse in 1969, and the two established an association that lasts to this day. Cockburn has released 29 albums on True North, including such hits as ‘Wondering Where the Lions Are’, and ‘If I Had a Rocket Launcher’. Other important Canadian singer-songwriters who have recorded for True North include Murray McLaughlan, Luke Gibson, Stephen Fearing and Colin Linden. In 1979, True North ventured into the world of post-punk alternative rock, releasing albums by Carol Pope and Rough Trade. Subsequent rock artists signed to the label have included the Rheostatics, 5440, the Cowboy Junkies, the Golden Dogs, Zubot and Dawson, Lynn Miles, Hunter Valentine and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings. Artists on the True North label have won more than 40 Juno awards and put out approximately the same number of gold or platinum records.
  In 1995, True North expanded its operations and released recordings by non-Canadian artists and distributing several international record labels (including U.K.based Cooking Vinyl and U.S.based Fuel 2000, Signature Sounds and Sci-fidelity). In 2007, True North was taken over by Mississauga-based Linus Entertainment; Finkelstein remains the chair and advisor while also managing a number of bands. He is also the chair of VideoFACT, the government-financed organization that funds videos for Canadian music artists.
  Bernie Finkelstein has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and named to the Order of Canada. He lives in Toronto.


True North Records – The Canadian Encyclopedia

True North Records

Finkelstein Management

“CARAS Pays Tribute to Bernie Finkelstein.” eSource Canada Business News Network, January 10, 2006.

Leblanc, Larry. “True North’s Bernie Finkelstein a true music enthusiast.” Billboard, April 22, 1995.

Niester, Alan. “True North’s Strong Spirit.” The Globe and Mail, March 29, 2006.

North, Peter. “True North Still Rocking Along.” The Windsor Star, May 27, 1999.

Quill, Greg. “Iconic True North Label Gets New Owner.” The Toronto Star, December 19, 2007.


Accession No.
Dates of creation
1969 - 2006
Physical description

19.37 m of textual records

595 photographs
· 481 prints
· 114 35mm negatives

218 graphic material
· 203 pieces of artwork
· 15 posters

2,031 audio recordings
· 261 reels of multitrack 2 in. tape (52 hr., 59 min.)
· 40 reels 1 in. tape (3 hr., 30 min.)
· 90 reels ½ in. tape (20 hr., 7 min.)
· 919 reels ¼ in. tape (249 hr., 35 min.)
· 12 reels ¼ in. digital tape (2 hr., 9 min.)
· 6 digital 2 track master cassettes (2 hr., 15 min.)
· 3 ¾ in. audio master cassettes (2 hr., 30 min.)
· 8 8-track cassettes (3 hr., 9 min.)
· 46 DAT cassettes (34 hr., 31 min.)
· 2 audio diskettes (31 min.)
· 277 CDs (163 hr., 10 min.)
· 39 CDRs (11 hr., 16 min.)
· 83 LPs (34 hr., 35 min.)
· 60 45RPMs
· 180 cassettes (80 hr., 49 min.)
· 2 Hard Drives (bearing audio records)
· 3 SyQuest data cartridges

566 video recordings
· 50 reels 1 in. tape (11 hr., 22 min.)
· 116 reels ¾ in. cassettes (43 hr., 12 min.)
· 121 reels Betacam SP cassettes (32 hr., 44 min.)
· 16 reels Digital Betacam cassettes (5 hr., 38 min.)
· 16 DVDs (4 hr., 42 min.)
· 8 S-VHS cassettes (7 hr.)
· 239 VHS cassettes (98 hr.)

24 cinefilms
· 11 reels 35mm camera original col. negative (22,320 ft)
· 6 reels 16mm col. print (1,600 ft)
· 7 reels 16mm camera original col. negative (2,740 ft)

2 electronic materials
· 2 3.5" floppy discs (bearing textual records)

138 artifacts
· 61 awards
· 2 mounted articles
· 54 gold and platinum records
· 6 flags and banners
· 4 framed photographs
· 8 concert shirts
· 3 baseball caps

Scope and content

 This fonds, which documents all aspects of the start-up and ongoing activities of a popular record label and management company based in Toronto, is divided into 5 series according to format. These are: ‘Text’, ‘Audio’, 'Videotape/Cinefilm’, ‘Photographs’, and ‘Memorabilia’.

The first series, ‘Text’, includes press and publicity, management, legal documents (e.g. performance, management, publishing and recording contracts), and accounting documents (such as inventory service reports, purchase and transfer orders invoices and receipts).

The second series, ‘Audio’, consists of released and unreleased studio recordings, as well as released and unreleased live recordings (including rough mixes, alternate takes and outtakes).

The third series, ‘Videotape/Cinefilm’, consists of raw material in the production of music videos and whole concert performances, and finished productions.

The fourth series, ‘Photographs’, consists of images of the various bands in the studio and in concert. Many have been used for album covers, promotion and advertising.

The fifth series, ‘Memorabilia’, consists of the master negatives/separation, proofs and printouts, posters and advertising, industry awards and relevant promotional apparel with logos/graphics.

This fonds includes textual and audiovisual material pertaining to a number of artists, including:

  • Bruce Cockburn
  • Murray McLachlan
  • Rough Trade
  • Barney Bentall
  • The Rheostatics
  • Colin Linden
  • 54-40
Rights and access

A) No access restriction.

B) Material is subject to copyright restrictions; please consult an archivist.