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

Accounting History, November 2003

20 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2003

See all articles by Ivo De Loo

Ivo De Loo

Nyenrode Business University

David Davis

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 leading 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.

Keywords: Recording industry, racial discrimination, management accounting, decision-making, investment decisions

JEL Classification: N82, M41, M46

Suggested Citation

De Loo, Ivo and Davis, David, Black Swan Records - 1921-1924: From a Swanky Swan to a Dead Duck. Accounting History, November 2003, Available at SSRN: or

Ivo De Loo (Contact Author)

Nyenrode Business University ( email )

Straatweg 25
P.O. Box 130
Breukelen, 3620 AC

David Davis

Open Polytechnic of New Zealand ( email )

Private Bag 31914
3 Cleary Street
Lower Hutt, Welllington 5011
New Zealand

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