Elektra Records

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Elektra Records
Elektra Records logo.svg
Parent company Warner Music Group
Founded1950;69 years ago (1950)
Country of origin United States
Official website elektra.com

Elektra Records is an American record label owned by Warner Music Group, founded in 1950 by Jac Holzman and Paul Rickolt. [1] It played an important role in the development of contemporary folk music and rock music between the 1950s and 1970s. In 2004, it was consolidated into WMG's Atlantic Records Group. After five years of dormancy, the label was revived as an imprint of Atlantic in 2009. As of October 2018, Elektra was detached from the Atlantic Records umbrella and reorganized into Elektra Music Group, once again operating as an independently managed frontline label of Warner Music.

A record label, or record company, is a brand or trademark associated with the marketing of music recordings and music videos. Sometimes, a record label is also a publishing company that manages such brands and trademarks, coordinates the production, manufacture, distribution, marketing, promotion, and enforcement of copyright for sound recordings and music videos, while also conducting talent scouting and development of new artists, and maintaining contracts with recording artists and their managers. The term "record label" derives from the circular label in the center of a vinyl record which prominently displays the manufacturer's name, along with other information. Within the mainstream music industry, recording artists have traditionally been reliant upon record labels to broaden their consumer base, market their albums, and be both promoted and heard on music streaming services, radio, and television. Record labels also provide publicists, who assist performers in gaining positive media coverage, and arrange for their merchandise to be available via stores and other media outlets.

Warner Music Group American global music conglomerate

Warner Music Group Inc. (WMG), also known as Warner Music, is an American multinational entertainment and record label conglomerate headquartered in New York City. It is one of the "big three" recording companies and the third largest in the global music industry, after Universal Music Group (UMG) and Sony Music Entertainment (SME). Formerly part of Time Warner, the company was publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange until May 2011, when it announced its privatization and sale to Access Industries, which was completed in July 2011. With a multibillion-dollar annual turnover, WMG employs more than 3,500 people and has operations in more than 50 countries throughout the world.

Jac Holzman American businessman and recording executive

Jac Holzman is an American businessman, best known as the founder, chief executive officer and head of Elektra Records and Nonesuch Records. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.



Founding and early history

Elektra was formed in 1950 by Jac Holzman and Paul Rickolt in Holzman's St. John's College dorm room. [2] Each invested $300. The usual spelling of the Greek mythological Pleiad Electra [3] was changed. Holzman famously explained, "I gave her the ‘K’ that I lacked". He found the 'C' in the original name "too soft" but liked the "solid bite" of the letter 'K', citing its use in the Kodak name. [3] [4]

St. Johns College (Annapolis/Santa Fe) Liberal arts college with two campuses, Annapolis and Santa Fe

St. John's College is a private liberal arts college with dual campuses in Annapolis, Maryland, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, which are ranked separately by U.S. News & World Report within the top 100 National Liberal Arts Colleges. It is known for its distinctive curriculum centered on reading and discussing the Great Books of Western Civilization. St. John's has no religious affiliation.

Greek mythology body of myths originally told by the ancient Greeks

Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the ancient Greeks. These stories concern the origin and the nature of the world, the lives and activities of deities, heroes, and mythological creatures, and the origins and significance of the ancient Greeks' own cult and ritual practices. Modern scholars study the myths in an attempt to shed light on the religious and political institutions of ancient Greece and its civilization, and to gain understanding of the nature of myth-making itself.

Pleiades (Greek mythology) celestial nymphs in Greek mythology

The Pleiades, companions of Artemis, were the seven daughters of the titan Atlas and the sea-nymph Pleione born on Mount Cyllene. They were the sisters of Calypso, Hyas, the Hyades, and the Hesperides. The Pleiades were nymphs in the train of Artemis, and together with the seven Hyades were called the Atlantides, Dodonides, or Nysiades, nursemaids and teachers to the infant Dionysus. They were thought to have been translated to the night sky as a cluster of stars, the Pleiades, and were associated with rain.

The first Elektra LP, New Songs (EKLP 1 released March 1951), was a collection of Lieder and similar art songs, which sold few copies. During the Fifties and early Sixties, the label concentrated on folk music recordings, releasing a number of best-selling albums by Theodore Bikel, Ed McCurdy, Oscar Brand, Judy Collins, and protest singers such as Phil Ochs and Tom Paxton. Holzman also recorded Josh White, who was without a record deal as a result of McCarthyite blacklisting.

Lied musical form

The lied is a term in the German vernacular to describe setting poetry to classical music to create a piece of polyphonic music. The term is used for songs from the late fourteenth or early fifteenth centuries or even to refer to Minnesang from as early as the 12th and 13th centuries. It later came especially to refer to settings of Romantic poetry during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and into the early twentieth century. Examples include settings by Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Hugo Wolf or Richard Strauss. Among English speakers, however, "lied" is often used interchangeably with "art song" to encompass works that the tradition has inspired in other languages. The poems that have been made into lieder often center on pastoral themes or themes of romantic love.

Folk music Music of the people

Folk music includes traditional folk music and the genre that evolved from it during the 20th-century folk revival. Some types of folk music may be called world music. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted orally, music with unknown composers, or music performed by custom over a long period of time. It has been contrasted with commercial and classical styles. The term originated in the 19th century, but folk music extends beyond that.

Theodore Bikel Austrian-American actor

Theodore Meir Bikel was an Austrian-American actor, folk singer, musician, composer, unionist and political activist. He appeared in films including The African Queen (1951), Moulin Rouge (1952), The Enemy Below (1957), I Want to Live! (1958), My Fair Lady (1964), The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966) and 200 Motels (1971). For his portrayal of Sheriff Max Muller in The Defiant Ones (1958), he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

In 1964, Elektra launched Nonesuch Records. This classical budget label was the best-selling budget classical label of the era. Other labels followed suit by starting their own budget series, but Nonesuch remained the most popular and Jac Holzman states in his book that profits from the budget classical label made it possible for Elektra to experiment with their pop releases by the mid-sixties.

Nonesuch Records American record label, owned by Warner Music Group, and based in New York City

Nonesuch Records is an American record company and label owned by Warner Music Group, distributed by Warner Records, and based in New York City. Founded by Jac Holzman in 1964 as a budget classical label, Nonesuch has developed into a label that records critically acclaimed music from a wide range of genres. Robert Hurwitz was president of the company from 1984 to 2017.

In 1965, Elektra began a short-lived joint venture with Survey Music called Bounty Records which was Elektra's first foray into pop music. [5] The most notable signing for Bounty was the Paul Butterfield Band who was moved over to Elektra when Bounty folded. [6]

Paul Butterfield American blues singer and harmonica player

Paul Vaughn Butterfield was an American blues harmonica player, singer and band leader. After early training as a classical flautist, he developed an interest in blues harmonica. He explored the blues scene in his native Chicago, where he met Muddy Waters and other blues greats, who provided encouragement and opportunities for him to join in jam sessions. He soon began performing with fellow blues enthusiasts Nick Gravenites and Elvin Bishop.

Elektra's entrance into pop gained the label considerable prestige within the music scene by being one of the first labels to sign up leading acts from the new wave of American psychedelic rock of 1966–1967. The label's most important signings were the Chicago-based Paul Butterfield Blues Band (with Mike Bloomfield), the Los Angeles bands Love and The Doors, and the Detroit bands The Stooges and MC5. Included in Elektra's LA signings were Tim Buckley and Bread. In 1968, the label also signed pioneering rock guitar soloist Lonnie Mack to a three-album deal.

Psychedelic rock Style of rock music

Psychedelic rock is a diverse style of rock music inspired, influenced, or representative of psychedelic culture, which is centred around perception-altering hallucinogenic drugs. The music is intended to replicate and enhance the mind-altering experiences of psychedelic drugs, most notably LSD. Many psychedelic groups differ in style, and the label is often applied spuriously.

Mike Bloomfield American guitarist and composer

Michael Bernard Bloomfield was an American guitarist and composer, born in Chicago, Illinois, who became one of the first popular music superstars of the 1960s to earn his reputation almost entirely on his instrumental prowess, since he rarely sang before 1969. Respected for his guitar playing, Bloomfield knew and played with many of Chicago's blues legends before achieving his own fame and was instrumental in popularizing blues music in the mid-1960s. He was ranked No. 22 on Rolling Stone's list of "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" in 2003 and No. 42 by the same magazine in 2011. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2012 and, as a member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.

Love (band) American rock group

Love is an American rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1965. They were originally led by singer/songwriter Arthur Lee, who wrote most of the songs, although some of their best known songs were written by Bryan MacLean. One of the first racially diverse American bands, their music drew on a diverse range of sources including folk rock, hard rock, blues, jazz, flamenco and orchestral pop.

Also in 1967, Elektra launched its influential Nonesuch Explorer Series, one of the first collections of what is now referred to as world music. Excerpts from several Nonesuch Explorer recordings were later included on the two Voyager Golden Discs which were sent into deep space in 1977 aboard the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 space probes.

1970s: Merger with Asylum Records

Elektra, along with its Nonesuch Records subsidiary, was acquired by Kinney National Services in 1970, which changed its name to Warner Communications in 1972. [1] Soon afterwards, Kinney consolidated their label holdings under the Warner-Elektra-Atlantic umbrella. Holzman remained in charge of Elektra until 1972, when it merged with Asylum Records to become Elektra/Asylum Records; Asylum's founder, David Geffen, would head the newly combined label. [1] Holzman, in the meantime, was appointed senior vice president and chief technologist for Warner — ushering the company into home video and the first interactive cable system. Holzman also went on to acquire Discovery Records. In 1975, Geffen stepped down when he was told that he had a terminal illness; [7] it was later revealed he had been falsely diagnosed. He would be replaced by Joe Smith, who later went on to become CEO of Capitol Records.

Joe Smith, whose leadership resulted in the biggest market share and gross revenues Elektra Asylum was to have, inherited the A&R services of Chuck Plotkin, famed later for producing many of Bruce Springsteen's greatest records, followed up by George Daly, who is credited as bringing in seminal new wave band The Cars, setting Elektra, again, on another artist direction.

Although the company was technically listed as "Elektra/Asylum Records" on the label credits, as the years went on the company began to unofficially call itself Elektra Records again (with Asylum operating as a subsidiary label). In 1982, Elektra launched a jazz subsidiary called Elektra/Musician. The following year, Bob Krasnow became president and CEO of Elektra; under his leadership, the label would reach its commercial peak throughout the rest of the 1980s and early to mid-1990s.

1990s: Elektra Entertainment Group

In 1989, the company officially changed its name to Elektra Entertainment. During the Bob Krasnow era, the label became home to a wide range of artists such as Metallica, The Cars, Luna, Anita Baker, Stereolab, and Teddy Pendergrass. Also during this time, Elektra developed a relationship with the UK label 4AD. Elektra became the label for 4AD acts such as the Pixies, the Breeders, Frank Black and The Amps in the United States and Canada.

Like its sister labels, Elektra's fortunes began to wane in the mid-1990s, in part because of a series of bitter corporate battles between senior Warner label executives which seriously damaged the collective reputation of the group. Unhappy with major structural changes enacted by then Warner Music Group chairman Robert Morgado, Bob Krasnow abruptly resigned in July 1994, and others soon followed—the highly respected Warner Bros CEO Mo Ostin decided not to renew his contract and left in December 1994, and Ostin's friend and protégé Lenny Waronker left early the next year. Krasnow was replaced by Sylvia Rhone, who at the time was a senior vice president at Atlantic Records, and also the CEO of Atlantic's EastWest Records America imprint. Upon Rhone's arrival at Elektra, the label took over the operations of EastWest, as well as Sire Records (which had previously operated through its sister label Warner Bros. Records) and was renamed Elektra Entertainment Group.

In September 1994, another damaging controversy erupted when top heavy metal band Metallica filed suit against Elektra to terminate their contract and gain ownership of their master recordings. The group based its claim on a section of the California Labor Code that allows employees to be released from a personal services contract after seven years. By this time, Metallica had been with the label for more than a decade and had racked up sales of over 40 million records, but they were still operating under the terms of their original 1984 contract, which provided a relatively low 14% royalty rate. [8] The group also claimed that they were taking the action because Robert Morgado had refused to honor a new deal they had worked out with Bob Krasnow shortly before he quit the label. Elektra responded by counter-suing the group, but in December New York magazine reported rumors that then Warner Music US chairman Doug Morris had offered the group a lucrative new deal in exchange for dropping the suit [9] which was reported to be even more generous than the earlier Krasnow deal. In January, the group and Elektra jointly announced that they had settled the suit, and although a non-disclosure agreement kept the terms secret, media sources claimed that "a significant increase in royalty payments to the band as well as a renegotiation of the group's recording contract were key factors in Metallica and Elektra coming to terms." [10]

Despite having a large stable of noted acts, as the 1990s drew to a close, Elektra began to see a slump in revenue, while noticeably underperforming on the charts. It also developed a bit of a sullen reputation in the industry for not properly promoting many of its releases, thus earning the nickname "Neglektra" from several signed artists like Marvelous 3, Jason Falkner and Greg Dulli [11] [12] , and was easily lagging behind its sister labels Warner Bros. Records and Atlantic Records.

2004-2017: Merger with Atlantic, dormancy and revival

In February 2004, Warner Music Group was sold by Time Warner to a group of private investors made up of Thomas Lee Partners, Bain & Company, and Edgar Bronfman Jr. (who assumed CEO duties). [13]

The new owners of WMG decided to merge Elektra and Atlantic Records. [14] Because it was the lesser performing label of the two, 40% of Elektra's operations were put into the new venture, while a commanding 60% of Atlantic's went in. Subsequently, the new company was called "Atlantic Records Group" with Elektra breaking off into a subsidiary which became dormant until the label was revived in 2009 (though longtime time Elektra artists such as Tracy Chapman, Björk, and Yolanda Adams continued to have releases on the label while newer signees such as Jason Mraz and Jet were transferred to Atlantic).

Atlantic Records Group announced the revival of Elektra Records as an independent entity within Warner Music on June 1, 2009. [15] The revived label is headed up by two new co-Presidents: Mike Caren, Exec. VP of A&R for Atlantic Records, and John Janick, founder and President of prominent indie label Fueled by Ramen. The revived label uses a modified version of the circa-1970s Elektra logo.

The first release of the new label was the original soundtrack of the HBO show True Blood , and the first album released was Charlotte Gainsbourg's IRM . The label is now home to artists such as Uffie, Little Boots, Justice, Bruno Mars and CeeLo Green.

On October 4, 2012, Warner Music announced that Jeff Castelaz, the co-founder of Los Angeles-based independent label Dangerbird Records, had been named President of Elektra Records. [16] Gregg Nadel from Atlantic Records A&R became General Manager of the label in 2015. [17] In September 2015 Castelaz stepped down from his role at Elektra, leaving Nadel to run the label. [18]

In 2016, Elektra's releases included A/B , the debut album by Icelandic rock band Kaleo, which included the #1 Alternative hit “Way Down We Go”, Fitz & The Tantrums self-titled third album and the critically acclaimed Southern Family which garnered a 2016 CMA Nomination for “Musical Event of the Year”. [19] [20] Nadel was officially named president of the label in 2017. [21] In October 2017, Elektra Records partnered with MSG Networks for “Friday Night Knicks”. [22]

2018-present: Elektra Music Group

Announced on June 18, 2018, but effective on October 1, 2018, Warner Music Group relaunched Elektra Music Group as a stand-alone staffed music company with the labels Black Cement, Elektra, Fueled by Ramen (FBR), Low Country Sound, and Roadrunner Records. A handful of major artists would transfer from Atlantic. This returned the group back to the Warner-Elektra-Atlantic triad that had for decades marked the original company organization. Staff from Elektra, FBR, Roadrunner labels plus some from Atlantic would staff the new stand alone group with Co-Presidents Mike Easterlin and Gregg Nadel coming from Fueled by Ramen and Roadrunner Records and Elektra, respectively, where they served as label presidents. Elektra Co-Presidents would, however, answer to Atlantic Records Group Chairman & CEO Craig Kallman and Chairwoman & COO Julie Greenwald. [23]

On October 3, 2018, Elektra revealed its entire leadership team. The label group's first release was Trench by Twenty One Pilots on October 5, 2018. [24]


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<i>The Baroque Beatles Book</i> 1965 studio album by Joshua Rifkin

The Baroque Beatles Book is a record album created by the American keyboardist and conductor Joshua Rifkin. Released by Elektra/Nonesuch in 1965, it takes musical themes of the Beatles and reworks them into Baroque style. The artwork on the cover, signed by illustrator Roger Hane, depicts classical composers reviewing the music to "I Want to Hold Your Hand", one of whom sports a Beatles T-shirt.

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Further reading