Polydor Records

Last updated

Polydor Records
Polydor Logo 1963 001.svg
Parent company Universal Music Group
Founded2 April 1913;107 years ago (1913-04-02)
Distributor(s)
GenreVarious
Country of origin Germany
United Kingdom
Location London, England
Official website www.polydor.co.uk

Polydor Records Ltd. is a German-British record label and company that operates as part of Universal Music Group. It has a close relationship with Universal's Interscope Geffen A&M Records label, which distributes Polydor's releases in the United States. In turn, Polydor distributes Interscope releases in the United Kingdom. Polydor Records Ltd. was established in London in 1954 as a British subsidiary of German company Deutsche Grammophon GmbH. It was renamed Polydor Ltd. in 1972.

Contents

Its artists have included ABBA, Cream, The Moody Blues, The Who, Samantha Mumba, Cher Lloyd, Years & Years, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Slade, Bee Gees, The Jam, Cheryl, Girls Aloud, The Saturdays, Gary Barlow, Take That, James Brown, Fickle Friends, The Fauves, Ellie Goulding, Duffy, James Blake, Snow Patrol, Elbow, Status Quo, Eric Clapton, Marie Osmond, Waldo de los Ríos, Ruti Olajugbagbe, Lana Del Rey, Soraya, Haim, Keith O'Conner Murphy, LANY, Azealia Banks and Alyssa Reid.

Label history

Beginnings

Polydor Records was founded on 2 April 1913 by German Polyphon-Musikwerke AG in Leipzig and registered on 25 July 1914 (Nr. 316613). The label was founded as Firma Brachhausen & Riesener in 1887 by Gustav Adolf Brachhausen and Ernst Paul Riessner, for manufacturing their new mechanical disc-playing music box Polyphon, invented in 1870. [1] During World War I on 24 April 1917, Polyphon-Musikwerke AG acquired the German Deutsche Grammophon-Aktiengesellschaft record plant and company from the German government. The German state had taken over British-held Grammophon as enemy property during World War I. [2]

Polydor was originally an independent branch of the Polyphon-Grammophon-Konzern group. It was used as an export label from 1924. After the British and German branches of the Gramophone Company were separated during World War I, Deutsche Grammophon claimed the rights to the Nipper-dog and gramophone trademark for Germany, where HMV recordings were to be released under the Electrola trademark replacing the company lost during the war.

1920s vintage Polydor export label with its double-horn gramophone logo Polydorearly78.JPG
1920s vintage Polydor export label with its double-horn gramophone logo

In turn, Deutsche Grammophon records exported from Germany were released on the Polyphon Musik and Polydor labels. [3] New foreign branches were founded, for example in Austria, Denmark, Sweden and France.

In 1941, Deutsche Grammophon (including Polydor) was purchased by Siemens & Halske.

Polydor became a popular music label in 1946, while the new Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft label became a classical music label in 1949. [2] The previously used label, Grammophon, was disbanded. DGG gave, by an agreement dated 5 July 1949, an exclusive license from 1 July 1951 to use the Nipper-dog with gramophone to the original owner's company Electrola, the German branch of EMI. (In Germany, it was impossible to sell the trademark without selling the company.) [4] Polydor remained Deutsche Grammophon's export label, including classical music, in France and the Spanish-speaking world for the remainder of the long-playing era, as a result of language and cultural concerns. DGG established a subsidiary in London called Polydor Records Ltd. in 1954.

In the early 1960s, orchestra leader Bert Kaempfert signed unknowns Tony Sheridan and The Beat Brothers - who later became known as The Beatles—to Polydor. Popular International entertainers such as James Last, Bert Kaempfert, Kurt Edelhagen, Caterina Valente and the Kessler Twins appeared on the Polydor label, as well as many French, Spanish and Latin-American figures.

Siemens entered into a joint venture with Philips in 1962 creating the Grammophon-Philips Group, of which Polydor became a subsidiary label.

Polydor opened a US branch in 1969 (in years prior, they licensed their catalogue to Atlantic Records), [5] but did not become a real presence in the US record industry until its purchase of the recording contract and back catalogue of R&B performer James Brown in 1971, and the absorption of the MGM Records label by its parent company PolyGram in 1972.

In 1970, Polydor acquired the Hong Kong-based Diamond Records, which had been owned and founded by the local Portuguese merchant Ren da Silva in the late 1950s.

PolyGram

In 1954 Polydor Records introduced their distinctive orange label. Polydor orange II.JPG
In 1954 Polydor Records introduced their distinctive orange label.

In 1972, The Grammophon-Philips Group (GPG) reorganized to create PolyGram. The Polydor label continued to run as a subsidiary label under the new company. The name PolyGram is a portmanteau of Polydor and PhonoGram. Throughout the 1970s, Polydor became a major rock label, also releasing records by such platinum-selling acts as the Bee Gees [6] and Gloria Gaynor.

Into the 1980s, Polydor continued to do respectable business, in spite of becoming increasingly overshadowed by its PolyGram sister label Mercury Records. Polydor took over management of British Decca's pop catalogue. A&R manager Frank Neilson was able to score a major top ten hit in March 1981 for the label with "Do The Hucklebuck" by Coast to Coast as well as signing Ian Dury and Billy Fury to the company. In 1984, the company name was parodied in the rockumentary film This Is Spinal Tap (whose soundtrack album was distributed by Polydor), where "Polymer Records" was the band's record company.

By the early 1990s, Polydor had begun to underperform. PolyGram subsequently trimmed most of Polydor's staff and roster, and shifted it to operate under the umbrella of PolyGram Label Group (PLG), a newly constructed "super label" specifically designed to oversee the operations of PolyGram's lesser performing imprints, which included Island Records, London Records, Atlas Records and Verve Records at the time.

In 1994, as Island Records recovered from its sales slump, PolyGram dissolved most of PLG into it. Meanwhile, Polydor Records and Atlas Records merged, briefly called "Polydor/Atlas", and began operating through A&M Records, another PolyGram subsidiary. In 1995, Polydor/Atlas became simply Polydor Records again.

Twilight years in the United States

Over the next few years, Polydor tried to keep itself afloat with new artist signings, new releases, and reissues, while still becoming more and more dormant. In 1998, PolyGram was purchased by Seagram and absorbed into its Universal Music Group. During the consolidation of these two music giants, Polydor's United States operations were folded into Interscope-Geffen-A&M and Universal Records, while its overseas branch remained intact, with its records continuing to be distributed domestically through Interscope and A&M. Today, in North America, the Polydor Records name and logo is mostly used on reissues of older material from its 1960s and 1970s heyday. Island Records handles the US distribution of most pre-1998 Polydor releases, including the reissues from the British Decca pop/rock collections. Island's sister label Republic Records distributes reissues from James Brown and MGM Records. However, starting in the 2010s, Interscope Records has been signing acts such as Azealia Banks and Lana Del Rey jointly to Polydor and its logo has been seen on both releases.

Polydor Nashville

Record producer Harold Shedd founded Polydor's Nashville, Tennessee, division in 1994, which specialized in country music. Among the acts signed to Polydor Nashville were Shane Sutton, Tasha Harris, 4 Runner, the Moffatts, Chely Wright, Mark Luna, Clinton Gregory, Amie Comeaux, [7] along with Toby Keith and Davis Daniel, who transferred from Mercury Nashville in 1994. [8] The Nashville division was renamed A&M Nashville in March 1996 and closed in September of the same year, as PolyGram consolidated all its Nashville operations under the Mercury name. Today, Polydor, along with EMI Records in the UK and Australia and UMG itself in Canada distribute Lost Highway Records' albums in the Commonwealth realms.

Polydor UK

In 1972 the British Polydor Records Ltd. was renamed to Polydor Ltd. In the early 1970s, the main source of income for the label was the successful UK band Slade as well as The New Seekers and The Who. At the time, between the 1970s and 1980s, the Polydor/PolyGram Senior VP (who was originally the first head of their new [at the time] rock department) was Jerry Jaffe, who also signed acts such as Motörhead, Dexy's Midnight Runners, and the Jam. He also interacted with many famous and successful artists while in that position, including Nick Lowe and John Lennon, as well as going on to work with groups such as the Jesus and Mary Chain and Saint Etienne the late 1980s and 1990s. Later, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the label was also home to the Who and the Jam (as well as its successor act the Style Council).

Although Polydor's American branch is nearly inactive, in the United Kingdom Polydor remains one of the most prominent labels in the country—with artists such as Take That, Cheryl, Duffy, the Saturdays, Kaiser Chiefs, Ellie Goulding and Lawson. Polydor also has a strong indie roster through the Fiction imprint with acts such as Ian Brown, Bright Eyes, Elbow, White Lies, the Maccabees, Kate Nash, Snow Patrol, Filthy Dukes, and Crystal Castles. Polydor has also survived in Canada, becoming the home label for Drake. It also acts as the UK label for American-based acts under Interscope-Geffen-A&M like Madonna, Eminem, the All-American Rejects, the Black Eyed Peas, Gwen Stefani, Dr. Dre, Lana Del Rey, Lady Gaga, Selena Gomez, Kendrick Lamar, Maroon 5, M.I.A., No Doubt, Sting and JoJo.

In 2006, Polydor launched Fascination Records, a music label dedicated to pop music. Both Girls Aloud and Sophie Ellis-Bextor transferred to the new label and created groups such as the Saturdays and Girls Can't Catch. Several pop acts from US label Hollywood Records, such as Demi Lovato, the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez & the Scene were also signed to Fascination.

In 2008, A&M Records UK was founded as an imprint of Polydor UK. The same year Polydor obtained distribution of the Rolling Stones' back catalogue as well as new releases. [9] With the establishment of A&M Records UK, A&M Records' Canadian division became a separate entity for the first time since the formation of Universal Music Group. Polydor, meanwhile, continued to distribute Interscope, Geffen and selected Lost Highway releases in Canada through Universal Music Canada, as it does to this day.

See also

Related Research Articles

Geffen Records is an American record label established by David Geffen and owned by Universal Music Group through its Interscope Geffen A&M Records imprint.

Decca Records US/British record label

Decca Records is a British record label established in 1929 by Edward Lewis. Its U.S. label was established in late 1934 by Lewis, along with American Decca's first president Jack Kapp and later American Decca president Milton Rackmil. In 1937, anticipating Nazi aggression leading to World War II, Lewis sold American Decca and the link between the UK and U.S. Decca labels was broken for several decades. The British label was renowned for its development of recording methods, while the American company developed the concept of cast albums in the musical genre. Both wings are now part of the Universal Music Group, which is co-owned by Vivendi, a media conglomerate headquartered in Paris, and Tencent, a Chinese tech company. The US Decca label was the foundation company that evolved into UMG.

MCA Inc. was an American media conglomerate founded in 1924. Originally a talent agency with artists in the music business as clients, the company became a major force in the film industry, and later expanded into television production. MCA published music, booked acts, ran a record company, represented film, television, and radio stars, and eventually produced and sold television programs to the three major television networks, but had an especially good relationship with NBC.

MCA Records

MCA Records was an American record label owned by MCA Inc., which later gave way to the larger Universal Music Group.

Deutsche Grammophon German classical music record label

Deutsche Grammophon (DGG) is a German classical music record label that was the precursor of the corporation PolyGram. Headquartered in Berlin Friedrichshain, it is now part of Universal Music Group (UMG) since its merger with the UMG family of labels in 1999. It is the oldest surviving established record company.

Mercury Records Record label

Mercury Records was an American record label that had significant success as an independent operation in the 1940s and 1950s and that later became owned by Philips, PolyGram, and Universal Music Group. In the US, it operated through Island Records; in the UK, it was distributed by EMI Records.

London Recordings is a British record label that marketed records in the United States, Canada, and Latin America for Decca Records from 1947 to 1980 before becoming semi-independent. The London name - as London American Recordings, often shortened to London American - was also used by British Decca in the UK market, for releases taken from American labels which British Decca licensed.

MGM Records

MGM Records was a record label founded by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio in 1946 for the purpose of releasing soundtrack recordings of their musical films. It transitioned into a pop music label which continued into the 1970s. The company also released soundtrack albums of the music for some of their non-musical films as well, and on rare occasions, cast albums of off-Broadway musicals such as The Fantasticks and the 1954 revival of The Threepenny Opera. In one instance, it released the highly successful soundtrack album of a film made by another studio, Columbia Pictures's Born Free (1966).

Verve Records

Verve Records, also known as Verve Label Group, founded in 1956 by Norman Granz, is home to the world's largest jazz catalogue and includes recordings by artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Stan Getz, Bill Evans, Billie Holiday and Oscar Peterson, among others. It absorbed the catalogues of Granz's earlier labels, Clef Records, founded in 1946, Norgran Records, founded in 1953, and material previously licensed to Mercury Records.

PolyGram N.V. was an entertainment company and major music record label formerly based in the Netherlands. It was founded in 1962 as the Grammophon-Philips Group by Dutch corporation Philips and German corporation Siemens, to be a holding for their record companies, and was renamed "PolyGram" in 1972. The name was chosen to reflect the Siemens interest Polydor Records and the Philips interest Phonogram Records. The company traced its origins through Deutsche Grammophon back to the inventor of the flat disk gramophone, Emil Berliner.

DGC Records American record label

DGC Records is an American record label that currently operates as a division of Interscope Geffen A&M Records, which is owned by the Vivendi-based Universal Music Group.

DreamWorks Records

DreamWorks Records was an American record label founded in 1996 by David Geffen, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg as a subsidiary of DreamWorks SKG. The label operated until 2003 when it was sold to Universal Music Group. The label itself also featured a Nashville, Tennessee-based subsidiary, DreamWorks Nashville, which specialized in country music and was shut down in 2006. The company's logo was designed by Roy Lichtenstein and was his last commission before his death in 1997.

Philips Records

Philips Records is a record label founded by the Dutch electronics company Philips. In 1946, Philips acquired the company which pressed records for British Decca's Dutch outlet in Amsterdam.

Phonogram Incorporated was started in 1970 as a successor to Philips Phonographic Industries, a unit of the Grammophon-Philips Group (GPG), a joint venture of Philips N.V. of the Netherlands and Siemens A.G. of Germany.

Universal Music Group Nashville is Universal Music Group's country music subsidiary. Some of the labels in this group include MCA Nashville Records, Mercury Nashville Records, Lost Highway Records, Capitol Records Nashville and EMI Records Nashville. UMG Nashville not only handles these imprints, but also manages the country music catalogues of record labels Universal Music and predecessor companies acquired over the years including ABC Records, Decca Records, Dot Records, DreamWorks Records, Kapp Records, MGM Records and Polydor Records.

<i>Greatest Hits 1976–1986</i> 1992 greatest hits album by Elton John

Greatest Hits 1976–1986 is a collection of hits by Elton John released in the United States only by MCA Records in 1992. It replaced an earlier compilation, Geffen's 1987 release Elton John's Greatest Hits Vol. 3. This was necessitated because of a shift in the control of copyrights and a resulting reshuffling of compilation albums.

Interscope Geffen A&M Records

Interscope Geffen A&M Records (IGA), also known as A&M Records Group, is an American umbrella label owned by Universal Music Group, consisting of record labels Interscope Records, Geffen Records, and A&M Records.

A&M Records American historical record label

A&M Records was an American record label founded as an independent company by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss in 1962. Due to the success of the discography A&M released, the label garnered interest and was acquired by PolyGram in 1989 and began distributing releases from Polydor Ltd. from the UK. Throughout its operations, A&M housed well-known acts such as Gin Blossoms, Dishwalla, Joe Cocker, Procol Harum, Captain & Tennille, Sting, Sergio Mendes, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Supertramp, Bryan Adams, Burt Bacharach, Liza Minnelli, The Carpenters, Paul Williams, Quincy Jones, Janet Jackson, Cat Stevens, Peter Frampton, Elkie Brooks, Carole King, Styx, Extreme, Amy Grant, Joan Baez, The Police, Jann Arden, CeCe Peniston, Shanice, Blues Traveler, Soundgarden, Duffy, and Sheryl Crow.

Polyphon

Polyphon is a disc-playing music box, a mechanical device first manufactured by the Polyphon Musikwerke, located in Leipzig, Germany. Invented in 1870, full-scale production started around 1897 and continued into the early 1900s. Polyphons were exported all over world and music was supplied for the English, French and German markets, as well as further afield, with music cataloged for the Russian, Polish and Balkan regions. Polyphon is also a record label as registered by German Polyphon Musikwerke AG in 1908. Polyphon traded under the Polydor label since 1913 with their trademarks Polyphon Musik and Polyphon Record.

References

  1. "Schellackplatten Label - Polyphon - Grammophon und Schellackplatten Portal 78rpm". grammophon-platten.de. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  2. 1 2 Studios, Emil Berliner. "EMIL BERLINER STUDIOS - About us - Chronicle". emil-berliner-studios.com. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  3. Hoffmann, Frank (12 November 2004). Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound. Routledge. ISBN   9781135949501.
  4. Dg-111.com Archived 5 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  5. "College Music Contest Opens Talent Hunt". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 15 March 1969. p. 64.
  6. "Bee Gees - Album Discography - AllMusic". allmusic.com. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  7. Evans Price, Deborah; Flippo, Chet (21 September 1996). "A&M Nashville a Victim of Country Label Growth". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media Inc. p. 6.
  8. Morris, Edward (14 May 1994). "Mercury Focuses on Tighter Roster". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media Inc. p. 40.
  9. "Stones ditching EMI for Universal". BBC News. 25 July 2008.