Virgin Records

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Virgin Records Ltd
Virgin Records.jpg
Parent company Universal Music Group
Founded
  • Virgin Records Ltd.
    1972;47 years ago (1972)
  • Virgin Records America, Inc.
    1986;33 years ago (1986)
Founder
Defunct2013 (In the UK)
Status
  • Active in the US
Distributor(s)
GenreVarious
Country of origin United Kingdom
Official website

Virgin Records Ltd. is a Britishrecord label founded by entrepreneurs Richard Branson, Simon Draper, Nik Powell, and musician Tom Newman in 1972. It grew to be a worldwide phenomenon over time, with the success of platinum performers such as Aaliyah, George Michael, Paula Abdul, Janet Jackson, Roy Orbison, Devo, Tangerine Dream, Genesis, Keith Richards, the Human League, Culture Club, Simple Minds, Lenny Kravitz, dc Talk, the Smashing Pumpkins, Mike Oldfield, Gorillaz, Lewis Capaldi and Spice Girls, among others. [1]

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.

Richard Branson British business magnate, investor and philanthropist

Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson is a British business magnate, investor, author and philanthropist. He founded the Virgin Group, which controls more than 400 companies.

Nik Powell is a British businessman and one of the co-founders of the Virgin Group with Richard Branson. After operating a mail-order company, a small record shop, and a recording studio, the partners established Virgin Records in 1972. It became one of the UK's major recording labels until it was sold to EMI in 1992.

Contents

After its acquisition by Universal Music Group through its purchase of EMI in 2012, UMG absorbed Virgin's British operations to create Virgin EMI Records in March 2013. [2] Today, the operations of Virgin Records America, Inc., the company's North American operations founded in 1986, are still active and headquartered in Hollywood, California, and have operated exclusively under the Capitol Music Group imprint, also owned by UMG, since 2007. The US operations have also taken on the name Virgin Records. [3] A minor number of artists remain on Virgin Records America's roster, which is currently mostly occupied with European artists such as Bastille, Circa Waves, Corinne Bailey Rae, Ella Eyre, Grizfolk, Walking on Cars, Seinabo Sey, and Prides; American artists include Knox Hamilton, L'Tric, Loren Gray, and Rise Against

Universal Music Group American music corporation

Universal Music Group is an American global music corporation that is a subsidiary of the French media conglomerate Vivendi. UMG's global corporate headquarters are located in Santa Monica, California. It is considered one of the "Big Three" music companies, along with Sony Music and Warner Music Group. Since 2004, the corporation is no longer related to the film studio Universal Studios. In 2019, Fast Company named Universal Music Group the most innovative music company and listed UMG among the Top 50 most innovative companies in the world and "amid the music industry's digital transformation, Universal is redefining what a modern label should look like." UMG has signed licensing agreements with more than 400 platforms worldwide.

EMI British music recording and publishing company

EMI Group Limited was a British Transnational conglomerate founded in March 1931 in London. At the time of its break-up in 2012, it was the fourth largest business group and record label conglomerate in the music industry, and was one of the big four record companies ; its labels included EMI Records, Parlophone, Virgin Records, and Capitol Records, which are now owned by other companies.

Virgin EMI Records British record label

Virgin EMI Records is a British record label owned by the Universal Music Group that was formed in 2013.

History

Virgin logo designed by Roger Dean for the fledgling Virgin Records label Virginrecordlogo.jpg
Virgin logo designed by Roger Dean for the fledgling Virgin Records label

Branson and Powell had initially run a small record shop called Virgin Records and Tapes on Notting Hill Gate, London, specializing in "krautrock" imports, and offering bean bags and free vegetarian food for the benefit of customers listening to the music on offer. [4] The first real store was above a shoe shop at the Tottenham Court Road end of Oxford Street. After making the shop into a success, they turned their business into a fully fledged record label. The name Virgin, according to Branson (in his autobiography), arose from Tessa Watts, a colleague of his, when they were brainstorming business ideas. She suggested Virgin – as they were all new to business – like "virgins". [5] The original Virgin logo (known to fans as the "Gemini" or "Twins" logo) was designed by English artist and illustrator Roger Dean: a young naked woman in mirror image with a large long-tailed serpent and the word "Virgin" in Dean's familiar script. A variation on the logo was used for the spin-off Caroline Records label. [6]

Notting Hill Gate street in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London

Notting Hill Gate is one of the main thoroughfares of Notting Hill, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Historically the street was a location for toll gates, from which it derives its modern name.

Krautrock is a broad genre of experimental rock that developed in West Germany in the late 1960s and early 1970s among bands who blended psychedelic rock, electronic music, and the avant-garde, with influences including funk, musique concrète, jazz, and minimalism. Artists largely distanced themselves from the traditional blues influences and song structure of Anglo-American rock music, instead embracing hypnotic rhythms, tape music techniques, and early synthesizers. Prominent groups associated with the krautrock label included Neu!, Can, Faust, Kraftwerk, Cluster, Ash Ra Tempel, Harmonia, Popol Vuh, and Amon Düül II.

Tessa Watts was an English music video and music film producer. She worked with artists including Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Paul McCartney, Madonna, Phil Collins, Beyoncé, INXS, and George Michael. She is best known for her work at Virgin Records, and with MTV International.

The first release on the label was the progressive rock album Tubular Bells by multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield, who was discovered by Tom Newman and brought to Simon Draper – who eventually persuaded Richard and Nik to present it as their first release in 1973, produced by Tom Newman, for which the fledgling label garnered unprecedented acclaim. [7] This was soon followed by some notable krautrock releases, including electronic breakthrough album Phaedra by Tangerine Dream (which went Top 20), and The Faust Tapes and Faust IV by Faust. The Faust Tapes album retailed for 49p (the price of a 7" single) and as a result allowed this relatively unknown band to reach number 12 in the album charts[ citation needed ]. Other early albums include Gong's Flying Teapot (Radio Gnome Invisible, Pt. 1) , which Daevid Allen has been quoted as having never been paid for.[ citation needed ]

Progressive rock is a broad genre of rock music that developed in the United Kingdom and United States throughout the mid- to late 1960s. Initially termed "progressive pop", the style was an outgrowth of psychedelic bands who abandoned standard pop traditions in favour of instrumentation and compositional techniques more frequently associated with jazz, folk, or classical music. Additional elements contributed to its "progressive" label: lyrics were more poetic, technology was harnessed for new sounds, music approached the condition of "art", and the studio, rather than the stage, became the focus of musical activity, which often involved creating music for listening rather than dancing.

<i>Tubular Bells</i> 1973 studio album by Mike Oldfield

Tubular Bells is the debut album by English musician and composer Mike Oldfield, released on Virgin Records on 25 May 1973. It comprises two mostly instrumental compositions of over twenty minutes each. Oldfield recorded it when he was 19 and played most of the instruments.

Mike Oldfield English musician, multi-instrumentalist

Michael Gordon Oldfield is an English multi-instrumentalist and composer. His work blends progressive rock with world, folk, classical, electronic, ambient, and new-age music. His biggest commercial success is the 1973 album Tubular Bells – which launched Virgin Records and became a hit in America after its opening was used as the theme for the film The Exorcist. He recorded the 1983 hit single "Moonlight Shadow" and a rendition of the Christmas piece "In Dulci Jubilo".

The first single release for the label was Kevin Coyne's "Marlene" (b/w "Everybody Says"), taken from his album Marjory Razorblade and released in August 1973. [8] Coyne was the second artist signed to the label after Oldfield. [9]

Kevin Coyne English musician

Kevin Coyne was an English musician, singer, composer, film-maker, and a writer of lyrics, stories and poems. The "anti-star" was born in Derby, England, and died in his adopted home of Nuremberg, Germany.

<i>Marjory Razorblade</i> 1973 studio album by Kevin Coyne

Marjory Razorblade is a double-LP by English rock singer Kevin Coyne and was one of the earliest releases on Virgin Records, which had launched four months earlier in June 1973. The double album includes the song "Marlene", which was issued as a single, and "Eastbourne Ladies", which was featured among the selection of tracks played by John Lydon at the height of the Sex Pistols notoriety on the Capital Radio show A Punk & His Music, broadcast in London in the summer of 1977.

Rebranding

Although Virgin was initially one of the key labels of English and European progressive rock, the 1977 signing of the Sex Pistols (who had already been signed and then dropped by both EMI and A&M) reinvented the label as a new-wave outpost, a move that plunged the record company into the mainstream of the punk rock era. [7] Under the guidance of Tessa Watts, Virgin's Head of Publicity (and later, also Director of Production), the Pistols rocketed the label to success. [10] Shortly afterwards, the Nottingham record shop was raided by police for having a window display of the Sex Pistols' album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols in the window. Afterwards they signed other new wave groups: Public Image Ltd, Boxer, Culture Club, Fingerprintz, Gillan, Holly and the Italians, Human League (whose "Don't You Want Me" was the label's first chart-topping single, in 1981), Magazine, Skids, the Motors, Penetration, the Ruts, Shooting Star, Simple Minds, and XTC.

Sex Pistols British punk rock band

The Sex Pistols were an English punk rock band that formed in London in 1975. They were responsible for initiating the punk movement in the United Kingdom and inspiring many later punk and alternative rock musicians. Although their initial career lasted just two and a half years and produced only four singles and one studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, they are regarded as one of the most influential acts in the history of popular music.

EMI Records record label founded by the EMI company

EMI Records Limited was a British record label founded by the music company of the same name in 1972 as its flagship label, and launched in January 1973 as the successor to its Columbia and Parlophone record labels. The label was later launched worldwide. It has a branch in India called "EMI Records India", run by director Mohit Suri.

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 Human League, The Police, CeCe Peniston, Blues Traveler, Soundgarden, Duffy and Sheryl Crow.

After modified versions of the twins label came the red, white and blue design introduced in 1975, which coincided with the height of punk and new wave. [11] The current Virgin logo (known informally as "the scrawl") was created in 1978, commissioned by Simon Draper, then managing director of Virgin Records Limited. Brian Cooke of Cooke Key Associates commissioned a graphic designer to produce a stylised signature. The logo was first used on Mike Oldfield's Incantations album in 1978 and by the Virgin Records label exclusively until gradually other parts of the Virgin Group adopted it, including Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Money.

Subsidiary labels

Current

Former

American editions

The Virgin label was distributed in the US by Atlantic from 1973 to 1975. During this period, 14 albums were issued. All had been previously issued in the UK on Virgin, although one album, Marjory Razorblade by Kevin Coyne, was truncated from a 20-song double album to an 11-song single album.

Beginning with Mike Oldfield's Ommadawn album in 1975, American distribution switched to Columbia Records. Columbia was unwilling to release all Virgin artists, and so many were licensed to other labels: Epic (the sister company of Columbia) (Mike Oldfield [1980s releases], Culture Club, Holly and the Italians, some XTC [1982], and Shooting Star), Atlantic (Julian Lennon), A&M (UB40, Human League, Simple Minds, Breathe, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, and The Blue Nile), Warner Bros. (Sex Pistols, Scritti Politti, DEVO), Geffen (XTC - 1983 on), MCA (Tangerine Dream, Belinda Carlisle), RCA (the soundtrack of 1984 ) and Arista (Heaven 17, Jermaine Stewart). Some of these records had a small Virgin logo added to the regular company design on the label. One of Virgin's and Epic's biggest acts of the 1980s was Culture Club.

In 1978, Virgin set up US operations first in New York on Perry Street under Atlantic distribution, and then moved operations to New Jersey along with a short-lived subdivision called Virgin International, handled by independent New Jersey-based distributor Jem Records. Virgin International used mainly for progressive rock artists with a smaller following in the US, including reissues of earlier Virgin / Atlantic albums such as Hergest Ridge by Mike Oldfield, and Fish Rising by Steve Hillage, which Columbia chose not to reissue. Virgin International also issued albums by some of Virgin's reggae artists, including Gregory Isaacs. At the same time, Virgin releases distributed by Columbia continued, distribution returning to Atlantic (later WEA) in 1980, at which time Virgin International ceased operations.

In 1986, Virgin Records opened up another American division, Virgin Records America. Its first release was the debut album by Cutting Crew which included the hit single "(I Just) Died in Your Arms". Other Virgin America signings included Camper Van Beethoven, Bob Mould, Warren Zevon, Paula Abdul, T'pau, Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers, Redhead Kingpin & The F.B.I., Neneh Cherry, Steve Winwood and Hindsight. Virgin Records America's releases were distributed through WEA again by Atlantic Records until 1992. Virgin Records America was founded by the executive team of Jordan Harris, Jeff Ayeroff and Phil Quartararo.

Another American company called Caroline Records co-existed during this time. Caroline records rarely mentioned a connection with Virgin, and some UK and European Virgin albums that were distributed internationally (instead of being manufactured in each country) named Caroline as their American distributor. Some Caroline records bore the label name Caroline Blue Plate.

Canadian editions

The first Canadian editions were distributed by WEA, and were parallel issues of the same early 14 albums issued in the US by Virgin/Atlantic.

In 1975, distribution transferred to Columbia (as it had in the US), but the following year distribution was transferred again to Polydor Records (which changed its name to PolyGram by 1980), and issued a different and larger selection of records from what was being issued in the US. Canadian editions of the Dindisc label were issued as Dindisc/Virgin. Virgin's Canadian division arranged to have Canadian artists Martha and the Muffins and Nash the Slash signed to Dindisc in the UK as well; both artists had releases in Canada and the UK on Dindisc.

In 1983, an independent Virgin Records Canada Inc. company was created, three years before a similar move occurred in the US. From this time onward, Virgin Canada used unique label designs not seen in other countries: a red label with five horizontal bars across the top and an extra-large "scrawl" logo from 1983 to 1985, followed by a purple label with round logo up to 1992 when Virgin was acquired internationally.

Purchase by Thorn EMI

Virgin Records was sold by Branson to Thorn EMI in June 1992 for a reported US$1 billion (around £560 million), [12] [13] with a special non-competition clause that would prevent Branson from founding another recording company during the five years following the agreement (see the final paragraph in EU Merger Decision IV/M202 of 27.04.1992). It now faces competition from Branson's new label: V2 Records. Branson sold Virgin Records to fund Virgin Atlantic Airways which at that time was coming under intense anti-competitive pressure from British Airways. (In 1993 BA settled a libel action brought by Branson, giving him £500,000 and a further £110,000 to his airline).

After being acquired by Thorn EMI, Virgin launched several subsidiaries like Realworld Records, Innocent Records, blues speciality label Point Blank Records, and Hut Records, and continued signing new and established artists like Korn, A Fine Frenzy, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Tina Turner, Depeche Mode, Beenie Man, The Rolling Stones, Spice Girls, The Smashing Pumpkins, We Are Scientists, Darren Hayes, The Kooks, Lenny Kravitz, dcTalk (mainstream releases, contract ended in 2000), Captain Beefheart, Meat Loaf, Placebo, Janet Jackson (contract ended in 2006), Daft Punk (contract ended in 2008), My Favorite Highway, Does It Offend You, Yeah?, Massive Attack, The Future Sound of London, Blur (US), The Chemical Brothers, Gorillaz, Paula Abdul (contract ended in 1999), Brooke Allison, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, The Almost, Mariah Carey (contract ended in 2001), N.E.R.D., Laura Marling, Swami, RBD, Thalía and Priscilla Renea.

In 1997, Virgin absorbed EMI Records US (distinct from EMI America Records which was absorbed by Manhattan Records) and in 1998, opened a country music division called Virgin Records Nashville, of which record producer Scott Hendricks was president. [14] The label's signees comprised Julie Reeves, Jerry Kilgore, Roy D. Mercer, Tom Mabe, Chris Cagle, Clay Davidson, and River Road. In 2001, Virgin Nashville closed and its roster was folded into Capitol Records' Nashville division. [15]

Merger

Capitol Records and Virgin Records America were merged in 2007 to create Capitol Music Group after a massive restructuring of EMI Group Ltd. [16] Stepping down as chief executive of Capitol Records was Andy Slater, with Jason Flom, former executive of Virgin, taking the reins as chairman and CEO of the newly created company.

Virgin Music Publishers

Soon after Virgin Records was founded, the label created a music publisher for its artists, who also served as songwriters. Starting in the 1980s, Virgin Music signed songwriters from other record labels. After Virgin was acquired by EMI, the publisher was folded into EMI Music Publishing as EMI Virgin Music.

In 2012, a consortium led by Sony/ATV Music Publishing acquired EMI Music Publishing for $2.2 billion. [17] However, the European Union ruled that Sony/ATV would represent over half of all the charting hits in the United Kingdom, and required the company to auction off Virgin Music and Famous Music UK, as well as twelve unrelated authors. [18]

In December 2012, BMG Rights Management acquired the Virgin and Famous publishers, [19] and concluded the deal in May 2013. [20] Virgin Music was renamed BMG VM Music, while Famous Music became BMG FM Music.

Before its demise, Virgin Music's songwriters included Iggy Pop, Texas, Ozzy Osbourne, Cannibal Corpse, Nirvana, Winger, Wax, Tears for Fears, The Prodigy, Goo Goo Dolls, Tool, The Crystal Method, Terence Trent D'arby, Lenny Kravitz, Ben Harper, Warrant, Mark Ronson, Devo, Culture Club, Take That, Bullet For My Valentine, Robbie Williams, Wayne Hector, and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

Virgin Music international companies

See also

Related Research Articles

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Capitol Records American record label

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References

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