The company history of SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT
Created by legacyrecordings on Jul 15, 2008
Last updated: 03/12/10 at 01:49 AM
SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT continues to shape the future of recorded music by focusing on the central business of developing and marketing the best artists in every genre. With the ongoing expansion of the digital age, SONY BMG makes its vast libraries of songs, albums, master ringtones, and other content available without any of the limitations imposed by space, storage or location. SONY BMG also continues to lead the industry in terms of developing new platforms for the delivery of its vast catalog of new and archival recordings.
The combination of the two longest-established recorded music companies marks a turning point in the history of recorded sound.
The business ties between Zomba and BMG date back to the mid-1980s, and in 2002, Zomba labels Jive, the Provident Music Group and Verity all join the BMG Entertainment family.
J Records debuts, and its inaugural release is the multi-platinum debut of superstar Alicia Keys, Songs In A Minor. The album goes on to sell more than 10 million copies worldwide.
Ricky Martin’s break-through performance on the Grammy Awards sparks the “Latin Explosion,” paving the way for English-language releases by artists such as Marc Anthony and Shakira, and marking the first major music story of the new millennium.
Beginning with the breakthrough of the Backstreet Boys, and following with such stars as *NSYNC and Britney Spears, the BMG-affiliated Jive/Zomba labels brought “Top 40” music back to its teenage roots, building on the earlier success of RCA’s Menudo and Columbia’s New Kids on the Block.
The Bertelsmann Music Group is renamed BMG Entertainment.
A series of new urban artists make street beats a compelling new popular music in America. Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” which is featured in the Spike Lee film “Do the Right Thing,” takes rap in a more hard core, political direction (Def Jam). Wu Tang Clan, a Staten Island collective of 9 MCs reinvents the genre, delivering impressive recordings both as a group and as solo artists (Loud). André “André 3000” Benjamin and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton join forces as OutKast and take their place at the forefront of the genre with their debut release, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, in 1994 (LaFace).
Sony Corporation acquires CBS Records Group and forms Sony Music Entertainment.
With numerous key acquisitions that solidify its position in the U.S. entertainment market, Bertelsmann forms the Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) with core labels RCA, Arista and Ariola.
Bertelsmann purchases RCA Records from General Electric. RCA brings with it a rich legacy of musical history and one of the largest repositories of American music, which includes works by Elvis Presley, Lou Reed, Harry Nilsson and John Denver. RCA’s holdings also include a retail distribution system; a music publishing company; and a special products division.
Whitney Houston’s first album for Arista becomes the best-selling debut by a female artist. Her unique vocal and presence set the stage for the “Age of Divas.” Several years later Columbia Records launches the career of another Diva — superstar Mariah Carey, while Epic Records weighs in by building the careers of Gloria Estefan and Celine Dion.
On October 1st, 1982 the first Compact Disc (CD) to be commercially manufactured — Billy Joel’s 52nd Street (Columbia) — rolls off an assembly line in Japan. Consumer Electronics giants Sony and Philips introduce CD Technology to Europe and Japan during the fall of that year, and in the spring of 1983 the two companies bring the CD to the U.S., launching a new era in recorded music.
On December 1st, 1982 Thriller is released, instantly setting new standards of excellence in popular music. From groundbreaking short films stemming from the album to the introduction of the “Moonwalk,” Thriller represents a total entertainment experience that spans the worlds of music, film and live performance. Thriller goes on to become the biggest-selling album of all time.
Jive Records, owned by the Zomba Label Group, opens for business and is distributed by Arista Records. Jive has big hits from the beginning with artists such as Billy Ocean, A Flock of Seagulls, and Samantha Fox. It soon becomes a leader in the hip-hop revolution with Whodini and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince.
Bertelsmann AG expands into the U.S. market by acquiring Arista Records.
Call it blue-eyed soul or soft rock, but Daryl Hall and John Oates’ commercial breakout after moving to the RCA label creates one of the most successful duos in the history of pop music, with a string of hits that lasts well into the ’80s.
The first “indie rock” scene, which emanated from New York club CBGB, goes national and then international with the signing of poet/rocker Patti Smith to Arista in 1975, and culminates in the signing of British punk disciples the Clash by CBS U.K. in 1977.
Bruce Springsteen takes center stage with the debut of his third album, Born To Run, generating massive publicity and establishing the artist as a true rock and roll icon.
Arista Records is formed, and the next year earns its first Gold records with the soundtrack for Funny Lady, and such releases as Tony Orlando and Dawn’s Greatest Hits, Barry Manilow’s Tryin’ to Get the Feeling, and The Bay City Rollers.
RCA artist John Denver helps to launch a new pop musical with “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” which first makes “Top 40” radio sound more adult and less rock, setting the stage for the successful “Adult Contemporary” format.
CBS Records Group forms a joint venture with Sony Corporation, known as CBS/Sony, for the purpose of marketing CBS product alongside Japanese recordings in Japan, Macao and Hong Kong.
During the Summer of Love Columbia signs Janis Joplin, just as RCA is breaking through with Jefferson Airplane.
The folk singer from Minnesota first galvanizes the protest music scene, and then abruptly shifts gears to a “personal” music that gives birth to generations of singer-songwriters, and much of rock.
Sam Cooke signs with RCA Records. Considered to be the very first modern soul singer, Cooke recorded a string of hits for RCA before his untimely death in 1964.
Columbia releases Kind of Blue, an early Miles Davis masterpiece and one of the iconic landmarks in jazz development in the 20th century. The album stars Davis’ first great quintet, with John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley on alto saxophone, Bill Evans on piano (with Wynton Kelly on one track), bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Jimmy Cobb.
After taking over RCA’s A&R operation in Nashville, producer/guitarist Chet Atkins marries “country & western” and pop music with the introduction of artists such as Jim Reeves and Don Gibson.
Columbia Records co-produces the show “My Fair Lady,” which revolutionizes Broadway. The Original Cast album on Columbia is number one for 15 weeks.
Rock and roll—and teenage culture—are born with the breakout success of Elvis Presley, who became RCA’s defining artist of the post-war period.
Glenn Gould records his revelatory performance of The Goldberg Variations for Columbia Records. The landmark recording, which becomes one of the jewels of the company’s catalog, remains continuously in print for over half a century, and highlights the blossoming of “American” music on the label.
CBS launches a new label, Epic Records, whose bright yellow and black “Radial Sound” logo becomes a familiar trademark on its early slate of jazz and releases. The latter includes such notables as the Berlin Philharmonic, the Juilliard String Quartet, Antal Dorati conducting the Hague Philharmonic, and George Szell conducting the Cleveland Philharmonic.
CBS introduces the 33 1/3 rpm long playing record, expanding the amount of music per record. RCA soon introduces its own innovation, the 45 rpm single.
Frank Sinatra leaves the Tommy Dorsey Band (RCA) and signs with Columbia, marking the decline of swing bands and the rise of pop vocalists.
CBS enters the record business, acquiring the American Record Corporation. Artists associated withthe company, whose name is changed to the Columbia Recording Corporation, include Duke Ellington, Harry James and Fred Astaire.
Clarinetist/band leader Benny Goodman (who recorded for both Columbia and RCA) gives a swing concert with an integrated band that defines the Swing era.
Coinciding with the inauguration of President Roosevelt and the New Deal, RCA Victor launches its Bluebird label in January 1933 as a budget subsidiary for popular, blues, and country material. Timeless music and a label design make Bluebird a legend.
The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) buys Victor.
Victor talent scout Ralph Peer (formerly a Columbia scout) holds recording auditions in Bristol, VA, which bring in Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family. “Hillbilly” music takes off.
Columbia acquires OKeh Records (the Otto Heinemann Phonograph Corporation), whose catalog includes Mamie Smith, Clarence Williams, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Lonnie Johnson, Bix Beiderbecke, Frankie Trumbauer, Eddie Lang and Bennie Moten. Muskrat Ramble by Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five (Okeh) establishes him as a jazz band leader.
King Oliver and his Creole Jazz Band becomes the first black jazz band to commercially record. Their record, Dippermouth Blues, is released on OKeh records and introduces Louis Armstrong.
The Original Dixieland Jazz Band from New Orleans records the first jazz songs for both Columbia and Victor, effectively ushering in the “Jazz Age.”
To compete with Columbia, newcomer the Victor Talking Machine Company (Victor) signs opera “superstar” Enrico Caruso, who ignites a craze for opera records and establishes Victor as the opera/classical leader for decades to come.
Columbia and Victor soon standardize 7-inch and 10-inch discs, as cylinder era ends.
Victor is born from the Berliner Gramophone Company, creator of the flat disc record.
The American Graphophone Company starts a company to distribute its talking machines in the Washington, D.C. area, and names it the Columbia Graphophone Company. Columbia takes an office product — dictating machines using wax cylinders — and creates a new entertainment medium, as well as the “software” side of the music business.