History of Record Labels and the Music Industry: 1960s
by Alex Cosper

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see also American Radio History


- Colpix Records was established in 1960 as the record division of Columbia Pictures, although it had no association with Columbia Records. In 1964 Colpix acquired the Bell/Amy/Mala group. A few years later the pop acts on the label's roster were issued on the Bell label. Colpix became Colgems and began issuing records by the Monkees.

- In 1962 Phonogram was established with a merger between Philips and Siemens. Philips, an electronics manufacturer, began issuing labels in 1950. Philips was also the company that introduced the cassette in 1963. The new conglomeration became the seed to the future giant PolyGram.

- Stax Records was formed by Jim Stewart and his sister Estelle Axton in 1961 in Memphis. The label signed early on with Atlantic for distribution.

- Berry Gordy formed a second label in 1961 called Tamla Records and then a third the following year called Gordy Records.

- MCA Records started in 1962 with the acquisition of Decca USA and early Brunswick and Vocalion catalogues.

- Liberty acquired Imperial Records in 1963.

- The Beatles, who had already been a phenomenon in their homeland of Great Britain for a few years, began topping the American charts starting with "I Want to Hold Your Hand" in Febraury 1964. Their success created a wave called the British Invasion in which several British acts began to overshadow and outdate the American doo-wop and Tin Pan Alley sound.

- The Red Bird label was set up in 1964 by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller as an outlet for Tin Pan Alley songwriters such as Goffin and King. After a string of girl-group hits, the label shut down two years later.

- In 1965 Warner Brothers purchased independent labels Valiant and Autumn.

- Kama Sutra Records was formed in 1965 by KS Productions, which was owned by Artie Ripp, Phil Steinberg and Hy Mizrahi. Their first signing, Lovin' Spoonful, was a huge success, but the label began to disappear from the charts after it merged with Buddah later in the sixties.

- Gulf and Western bought Dot Records in 1965, becoming part of the ABC group. ABC bought Dunhill Records from Lou Adler in 1966, creating the ABC-Dunhill label.

- Sire Records was launched in 1966 by record executive Seymour Stein with Richard Gotteher.

- Fantasy was bought by Saul Zaentz in 1968 as the label was given a new life with the success of Creedence Clearwater Revival.

- Major consolidation occurred in the sixties. Warner acquired Frank Sinatra's label Reprise in 1963, a few years after it was launched. In 1966 Seven Arts purchased Warner Brothers films and records to create Warner-Seven Arts, which acquired Atlantic in 1967 for $17.5 million and Elektra in 1968. Then in 1969 it was sold to the Kinney Corporation, who renamed the entertainment group Warner Communications.

- United Artists was purchased by Transamerica Corporation in 1967. GRT bought Chess in 1968. United Artists bought Liberty and Imperial in 1969. Film studio 20th Century Fox began issuing records in the sixties as 20th Century Records. Sam Phillips sold Sun to Shelby Singleton in 1969.

- In the late sixties Philips reorganized its UK labels, emphasizing Mercury and Vertigo while phasing out Fontana.

- Alfred Lions sold Blue Note Records to Liberty in 1967. Neil Bogart launched bubble gum pop label Buddah Records in 1967 to counter drug-influenced music. The Beatles formed Apple Records in 1968. Capricorn was launched in 1969 by Phil Walden, former manager of Otis Redding and Sam & Dave. Chrysalis was formed in 1969 by Chris Wright and Terry Ellis, who were partners in managing Jethro Tull and Ten Years After. It was the licensing deal they made with Island Records, that led to the creation of Chrysalis.

- By the end of the 1960s the top major labels were CBS, Warner Brothers, RCA Victor, Capitol-EMI, PolyGram and MCA. The most successful independent label of the decade was Tamla/Motown. Herb Alpert was another successful independent owner who started A&M Records with Jerry Moss in 1962. MCA became a big player in the sixties by purchasing Decca. CBS had become the biggest label by the end of the sixties, with Warner in second.

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