Record Companies: A Brief History

Holland, 1950

This brief history of various record labels is only relative to Slade and their related history.

Philips Phonografische Industries (PPI) was started in 1950 by the Dutch electronics giant Philips. In 1961 Philips Records, having lost its distribution deal with Columbia Records outside North America, signed an exchange agreement with Mercury, and Philips subsequently bought Mercury and its subsidiary labels to expand its US base.

Fontana was started in the 1950s as a subsidiary of the Philips Records; when Philips restructured its music operations it dropped Fontana in favour of Vertigo Records and Mercury Records.

Fontana's British division was the UK licensee for Motown Records (in 1961), Vanguard Records (until 1967), Mainstream Records and ESP-Disk. Fontana's U.S. counterpart label was started in 1964 and distributed by Mercury Records. Mercury discontinued this label (and one other subsidiary, Smash Records) in 1970.

In 1962 Philips merged its record operations with Deutsche Grammophon merged, and later became known as Polygram. In the UK and Europe, the label became dormant after 1974.

Polydor was originally an independent branch of the Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft. Its name was first used, as an export label, in 1924, the British and German branches of the Gramophone Company having severed their ties during World War I. Deutsche Grammophon claimed the rights to the His Master's Voice trademark for Germany, where HMV recordings were released under the Electrola trademark. In turn, DGG records exported out of Germany were released on the Polydor label. Polydor became a popular music label in 1946 while the famously yellow Deutsche Grammophon seal became a classical music label. In 1954 Polydor Records introduced their distinctive red/orange label.

In 1972, Polydor merged with giant Philips owned Phonogram Records to create PolyGram. The Polydor label continued to run as a subsidiary label under the new company. The name PolyGram is a hybrid of Polydor and PhonoGram. Established in 1972 as a reorganized holding corporation for Philips and Siemens subsidiaries that had been under the DGG/PPI Record Group umbrella since 1962, including Verve Records, Mercury, Deutsche Grammophon and Philips Phonographische Industries (PPI). Siemens' stake in the company would eventually be bought out by Philips in 1987.

In 1998, Philips sold PolyGram to Seagram, which already owned MCA Records Inc. and its subsidiaries. Seagram combined PolyGram and MCA into Universal Music Group, which became the largest music company and distributor in the world.

Unfortunately they are also the most unhelpful with regards to historical information. Everything about the company seems to be focused on the future and there doesn't seem to be anybody responsible for maintaining the interesting stories behind the labels and their colourful histories?


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