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Warner Music Group Corp. (WMG) is an American multinational
entertainment Entertainment is a form of activity that holds the attention and interest of an audience or gives pleasure and delight. It can be an idea or a task, but is more likely to be one of the activities or events that have developed over thousands o ...
and
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{{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
conglomerate headquartered in
New York City New York City (NYC), often simply called New York, is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2019 population of 8,336,817 distributed over about , New York City is also the most densely populated major city in the Unit ...

New York City
. It is one of the " big three" recording companies and the third-largest in the global music industry, after
Universal Music Group Universal Music Group B.V. (often abbreviated as UMG) is a global music corporation that is majority owned by the French media conglomerate Vivendi, with Chinese tech company Tencent owning a minority stake. UMG's corporate headquarters are loc ...
(UMG) and
Sony Music Entertainment Sony Music Entertainment (commonly referred to as Sony Music) is an American global music company. Owned by the Japanese conglomerate Sony Group Corporation, it is part of the Sony Music Group, which is owned by Sony Corporation of America. It w ...
(SME). Formerly part of Time Warner (now
WarnerMedia Warner Media, LLC, doing business as WarnerMedia, is an American multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate corporation owned by AT&T and headquartered in New York City, United States. It was originally formed in 1990 by Steve Ross ...

WarnerMedia
), WMG was publicly traded on the
New York Stock Exchange The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE, nicknamed "The Big Board") is an American stock exchange in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan in New York City. It is by far the world's largest stock exchange by market capitalization of its listed comp ...
from 2005 until 2011, when it announced its
privatization Privatization (or privatisation in British English) can mean different things including moving something from the public sector into the private sector. It is also sometimes used as a synonym for deregulation when a heavily regulated private compa ...
and sale to
Access Industries Access Industries, Inc. is an American privately held multinational industrial group. It was founded in 1986 by businessman Leonard "Len" Blavatnik, who is also its chairman. Access's industrial focus is in four areas: natural resources and chemi ...
. It later had its second IPO on
Nasdaq#REDIRECT Nasdaq#REDIRECT Nasdaq {{Redirect category shell, {{R from move {{R up ...
{{Redirect category shell, {{R from move {{R up ...

Nasdaq in 2020, once again becoming a public company. With a multibillion-dollar annual turnover, WMG employs more than 3,500 people and has operations in more than 50 countries throughout the world. The company owns and operates some of the largest and most successful labels in the world, including
Elektra Records Elektra Records (formerly Elektra Entertainment Group Inc.) is an American record label owned by Warner Music Group, founded in 1950 by Jac Holzman and Paul Rickolt. It played an important role in the development of contemporary folk music and roc ...
,
Warner Records Warner Records Inc. (formerly Warner Bros. Records Inc.) is an American record label owned by Warner Music Group and headquartered in Los Angeles, California. It was founded in 1958 as the recorded music division of the American film studio Warner ...
,
Parlophone Records Parlophone Records Limited (also known as Parlophone Records and Parlophone) is a German–British record label founded in Germany in 1896 by the Carl Lindström Company as Parlophon. The British branch of the label was founded on 8 August 1923 ...
, and
Atlantic Records Atlantic Recording Corporation (simply known as Atlantic Records) is an American record label founded in October 1947 by Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson. Over its first 20 years of operation, Atlantic earned a reputation as one of the most impo ...
. WMG also owns
Warner Chappell Music Warner Chappell Music, Inc. is an American music publishing company and a division of the Warner Music Group. Warner Chappell Music's catalogue consists of over 1.4 million compositions and 65,000 composers, with offices in over 40 countries. Hist ...
, one of the world's largest music publishers. Since August 2, 2018, WMG has expanded its business to digital media operation through its acquisition of
Uproxx Uproxx is an entertainment and popular culture news website. It was founded in 2008 by Jarret Myer and Brian Brater, and acquired by Woven Digital (later renamed Uproxx Media Group) in 2014. The site's target audience is men aged 18–34. It was a ...
.


History


1950s and 1960s

The film studio Warner Bros. had no record label division at the time one of its contracted actors,
Tab Hunter Tab Hunter (born Arthur Andrew Kelm; later Gelien; July 11, 1931 – July 8, 2018) was an American actor, singer, film producer, and author. Known for his blond, clean-cut good looks, Hunter appeared in over 40 films and was a well-known Hol ...
, scored a No. 1 hit song in 1957 for
Dot Records Dot Records was an American record label founded by Randy Wood that was active between 1950 and 1979. The label was reactivated in 2014 through a joint venture between Big Machine Label Group and the Republic Records unit of Universal Music Grou ...
, a division of rival
Paramount Pictures Paramount Pictures Corporation (commonly known as Paramount Pictures, or simply Paramount) is an American film production company and a subsidiary of ViacomCBS. It is the fifth oldest film studio in the world, the second oldest film studio in t ...

Paramount Pictures
. In order to prevent any repetition of its actors recording for rival companies, and to also capitalize on the music business,
Warner Bros. Records Warner Records Inc. (formerly Warner Bros. Records Inc.) is an American record label owned by Warner Music Group and headquartered in Los Angeles, California. It was founded in 1958 as the recorded music division of the American film studio Warner ...
was created in 1958. In 1963, Warner purchased
Reprise Records Reprise Records is an American record label founded in 1960 by Frank Sinatra. It is owned by Warner Music Group, and operates through Warner Records, one of its flagship labels. Artists currently signed to Reprise Records include Enya, Michael ...

Reprise Records
, which had been founded by
Frank Sinatra Francis Albert Sinatra (; December 12, 1915 – May 14, 1998) was an American singer and actor who was one of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, havi ...

Frank Sinatra
three years earlier so that he could have more creative control over his recordings. With the Reprise acquisition, Warner gained the services of
Mo Ostin Mo Ostin (born Morris Meyer Ostrofsky; March 27, 1927) is an American record executive who has worked for several companies, including Verve, Reprise Records, Warner Bros. Records, and DreamWorks. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of F ...
, who was mainly responsible for the success of Warner/Reprise. After Warner Bros. was sold to
Seven Arts Productions 200px, Third logo (1964–1967) Seven Arts Productions was a production company which made films for release by other studios. It was founded in 1957 by Ray Stark, Eliot Hyman, and Norman Katz. History Seven Arts first film was ''The Gun Runne ...
in 1967 (forming
Warner Bros.-Seven Arts Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, Inc. was an American entertainment company active from 1967 until 1969. History Seven Arts Productions Combined With Warner Bros. Pictures for $32 million in November 1966. The merger between the two companies was compl ...
), it purchased
Atlantic Records Atlantic Recording Corporation (simply known as Atlantic Records) is an American record label founded in October 1947 by Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson. Over its first 20 years of operation, Atlantic earned a reputation as one of the most impo ...
, founded in 1947 and WMG's oldest label (until WMG completed its acquisition of Parlophone in 2013), as well as its subsidiary
Atco Records ATCO Records is an American record label founded in 1955. It is owned by Warner Music Group and operates as an imprint of Atlantic Records. After several decades of dormancy and infrequent activity under alternating Warner Music labels, the compan ...
. This acquisition brought
Neil Young Neil Percival Young (born November 12, 1945) is a Canadian-American singer-songwriter, musician, and activist. After embarking on a music career in the 1960s, he moved to Los Angeles, joining Buffalo Springfield with Stephen Stills, Richie Fura ...
into the company fold, initially as a member of
Buffalo Springfield Buffalo Springfield was an American rock band formed in Los Angeles, California by Canadian musicians Neil Young, Bruce Palmer and Dewey Martin and American musicians Stephen Stills and Richie Furay. The group, widely known for the song "For What ...
. Young became one of Warner's longest-established artists, recording both as a solo artist and with groups under the Warner-owned Atlantic, Atco, and Reprise labels, as well as making five albums for
Geffen Records 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. Founded in 1980, Geffen Records has been a part of Interscope Geffen A&M since 1999 and h ...
during that label's period of Warner distribution. The Geffen catalogue, now owned by
Universal Music Group Universal Music Group B.V. (often abbreviated as UMG) is a global music corporation that is majority owned by the French media conglomerate Vivendi, with Chinese tech company Tencent owning a minority stake. UMG's corporate headquarters are loc ...
, represents Young's only major recordings not under WMG ownership. Atlantic, its subsidiary
Atco Records ATCO Records is an American record label founded in 1955. It is owned by Warner Music Group and operates as an imprint of Atlantic Records. After several decades of dormancy and infrequent activity under alternating Warner Music labels, the compan ...
, and its affiliate
Stax Records Stax Records is an American record label, originally based in Memphis, Tennessee. Founded in 1957 as Satellite Records, the label changed its name to Stax Records in 1961 and shared its operations with Volt Records, a sister label created to avoid ...

Stax Records
paved the way for Warner's rise to industry prominence. The purchase brought in Atlantic's lucrative back-catalogue, which included classic recordings by
Ray Charles Ray Charles Robinson (September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004) was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer. Among friends and fellow musicians he preferred being called "Brother Ray." He was often referred to as "The Genius." Charles w ...

Ray Charles
,
the Drifters The Drifters are an American doo-wop and R&B/soul vocal group. They were originally formed as a backing group for Clyde McPhatter, formerly the lead tenor of Billy Ward and his Dominoes in 1953. According to ''Rolling Stone'', the Drifters were ...

the Drifters
,
the Coasters The Coasters are an American rhythm and blues/rock and roll vocal group who had a string of hits in the late 1950s. Beginning with "Searchin'" and "Young Blood", their most memorable songs were written by the songwriting and producing team of Lei ...
, and many more. In the mid 1960s, Atlantic/Stax had released a string of landmark
soul music Soul music (often referred to simply as soul) is a popular music genre that originated in the African American community throughout the United States in the 1950s and early 1960s. It combines elements of African-American gospel music, rhythm and ...
recordings by artists including
Booker T & the MGs Booker T. & the M.G.'s were an American instrumental R&B/funk band that was influential in shaping the sound of Southern soul and Memphis soul. The original members of the group were Booker T. Jones (organ, piano), Steve Cropper (guitar), Lewie ...
,
Sam & Dave Sam & Dave were an American soul and R&B duo who performed together from 1961 until 1981. The tenor (higher) voice was Sam Moore (born 1935) and the baritone/tenor (lower) voice was Dave Prater (1937–1988). Nicknamed "Double Dynamite", "The Sul ...

Sam & Dave
,
Wilson Pickett Wilson Pickett (March 18, 1941 – January 19, 2006) was an American singer and songwriter. A major figure in the development of American soul music, Pickett recorded over 50 songs which made the US R&B charts, many of which crossed over to the ...
,
Otis Redding Otis Ray Redding Jr. (September 9, 1941 – December 10, 1967) was an American singer and songwriter. He is considered one of the greatest singers in the history of American popular music and a seminal artist in soul music and rhythm and blues. R ...

Otis Redding
,
Ben E. King Benjamin Earl King (né Nelson, September 28, 1938 – April 30, 2015) was an American soul and R&B singer and record producer. He is best known as the singer and co-composer of "Stand by Me"—a U.S. Top 10 hit, both in 1961 and later in 1 ...
, and
Aretha Franklin Aretha Louise Franklin (March 25, 1942August 16, 2018) was an American singer, songwriter, actress, pianist, and civil rights activist. Franklin began her career as a child singing gospel at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, where ...

Aretha Franklin
. But the sale led to Stax leaving the Atlantic fold because the new Warner owners insisted on keeping the rights to Stax recordings. However, Atlantic also moved decisively into rock and pop in the late 1960s and 1970s, signing major British and American acts including
Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin were an English rock band formed in London in 1968. The group consisted of vocalist Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham. With a heavy, guitar-driven sound, they are ci ...
,
Cream Cream is a dairy product composed of the higher-fat layer skimmed from the top of milk before homogenization. In un-homogenized milk, the fat, which is less dense, eventually rises to the top. In the industrial production of cream, this process is ...
,
Crosby Stills & Nash Crosby, Stills & Nash (CSN) is a folk rock supergroup made up of American singer-songwriters David Crosby and Stephen Stills, and English singer-songwriter Graham Nash. When joined by Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young as a fourth member, th ...
, Yes,
Emerson, Lake & Palmer Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP) were an English progressive rock supergroup formed in London in April 1970. The band consisted of Keith Emerson (keyboards), Greg Lake (vocals, bass, guitar and producer) and Carl Palmer (drums and percussion). With ...
,
Average White Band The Average White Band (also known as AWB) are a Scottish funk and R&B band that had a series of soul and disco hits between 1974 and 1980. They are best known for their million-selling instrumental track "Pick Up the Pieces", and their albums '' ...

Average White Band
,
Dr John Malcolm John Rebennack Jr. (November 20, 1941 – June 6, 2019), better known by his stage name Dr. John, was an American singer and songwriter. His music combined blues, pop, jazz, boogie-woogie, funk, and rock and roll. Active as a session mus ...

Dr John
,
King Crimson King Crimson are an English progressive rock band formed in London in 1968. They have exerted a strong influence both on the early 1970s progressive rock movement and on more recent rock and experimental artists. Although the band has consiste ...
,
Bette Midler Bette Midler (;''Inside the Actors Studio'', 2004 born December 1, 1945) is an American singer, songwriter, actress, author, and comedian. In a career spanning over half a century, Midler has won four Golden Globe Awards, three Grammy Awards, th ...
,
Roxy Music Roxy Music were an English rock band formed in 1970 by Bryan Ferry—who became the band's lead singer and main songwriter—and bass guitarist Graham Simpson. The other longtime members were Phil Manzanera (guitar), Andy Mackay (saxophone an ...

Roxy Music
, and Foreigner. In 1969, two years after being purchased by Seven Arts, the Warner Bros.-Seven Arts company was sold to the
Kinney National Company Kinney National Services, Inc. (later known as Kinney Services, Inc.) was an American conglomerate company from 1966 to 1972. Its successors were National Kinney Corporation and Warner Communications, Time Warner and AOL Time Warner and its curren ...
. In mid-1972, Kinney Music Of Canada, Ltd. was renamed as WEA Music of Canada, Ltd. a.k.a. WEA Musique du Canada, Ltée in French as the new Canadian branch of the WEA (Warner, Elektra, Atlantic) company - a division of Warner Communications Inc. The Founder and President Ken Middleton ran the Canadian Company until his retirement in 1982. The name remained until 1989, when in 1990, it became Warner Music Canada Ltd - a subsidiary of the US-based Warner Music International. Kinney CEO Steve Ross led the group through its most successful period until his death in 1992. An earlier attempt by Warner Bros. Records to create an in-house distribution arm in 1958 didn't materialize. So in 1969,
Elektra Records Elektra Records (formerly Elektra Entertainment Group Inc.) is an American record label owned by Warner Music Group, founded in 1950 by Jac Holzman and Paul Rickolt. It played an important role in the development of contemporary folk music and roc ...
boss
Jac Holzman Jac Holzman (born September 15, 1931) is an American businessman, best known as the founder, chief executive officer and head of Elektra Records and Nonesuch Records. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. Biography Holzman w ...
approached Atlantic's Jerry Wexler with the idea of setting up a joint distribution network for Warner, Elektra, and Atlantic. An experimental branch was established in
Southern California Southern California (popularly known as SoCal; es, Sur de California) is a geographic and cultural region that generally comprises the southern portion of the U.S. state of California. It includes the Los Angeles metropolitan area, the second mos ...

Southern California
as a possible prototype for an expanded operation.


Atlantic exerts autonomy

It was soon apparent in 1969 that Atlantic/Atco president
Ahmet Ertegun Ahmet Ertegun (, Turkish spelling: Ahmet Ertegün (); – December 14, 2006) was a Turkish-American businessman, songwriter and philanthropist. Ertegun was the co-founder and president of Atlantic Records. He discovered and championed many lead ...
viewed Warner/Reprise president Mike Maitland as a rival. Maitland believed that, as vice-president in charge of the Warner Bros.-Seven Arts music division, he should have final say over all recording operations, and he further angered Ertegun by proposing that most of Atlantic's back-office functions (such as marketing and distribution) be combined with the existing departments at Warner/Reprise. In retrospect Ertegun clearly feared that Maitland would ultimately have more power than him, and so he moved rapidly to secure his own position and remove Maitland. Maitland had put off renegotiating the contracts of Joe Smith and Mo Ostin, the presidents of the Warner Bros. and Reprise labels, and this provided Ertegun with an effective means of undermining Maitland. When Wexler—now a major shareholder—found out about the contract issue he and Ertegun began pressuring
Eliot Hyman Eliot Hyman (1904–1980) was an American film executive who helped co-found Seven Arts Productions. Biography Hyman entered the film production business in 1948, when he co-founded Associated Artists. He became the sole owner of Associated Artists ...
to get Smith and Ostin under contract, ostensibly because they were worried that the two executives might move to rival labels—and in fact Ostin had received overtures from both the MGM and ABC labels. In 1969, the wisdom of Hyman's investments was proved when
Kinney National Company Kinney National Services, Inc. (later known as Kinney Services, Inc.) was an American conglomerate company from 1966 to 1972. Its successors were National Kinney Corporation and Warner Communications, Time Warner and AOL Time Warner and its curren ...
purchased Warner Bros.-Seven Arts for $400 million, more than eight times what Hyman had paid for Warner/Reprise and Atlantic combined. From the base of his family's funeral parlour business, Kinney president Steve Ross had rapidly built the Kinney company into a profitable conglomerate with interests that included comic publishing, the
Ashley-Famous Ashley-Famous was a talent agency started in 1955 by talent agent Ted Ashley. The agency had a successful 16-year run under that name and owner; it was responsible for many hit television shows and had several famous clients. It changed ownership a ...
talent agency, parking lots and cleaning services. Following the takeover, Warners' music group briefly adopted the 'umbrella' name Kinney Music, because U.S. anti-trust laws at the time prevented the three labels from trading as one. Ross was primarily focused on rebuilding the company's ailing movie division and was happy to defer to the advice of the managers of the company's record labels, since he knew that they were generating most of the group's profits. Ertegun's campaign against Maitland began in earnest that summer. Atlantic had agreed to help Warner Bros. in its efforts to establish its labels overseas, beginning with its soon-to-be-established Warner Bros. subsidiary in Australia, but when Warner executive Phil Rose arrived in Australia, he discovered that just one week earlier Atlantic had signed a new four-year distribution deal with a rival local label,
Festival Records Festival Records (later known as Festival Mushroom Records) was an Australian recording and publishing company founded in Sydney, Australia, in 1952 and operated until 2005. Festival was a wholly owned subsidiary of News Limited from 1961 to 2 ...
(owned by
Rupert Murdoch Keith Rupert Murdoch ( ; born 11 March 1931) is an Australian-born American media mogul. Through his company News Corp, he is the owner of hundreds of local, national, and international publishing outlets around the world, including in the U ...

Rupert Murdoch
's
News Limited News Corp Australia is one of Australia's largest media conglomerates, employing more than 8,000 staff nationwide and approximately 3,000 journalists. The group's interests span newspaper and magazine publishing, Internet, subscription televisio ...
). Mike Maitland complained bitterly to Kinney executive
Ted Ashley Ted Ashley (August 3, 1922 – August 24, 2002) was the chairman of the Warner Bros. film studio from 1969 to 1980 and founder of the Ashley-Famous talent agency. Biography Ashley was born to a poor Jewish family in a Brooklyn in 1922 as Theodore ...
, but to no avail – by this time Ertegun was poised to make his move against Maitland. As he had with Hyman, Ertegun urged Steve Ross to extend Mo Ostin and Joe Smith's contracts, a recommendation Ross was happy to accept. Ostin however had received overtures from other companies including
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 (later LP albums) of their musical films. It transitioned into a pop music label which continued into the 1970 ...
and
ABC Records ABC Records was an American record label founded in New York City in 1955. It originated as the main popular music label operated by the Am-Par Record Corporation. Am-Par also created the Impulse! jazz label in 1960. It acquired many labels befor ...
and when he met with Ertegun in January 1970 and was offered Maitland's job, he was unwilling to re-sign immediately. In response, Ertegun broadly hinted that Maitland's days were numbered and that he, Ertegun, was about to take over the recording division. Unlike the Warner/Reprise executives, Atlantic's execs the Ertegun brothers (Ahmet and Neshui) and Wexler owned stock in Kinney. Ostin was understandably concerned that, if he accepted the position, the Warner Bros. staff would feel that he had stabbed Maitland in the back, but his attorney convinced him that Maitland's departure was inevitable, regardless of whether or not he accepted the post (succinctly advising him, "Don't be a schmuck"). On Sunday January 25, Ted Ashley went to Maitland's house to tell him he had been dismissed, and Maitland declined the offer of a job at the movie studio. One week later, Mo Ostin was named as the new President of Warner Bros. Records, with Joe Smith as his Executive Vice-President. Ertegun nominally remained the head of Atlantic, but since both Ostin and Smith owed their new positions to him, Ertegun was now the ''de facto'' head of the Warner music division. Ertegun was given the formal title of executive vice-president-Music Group. Maitland moved to
MCA Records MCA Records was an American record label owned by MCA Inc., which later gave way to the larger Universal Music Group. Pre-history MCA Inc., a powerful talent agency and a television production company, entered the recorded music business in 196 ...
later that year and successfully consolidated MCA's labels, which he couldn't do at Warner.


1970s

During the 1970s, the Kinney group built up a commanding position in the music industry. In 1970, Kinney bought
Elektra Records Elektra Records (formerly Elektra Entertainment Group Inc.) is an American record label owned by Warner Music Group, founded in 1950 by Jac Holzman and Paul Rickolt. It played an important role in the development of contemporary folk music and roc ...
and its sister label
Nonesuch Records Nonesuch Records is an American record company and label owned by Warner Music Group, distributed by Warner Records (formerly called Warner Bros. Records), and based in New York City. Founded by Jac Holzman in 1964 as a budget classical label, Nones ...
(founded by Jac Holzman in 1950) for $10 million, bringing in leading rock acts, including
the Doors The Doors were an American rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1965, with vocalist Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger, and drummer John Densmore. They were among the most controversial and influential rock acts of the ...
,
Tim Buckley Timothy Charles Buckley III (February 14, 1947 – June 29, 1975) was an American vocalist, songwriter, guitarist, and producer. His music and style changed considerably through the years. Buckley began his career based in folk music, but his sub ...
, and
Love Love encompasses a range of strong and positive emotional and mental states, from the most sublime virtue or good habit, the deepest interpersonal affection, to the simplest pleasure. An example of this range of meanings is that the love of ...
, and its historically significant folk archive, along with the successful budget Western classical-music label
Nonesuch Records Nonesuch Records is an American record company and label owned by Warner Music Group, distributed by Warner Records (formerly called Warner Bros. Records), and based in New York City. Founded by Jac Holzman in 1964 as a budget classical label, Nones ...
. The purchase of Elektra-Nonesuch brought a rich back catalogue of folk music as well as the renowned Nonesuch catalogue of classical and world music. Elektra founder Jac Holzman ran the label under Warners for two years, but by that time, he was by his own admission "burnt out" after twenty years in the business. Kinney president Steve Ross subsequently appointed Holzman as part of a seven-person "brains trust" tasked with investigating opportunities presented by new technologies, a role Holzman was eager to accept. The same year, the group established its first overseas offices in Canada and Australia. By that time the "Seven Arts" moniker was dropped from the Warner Bros. name. Warner Bros. also founded the
Casablanca Records Casablanca Records is an American record label owned by Universal Music Group and operated under Republic Records. Under its founder Neil Bogart, Casablanca was most successful during the disco era of the mid to late 1970s. The label currently fo ...
subsidiary, headed by
Neil Bogart Neil E. Bogart (born Neil Scott Bogatz, February 3, 1943 – May 8, 1982) was an American record executive. He was the founder of Casablanca Records, which later became Casablanca Record and Filmworks. Life and career Bogart was born in the Brookl ...
; but several years later Casablanca became independent of Warner Bros.


Worldwide distribution

With the Elektra acquisition, the next step was forming an in-house distribution arm for the co-owned labels. By this time, Warner-Reprise's frustrations with its current distributors had reached breaking point; Joe Smith (then Executive Vice-President of Warner Bros.) recalled that the
Grateful Dead The Grateful Dead was an American rock band formed in 1965 in Palo Alto, California. The band is known for its eclectic style, which fused elements of rock, folk, country, jazz, bluegrass, blues, gospel, and psychedelic rock; for live performanc ...
were becoming a major act but the distributor was constantly out of stock of their albums. These circumstances facilitated the full establishment of the group's in-house distribution arm, initially called Kinney Record Group International.Seay, 1996, p. 40 By late 1972, US anti-trust laws had changed and the company was renamed Warner-Elektra-Atlantic, WEA for short, which was renamed Warner Music in 1991 (the word "group" was added after the formation of
AOL Time Warner Warner Media, LLC, doing business as WarnerMedia, is an American multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate corporation owned by AT&T and headquartered in New York City, United States. It was originally formed in 1990 by Steve Ross ...
in 2001). WEA was an early champion of heavy metal rock music. Several such bands, including three major British pioneers
Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin were an English rock band formed in London in 1968. The group consisted of vocalist Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham. With a heavy, guitar-driven sound, they are ci ...
,
Black Sabbath Black Sabbath were an English rock band formed in Birmingham in 1968 by guitarist Tony Iommi, drummer Bill Ward, bassist Geezer Butler and vocalist Ozzy Osbourne. They are often cited as pioneers of heavy metal music. The band helped define the ...
, and
Deep Purple Deep Purple are an English rock band formed in Hertford, Hertfordshire, in 1968. They are considered to be among the pioneers of heavy metal and modern hard rock, although their musical approach has changed over the years. Originally formed as ...
, were all signed to WEA's labels, at least in the United States. Among the earliest American metal acts to be signed to WEA were
Alice Cooper Alice Cooper (born Vincent Damon Furnier, February 4, 1948) is an American singer, songwriter, and actor whose career spans over 50 years. With a raspy voice and a stage show that features numerous props, including pyrotechnics, guillotines, el ...

Alice Cooper
, Montrose, and
Van Halen Van Halen ( ) was an American rock band formed in Pasadena, California in 1974. Credited with "restoring hard rock to the forefront of the music scene", Van Halen was known for its energetic live shows and for the virtuosic talent of its prodig ...
. Up to this point the Kinney-owned record companies had relied on licensing deals with overseas record labels to manufacture, distribute and promote its products in other countries; concurrent with the establishment of its new distribution arm, the company now began establishing subsidiaries in the other major markets, beginning with the creation of Warner Bros. Records Australia in 1970, soon followed by branch offices in the UK, Europe and Japan. In July 1971, the new in-house distribution company was incorporated as Warner-Elektra-Atlantic Distributing Corp. (WEA) and branch offices were established in eight major US cities; Joel Friedman a one-time ''
Billboard A billboard (also called a hoarding in the UK and many other parts of the world) is a large outdoor advertising structure (a billing board), typically found in high-traffic areas such as alongside busy roads. Billboards present large advertiseme ...
'' writer who had been the head of Warner's advertising/merchandising division in its early years, was appointed to head WEA's US domestic division, and Ahmet Ertegun's brother Nesuhi was appointed to oversee its international operations. Neshui Ertegun, originally a Turkish native like his brother, displayed a global perspective and independence from its U.S. counterpart by successfully promoting international acts in their target markets worldwide. Ertegun headed WEA International until his retirement in 1987. A ''de facto'' committee of three senior marketing executives—Dave Glew from Atlantic, Ed Rosenblatt from Warner Bros. and Mel Posner from Elektra—oversaw the integration of each label's marketing and distribution through the new division, but each label continued to operate totally independently in A&R matters and also applied their own expertise in marketing and advertising. On July 1, 1971, following the pattern set by similar joint ventures in Canada and Australia, the Warner labels entered into a partnership with the British arm of CBS Records to press and distribute Warner-Reprise product in the United Kingdom, although this was undertaken as a cooperative venture rather than a formally incorporated business partnership. The ''Billboard'' article that reported the new arrangement also noted that, despite their intense competition in the US market, CBS continued to press Warner-Reprise recordings in the US. However the new UK arrangement was a major blow to Warner's previous British manufacturer
Pye Records Pye Records was a British record label. Its best known artists were Lonnie Donegan (1956–1969), Petula Clark (1957–1971), The Searchers (1963–1967), The Kinks (1964–1971), Sandie Shaw (1964–1971), Status Quo (1968–1971) and Brotherhoo ...
, for whom Warner-Reprise had been their largest account. With the scheduled addition of the UK rights to the Atlantic catalogue, which would revert to Kinney in early 1972, ''Billboard'' predicted that the Warner-CBS partnership would have a 25–30% share of the UK music market. In April 1971, thanks mainly to the influence of Ahmet Ertegun, the Kinney group announced a major coup with its acquisition of the worldwide rights to
the Rolling Stones The Rolling Stones are an English rock band formed in London in 1962. Diverging from the popular pop rock of the early-1960s, the Rolling Stones pioneered the gritty, heavier-driven sound that came to define hard rock. Their first stable ...
' new label
Rolling Stones Records The standard yellow record label of Rolling Stones Records LPs, including the red tongue and lips logo ">tongue and lips logo">record label of Rolling Stones Records LPs, including the red tongue and lips logo Rolling Stones Records was t ...
, following the expiration of the band's contract with (then separate from the American label) and the acrimonious end to their business relationship with their former manager
Allen Klein Allen Klein (December 18, 1931 July 4, 2009) was an American businessman, music publisher, writers' representative and record label executive. He was known for his tough persona and aggressive negotiation tactics, many of which affected industry ...
. Under the terms of the deal, Atlantic subsidiary
Atco ATCO Ltd., operating as the ATCO Group, is a publicly-traded Canadian engineering, logistics and energy holding company based in Calgary, Alberta. ATCO's subsidiaries include electric utilities, natural gas production and distribution companies, a ...
would distribute the Stones' recordings in the US, with other territories mainly handled by Warner Bros. international divisions. One of Kinney's wisest investments was
Fleetwood Mac Fleetwood Mac are a British-American rock band, formed in London in 1967. Fleetwood Mac were founded by guitarist Peter Green, drummer Mick Fleetwood and guitarist Jeremy Spencer, before bassist John McVie joined the lineup for their self-title ...
. The band signed to Reprise in the early 1970s after relocating to the US and the label supported them through numerous lineup changes and several lean years during which the band's records sold relatively poorly, although they remained a popular concert attraction. Ironically, after their transfer to Warner Bros. in 1975 and the recruitment of new members
Lindsey Buckingham Lindsey Adams Buckingham (born October 3, 1949) is an American singer, songwriter, and producer, best known as lead guitarist and one of the three singers of the music group Fleetwood Mac from 1975 to 1987 and 1997 to 2018. In addition to his ten ...
and
Stevie Nicks Stephanie Lynn "Stevie" Nicks (born May 26, 1948) is an American singer and songwriter known for her work with the band Fleetwood Mac and as a solo artist. She is known for her distinctive voice, mystical stage persona and poetic, symbolic lyrics ...

Stevie Nicks
, the group scored a major international hit with the single "Rhiannon" and consolidated with the best selling albums ''
Fleetwood Mac Fleetwood Mac are a British-American rock band, formed in London in 1967. Fleetwood Mac were founded by guitarist Peter Green, drummer Mick Fleetwood and guitarist Jeremy Spencer, before bassist John McVie joined the lineup for their self-title ...
'', '' Rumours'' and ''
Tusk Tusks are elongated, continuously growing front teeth that protrude well beyond the mouth of certain mammal species. They are most commonly canine teeth, as with pigs, hippos, and walruses, or, in the case of elephants, elongated incisors. In most ...
''.


Warner Communications

Due to a financial scandal involving price fixing in its parking operations, Kinney National spun off its non-entertainment assets in 1972 (as
National Kinney Corporation National Kinney Corporation was a parking, property management services, and real estate development company based in New York City. It was established on August 7, 1971 when Kinney National Company spun off its non-entertainment assets due to a fi ...
) and changed its name to Warner Communications Inc.. In 1972, the Warner group acquired another rich prize,
David Geffen David Lawrence Geffen (born February 21, 1943) is an American business magnate, producer, film studio executive, and philanthropist. Geffen co-created Asylum Records in 1971 with Elliot Roberts, Geffen Records in 1980, DGC Records in 1990, and ...
's
Asylum Records Asylum Records is an American record label, founded in 1971 by David Geffen and partner Elliot Roberts. It was taken over by Warner Communications (now the Warner Music Group) in 1972, and later merged with Elektra Records to become Elektra/Asylum ...
. The $7 million purchase brought in several acts which proved crucial to the Warner group's subsequent success, including
Linda Ronstadt Linda Maria Ronstadt (born July 15, 1946) is a retired American singer who performed and recorded in diverse genres including rock, country, light opera, and Latin. She has earned 10 Grammy Awards, three American Music Awards, two Academy of Cou ...
,
the Eagles The Eagles are an American rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1971. With five number-one singles and six number one albums, six Grammy Awards, and five American Music Awards, the Eagles were one of the most successful musical acts of the 1970s ...
,
Jackson Browne Clyde Jackson Browne (born October 9, 1948) is an American singer-songwriter and musician who has sold over 18 million albums in the United States. Emerging as a precocious teenaged songwriter in mid-1960s Los Angeles, he had his first successes ...
,
Joni Mitchell Roberta Joan "Joni" Mitchell (née Anderson; born November 7, 1943) is a Canadian singer-songwriter. Drawing from folk, pop, rock, classical, and jazz, Mitchell's songs often reflect on social and philosophical ideals as well as her feelings abo ...
and later
Warren Zevon Warren William Zevon (; January 24, 1947 – September 7, 2003) was an American rock singer, songwriter, and musician. Zevon's most famous compositions include "Werewolves of London", "Lawyers, Guns and Money", and "Roland the Headless Thomp ...
. On the downside, however, it was rumored that Warners was soon concerned about their possible liability under the California State Labor Code because of Geffen's questionable status as both the manager of most of the Asylum acts and the head of the record label to which they were signed. The sale included the Asylum Records label and its recordings, as well as Geffen's lucrative music publishing assets and the interests in the royalties of some of the artists managed by Geffen and partner
Elliot Roberts Elliot Roberts (born Elliot Rabinowitz,Tom King, ''The Operator: David Geffen Builds, Buys, and Sells the New Hollywood'', p. 54, Broadway Books (New York 2001). February 25, 1943 – June 21, 2019)''The Guardian'' article:Lady of the Canyon" w ...
. Geffen accepted a five-year contract with WCI and turned over his 75% share in the Geffen-Roberts management company to Roberts and Warners paid Geffen and Roberts 121,952 common shares worth $4,750,000 at the time of the sale, plus $400,000 in cash and a further $1.6 million in promissory notes convertible to common stock. Although it seemed a lucrative deal at the time, Geffen soon had reason to regret it. Uncharacteristically, he had greatly underestimated the value of his assets—within Asylum's first year as a Warner subsidiary, albums by
Linda Ronstadt Linda Maria Ronstadt (born July 15, 1946) is a retired American singer who performed and recorded in diverse genres including rock, country, light opera, and Latin. She has earned 10 Grammy Awards, three American Music Awards, two Academy of Cou ...
and
the Eagles The Eagles are an American rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1971. With five number-one singles and six number one albums, six Grammy Awards, and five American Music Awards, the Eagles were one of the most successful musical acts of the 1970s ...
alone had earned more than the entire value of the Asylum sale. Geffen's discomfort was compounded by the fact that, within six months of the sale, the value of his volatile Warner shares had plummeted from $4.5 million to just $800,000. He appealed to Steve Ross to intervene, and as part of a make-good deal, Ross agreed to pay him the difference in the share value over five years. Acting on Jac Holzman's suggestion that Kinney should take Asylum from Atlantic and merge it with Elektra, Ross then appointed Geffen to run the new combined label. In 1976, Warner gained a brief early lead in digital media when it purchased the
Atari Atari () is a brand name owned by several entities since its inception in 1972, currently by Atari Interactive, a subsidiary of the French publisher Atari SA. The original Atari, Inc., founded in Sunnyvale, California, in 1972 by Nolan Bushnell ...
computer company, and in 1981 it bought
The Franklin Mint The Franklin Mint was a private mint founded by Joseph Segel in 1964 in Wawa, Pennsylvania. The building is in Middletown Township. The brand name was previously owned by Sequential Brands Group headquartered in New York City, New York. It is curr ...
company. WCI also blazed the trail in visual music with MTV, which it created and co-owned in partnership with
American Express The American Express Company (Amex) is a multinational financial services corporation headquartered at 200 Vesey Street in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan in New York City. The company was founded in 1850 and is one of the 30 componen ...
. In 1984–85, Warner rapidly divested many of these recent acquisitions, including Atari, Franklin Mint,
Panavision Panavision is an American motion picture equipment company founded in 1953 specializing in cameras and lenses, based in Woodland Hills, California. Formed by Robert Gottschalk as a small partnership to create anamorphic projection lenses during t ...
,
MTV Networks MTV (originally an initialism of Music Television) is an American cable channel that launched on August 1, 1981. Based in New York City, it serves as the flagship property of the ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks division of ViacomCBS. Prior t ...

MTV Networks
and a cosmetics business. In 1977, Warner Bros. Music, led by president Ed Silvers, formed Pacific Records for their composers and distributed (appropriately) by
Atlantic Records Atlantic Recording Corporation (simply known as Atlantic Records) is an American record label founded in October 1947 by Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson. Over its first 20 years of operation, Atlantic earned a reputation as one of the most impo ...
.
Alan O'Day Alan Earle O'Day (October 3, 1940 – May 17, 2013) was an American singer-songwriter, best known for writing and singing "Undercover Angel," a million-selling Gold-certified American No. 1 hit in 1977. He also wrote songs for several other notable ...
was the first artist signed to the label, and the first release was " Undercover Angel". The song, which he described as a "nocturnal novelette," was in February 1977. Within a few months it had become No. 1 in the country, and has sold approximately two million copies. It was also a hit in Australia, reaching No. 9 on the Australian Singles Chart. "Undercover Angel" also landed O'Day in an exclusive club as one of only a handful of writers/performers to pen a No. 1 hit for themselves and a No. 1 for another artist. New signings in the late 1970s placed WEA in a strong position for the 1980s. A deal with
Seymour Stein Seymour Stein (born April 18, 1942) is an entrepreneur and music executive. He co-founded Sire Records and was Vice President of Warner Bros. Records. With Sire, Stein signed bands that became central to the new wave era of the 1970s and 80s, inclu ...
's
Sire Records Sire Records (formerly Sire Records Company) is an American record label owned by Warner Music Group and distributed by Warner Records. History Beginnings The label was founded in 1966 as Sire Productions by Seymour Stein and Richard Gottehrer, ...
label (which Warner Bros. Records later took over) brought in several major
punk rock Punk rock (or simply punk) is a music genre that emerged in the mid-1970s. Rooted in 1960s garage rock, punk bands rejected the perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock. They typically produced short, fast-paced songs with hard-edged melodies ...
and
new wave New Wave may refer to: Music * New wave music, a genre of popular music that originated in the 1970s Albums * ''New Wave'' (Against Me! album) or the title song, 2007 * ''New Wave'' (The Auteurs album), 1993 * ''New Wave'' (Dizzy Gillespie albu ...
acts including
the Pretenders The Pretenders are a British–American rock band formed in March 1978. The original band consisted of founder and main songwriter Chrissie Hynde (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), James Honeyman-Scott (lead guitar, backing vocals, keyboards), Pete F ...

the Pretenders
,
the Ramones Ramones were an American punk rock band that formed in the New York City neighborhood of Forest Hills, Queens in 1974. They are often cited as the first true punk rock group. Despite achieving only limited commercial success initially, the ban ...
and
Talking Heads The Talking Heads were an American rock band formed in 1975 in New York City and active until 1991.Tal ...
and, most importantly, rising star
Madonna Madonna Louise Ciccone (; ; born August 16, 1958) is an American singer, songwriter, and actress. Referred to as the "Queen of Pop", she is regarded as one of the most significant figures in popular culture. Madonna is noted for her continual ...
; Elektra signed
the Cars The Cars were an American rock band formed in Boston in 1976. Emerging from the new wave scene in the late 1970s, the line-up consisted of Elliot Easton (lead guitar), Greg Hawkes (keyboards), Ric Ocasek (rhythm guitar), Benjamin Orr (bass guita ...
and Warner Bros. signed
Prince A prince is a male ruler (ranked below a king, grand prince, and grand duke) or a male member of a monarch's or former monarch's family. ''Prince'' is also a title of nobility (often highest), often hereditary, in some European states. The femi ...
, giving WEA several of the biggest-selling acts of the decade. WEA's labels also distributed a number of otherwise independent labels. For example, Warner Bros. distributed
Straight Records Straight Records, self-identified simply as Straight, was a record label formed in 1969 to distribute productions and discoveries of Frank Zappa and his business partner/manager Herb Cohen. Straight was formed at the same time as a companion labe ...
,
DiscReet Records DiscReet Records, self-identified simply as DiscReet, was a record label founded by Frank Zappa and his then business partner/manager Herb Cohen. The name of the label was a pun derived from disc and the Compatible Discrete 4 process of encoding qu ...
,
Bizarre Records Bizarre Records, self-identified simply as Bizarre, was a production company and record label formed for artists discovered by rock musician Frank Zappa and his business partner/manager Herb Cohen. History Bizarre was originally formed as a produc ...
, Bearsville Records, and
Geffen Records 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. Founded in 1980, Geffen Records has been a part of Interscope Geffen A&M since 1999 and h ...
(the latter was sold to MCA Inc., MCA in 1990). Atlantic Records distributed Swan Song Records. In 1975, WEA scored a major coup by signing a distribution agreement with Island Records, which only covered the United States and select other countries. For the next 14 years (initially with Warner Bros. until 1982, then with Atlantic afterward), WEA would distribute such artists as Bob Marley, U2, Robert Palmer (singer), Robert Palmer, Anthrax (American band), Anthrax, and Tom Waits. This relationship ended when Island was sold to PolyGram in 1989.


1980s

A name-only unit appearing exclusively in the copyright, WEA International Inc., was created in early 1982, to handle distribution of all Warner Bros., Elektra, and Atlantic releases for international countries. A proposed 1983 international merger between PolyGram and WEA was forbidden by both the US Federal Trade Commission and West Germany's cartel office, so PolyGram's half-owner Philips then purchased a further 40% of the company from its partner Siemens, and bought the remaining shares in 1987. The same year, PolyGram divested its film and publishing operations, closed PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, PolyGram Pictures and sold Chappell Music to Warner for US$275 million. WEA formed WEA Manufacturing in 1986. In 1988 WEA took over the German classical label Teldec and the British Magnet Records, Magnet label. In 1989, it was announced that Warner Communications was to merge with Time Inc. to form Time Warner, a transaction that was completed in 1990. Following the merger, WEA continued acquiring independent labels, buying CGD Records (Italy) and East West Records, MMG Records (Japan) in 1989.


1990s

Through the 1990s, Time Warner was the largest media company in the world, with assets in excess of US$20 billion and annual revenues in the billions of dollars; by 1991, Warner's music labels were generating sales valued at more than US$3 billion, with operating profits of $550 million and by 1995 its music division dominated the US music industry with a 22% share of the domestic market. Acquisitions and corporate changes within the Warner group of labels continued after the Time Warner merger—in 1990 WEA purchased French label Carrere Records, WEA was renamed Warner Music Group in 1991, leading French classical label Erato Records, Erato (1992) and in 1993 WEA bought the Spanish DRO Records, Hungary's Magneoton label, the Swedish Telegram Records, Brazil's Continental Records and Finnish label Fazer Musiikki. Atlantic launched two new subsidiary labels in the early 1990s: East West Records and Interscope Records. In 1995, East West absorbed Atco Records and was eventually folded into Elektra Records. In 1996, Interscope was purchased by MCA Inc., MCA Music Entertainment. During 1992, the Warner Music Group faced one of the most serious public-relations crises in its history when a major controversy erupted over the provocative Warner Bros. recording "Cop Killer (song), Cop Killer" from the self-titled album by Body Count (band), Body Count, a heavy metal/rap fusion band led by Ice-T. Unfortunately for Warner, the song (which mentioned the Rodney King case) was issued just before the controversial acquittal of the police charged with King's beating, which sparked the 1992 Los Angeles Riots and the confluence of events put the song under the national spotlight. Complaints escalated over the summer—conservative police associations called for a boycott of Time Warner products, politicians including President George H. W. Bush denounced the label for releasing the song, Warner executives received death threats, Time Warner stockholders threatened to pull out of the company and the New Zealand police commissioner unsuccessfully tried to have the record banned there. Although Ice-T later voluntarily reissued ''Body Count'' without "Cop Killer", the furor seriously rattled Warner Music and in January 1993 the label made an undisclosed deal releasing Ice-T from his contract and returning the ''Body Count (album), Body Count'' master tapes to him. Also in 1992, the Rhino Records label signed a distribution agreement with Atlantic Records and Time Warner bought a 50% stake in the Rhino Records label. The distribution agreement allowed Rhino to begin reissuing recordings from Atlantic's back catalogue. In 1994, Canadian beverage giant Seagram bought a 14.5% stake in Time Warner, and the Warner publishing division—now called Warner/Chappell Music – acquired CPP/Belwin, becoming the world's largest owner of song copyrights and the world's largest publisher of printed music. In 1996, Time Warner made another dramatic expansion of its media holdings, taking over the Turner Broadcasting System, which by then included the Turner cable TV network, CNN and the screen production houses Castle Rock Entertainment and New Line Cinema, acquisitions that brought huge profits into the Warner Group thanks to content assets like ''Seinfeld'' and the highly successful ''The Lord of the Rings (film series), The Lord of the Rings'' film trilogy. By the early 1990s, senior Warner staff like Ostin and Waronker had remained in their positions for several decades—a highly unusual situation in the American music industry—but the death of Steve Ross destabilized the Time Warner hierarchy, and over the next few years the music group was increasingly disrupted by internal power struggles, leading to a string of major executive upheavals in 1994–95, which ''The New York Times'' described as "a virtual civil war". The central conflict was between Mo Ostin and Warner Music Group chairman Robert Morgado, who had joined the Warner group in the late 1980s. Because of his political background (he had been the chief-of-staff to former New York Governor Hugh L. Carey) and his lack of music industry experience—especially compared to the widely revered Ostin—Morgado was viewed as an outsider at Warner. Nevertheless, he gained favour with Ross and Levin and was promoted in 1985 to oversee the Warner international music division after helping the company slash costs in its computer game sector. Since his appointment as head of WBR, Ostin had always reported directly to Steve Ross and Ross's successor Gerald Levin, but in late 1993, when Ostin's contract came up for renewal, Morgado asserted his authority, insisting that Ostin should now report directly to him. The tensions between them reached boiling point in July 1994 when Morgado appointed former Atlantic chief Doug Morris to head the Warner Music Group in the US, a decision that many saw as a deliberate move to hasten the departure of Ostin and Elektra head Bob Krasnow, Robert Krasnow. Morgado's new structure was announced in August 1994 and Bob Krasnow resigned from Elektra the next day. Within days, after more than 30 years with the Warner music group and more than 20 years as President and Chairman of Warner Bros. Records, Ostin announced he would not renew his current contract and would leave Warners when it expired on December 31, 1994. There was more negative publicity the following month, when leading Elektra act Metallica launched a lawsuit against the label, seeking a release from their contract and ownership of their master tapes, and claiming that Morgado had refused to honour a deal they had worked out with Krasnow before he quit. Ostin's departure marked a seismic shift in the corporate culture at WBR and the news was greeted with dismay by industry insiders and the many artists whose careers he had helped to nurture. Lenny Waronker had agreed to take over as WBR chairman and CEO but in October 1994 he announced that he would not be taking up the position; he initially said that he would remain as President of WBR, but by this time there was already widespread speculation that he would leave, and he did so soon afterwards. The following year he re-joined Ostin and son Michael as joint head of the newly launched DreamWorks Records, DreamWorks label. Beginning in August 1994, Morgado alienated Morris by his clumsy handling of Warner's relationship with Interscope Records, the successful label founded by Ted Field and Jimmy Iovine and part-owned by Warner. Morgado had resisted making a decision about increasing the Warner stake in Interscope, which encouraged other companies to make overtures to the label; in response, Morgado threatened to send cease-and-desist notices to executives at several record companies, demanding that they stop approaching Interscope with buyout offers, a move that reportedly infuriated Iovine. By late 1994, Morris was gaining the upper hand over his rival and media reports claimed that Morris had moved to settle with Metallica, offering a deal that was reportedly even more generous than the one they had worked out with Krasnow. Morgado now faced a showdown with Morris, who felt he was not being allowed to run WMG as he saw fit. In October 1994, Morris and 11 other Warner executives "staged an unprecedented insurrection that nearly paralyzed the world's largest record company". This led to a climactic meeting between Morris and Gerald Levin in late October, at which Morris reportedly threatened to quit if he had to continue to report to Morgado. Morgado gave in to the demand that Morris be granted autonomy to run the North American operations and he was forced to upgrade Morris's position from chief operating officer to Chief Executive of Warner Music Group (US); Morris promptly named Danny Goldberg, former president of Atlantic Records, to run WBR in defiance of Morgado, who had a different candidate in mind and Levin also reduced Morgado's power to oversee Warner's mail-order record club division and its international operations. Morris then brought in Sylvia Rhone and
Seymour Stein Seymour Stein (born April 18, 1942) is an entrepreneur and music executive. He co-founded Sire Records and was Vice President of Warner Bros. Records. With Sire, Stein signed bands that became central to the new wave era of the 1970s and 80s, inclu ...
to stabilize Elektra, settled the Metallica lawsuit and persuaded Levin to purchase an additional 25% of Interscope, although this initiative proved short-lived. The power struggle between Morgado and Morris reached a dramatic climax in May 1995 when Morgado was asked to resign by Gerald Levin, following a welter of complaints from executives at the three major Warner Music labels, who said that Morgado was undermining Morris's authority and damaging Warner's reputation among performers. Morgado was immediately replaced by Home Box Office, HBO chairman Michael J. Fuchs but the corporate upheavals did not end there; in late June 1995 Fuchs abruptly dismissed Doug Morris, saying that Morris had been "leading a campaign to destabilize Warner Music in an effort to seize control of the company". As Morris's strongest ally, Danny Goldberg was also under threat; he was initially told that he could stay on as President of WBR as long as he refrained from office politics and concentrate on the day-to-day management of the label, but he resigned as President of Warner Bros. Records soon after to pursue "other interests", and was replaced by WBR vice-chairman Russ Thyret. Despite early success with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, and Morris's decision to increase Warner's stake to 50%, by the mid-1990s Interscope Records was being seen as a liability for the Warner group. Time Warner's board and investors had already been bruised by the damaging 1992 "Cop Killer (song), Cop Killer" controversy and now they were faced with renewed criticism about the gangsta rap genre, in which Interscope's associate imprint Death Row Records was a key label. In mid-1995, Time Warner refused to distribute the Interscope album ''Dogg Food'' by Tha Dogg Pound, forcing the label to seek outside distribution, and late in the year TW sold its stake in Death Row back to co-owners Jimmy Iovine and Ted Field and soon after it sold off its share in Interscope to MCA Music Entertainment. The upheaval at Warner was beneficial to its rivals, who picked up valuable executives who had left Warner. Goldberg moved over to Mercury Records; Morris joined MCA Records, MCA Music Entertainment Group and led its reorganization into
Universal Music Group Universal Music Group B.V. (often abbreviated as UMG) is a global music corporation that is majority owned by the French media conglomerate Vivendi, with Chinese tech company Tencent owning a minority stake. UMG's corporate headquarters are loc ...
, now the world's largest record company. In November 1995, Fuchs was himself sacked by Levin, leaving the company with a reported US$60 million "golden parachute", and Time Warner co-chairmen Robert A. Daly and Terry Semel took over the running of the music division. In 1998, Seagram boss Edgar Bronfman Jr. held talks aimed at merging Seagram's Universal Music, headed by Morris, with the venerable British recording company EMI, but the discussions came to nothing; Bronfman then oversaw Universal's takeover by Vivendi. WEA meanwhile continued to expand its publishing empire, buying a 90% stake in the Italian recording and music publishing group Nuova Fonit Cetra. Also in 1998, Time Warner bought the remaining 50% of the Rhino Records label they did not own. The Rhino Records retail store in Los Angeles was not included. Rhino then began reissuing the back catalogues of the Warner/Reprise and Elektra/Asylum labels. In 1999 Rhino launched Rhino Handmade, which released limited-edition reissues of lesser-known but still-significant recordings from the WEA labels.


2000s

In 2000, Time Warner merged with leading American internet service provider AOL to create Time Warner, AOL Time Warner. The new conglomerate again tried (and failed) to acquire EMI, and subsequent discussions about the takeover of Bertelsmann Music Group, BMG stalled, with Bertelsmann eventually offloading BMG into a joint venture with Sony. In 2002, AOLTW further consolidated its hold over the publishing industry, buying 50% of music publisher Deston Songs from Edel AG. By the early 2000s, however, the effects of the dot-com crash had eroded AOL's profits and stock value, and in 2003 the Time Warner board sidelined its under-performing partner by dropping ''AOL'' from its business name. As a result of the CD price fixing issue, a settlement was reached in 2002 involving the music publishers and distributors; Sony Music, WMG, Bertelsmann Music Group, EMI, EMI Music, Universal Music Group, Universal Music. In restitution for price fixing they agreed to pay a $67.4 million fine and distribute $75.7 million in CDs to public and non-profit groups but admitted no wrongdoing. Looking to reduce its debt load, Time Warner—the corporate successor to Warner Communications—sold Warner Music Group in 2004 to a group of investors led by Edgar Bronfman Jr. for US$2.6 billion. This spinoff was completed on February 27, 2004. In the 2004 transition to independent ownership, WMG hired record industry heavyweight Lyor Cohen from
Universal Music Group Universal Music Group B.V. (often abbreviated as UMG) is a global music corporation that is majority owned by the French media conglomerate Vivendi, with Chinese tech company Tencent owning a minority stake. UMG's corporate headquarters are loc ...
(the result of the merger between the PolyGram and MCA label families) to attempt to reduce cost and increase performance. Time Warner (now WarnerMedia) no longer retains any ownership in WMG, though it had the option to reacquire up to 20% of WMG for three years following the closing of the transaction. WMG did, however, have a royalty-free license to use the Warner Bros. shield for 15 years, as well as the old Warner Communications logo as WMG's main logo. With the expiration of the royalty-free license in May 2019, Warner Bros. Records (which became separate from the eponymous film studio after the spinoff) was renamed Warner Records and a new logo was introduced to replace the WB shield. Once free of Time Warner, WMG began cutting costs by offloading loss-making or low-earning divisions. Like its rival EMI, Warner reacted to the growth of the digital music market by making a historic change, moving out of record production by closing or selling off disc-pressing plants, particularly in territories such as the US and the Netherlands, where production costs are high. The US manufacturing operations were sold to Cinram in 2003, before the purchase from Time Warner. In 2005, the Miami-based Warner Bros. Publications, which printed and distributed a broad selection of sheet music, books, educational material, orchestrations, arrangements and tutorials, was sold to Alfred Music Publishing, although the sale excluded the print music business of WMG's Word Music (church hymnals, choral music and associated instrumental music). On May 3, 2006, WMG apparently rejected a buyout offer from EMI. Then WMG offered to buy EMI and it also rejected the offer. In August 2007, EMI was purchased by Terra Firma Capital Partners. Talk of a possible WMG acquisition of EMI was fanned once again in 2009 after WMG executed a bond offering for $1.1 billion, which brought to light WMG's relatively strong financial position, which was contrasted with the weakened and debt-laden state of EMI. The same year WMG acquired Rykodisc and Roadrunner Records. In September 2006, after pulling its content from the service earlier in the year, WMG entered into a new licensing deal with the video streaming service YouTube. Under the deal, WMG would be able to handle advertising sales for its artists' music videos on the service (as well as monetize user-created videos that include WMG-owned recordings) and partake in revenue sharing with YouTube, and also collaborate with YouTube on building a "premium" user experience for its content and associated channels. On December 27, 2007, Warner announced that it would sell digital music without digital rights management through AmazonMP3, making it the third major label to do so. In 2008, ''The New York Times'' reported that WMG's
Atlantic Records Atlantic Recording Corporation (simply known as Atlantic Records) is an American record label founded in October 1947 by Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson. Over its first 20 years of operation, Atlantic earned a reputation as one of the most impo ...
became the first major record label to generate more than half of its music sales in the U.S. from digital products. In 2010, ''Fast Company (magazine), Fast Company'' magazine detailed the company's transformation efforts in its recorded music division, where it has redefined the relationships it has with artists and diversified its revenue streams through its expansion into growing areas of the music business. In 2008, WMG and several other major labels made investments in the new music streaming service Spotify. Due to licensing deal negotiations between Google and WMG in 2008, music video content licensed by WMG was removed from YouTube. In 2009, it was announced that the companies had reached a deal, and videos would be re-added to YouTube. As of 2017, WMG had extended its deal with YouTube. In 2009, Warner Music took over its South-East Asian and Korean distributions of EMI audio and video products, including newer domestic releases, which was announced in September 2008. The two companies already enjoyed a successful partnership in India, the Middle East and North Africa, where EMI marketed and distributed Warner Music's physical product from 2005. WMG formed a partnership with
MTV Networks MTV (originally an initialism of Music Television) is an American cable channel that launched on August 1, 1981. Based in New York City, it serves as the flagship property of the ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks division of ViacomCBS. Prior t ...

MTV Networks
in June 2010 that allowed MTVN to exclusively sell ads on WMG's premium content; in turn, views of WMG videos would be counted as views for MTVN. In August 2011, Stephen Cooper (businessman), Stephen Cooper became CEO of Warner Music Group replacing Edgar Bronfman Jr., who became chairman of the company. Bronfman Jr. stepped down as chairman of the company on January 31, 2012.


2010s

In May 2011, WMG announced its sale to
Access Industries Access Industries, Inc. is an American privately held multinational industrial group. It was founded in 1986 by businessman Leonard "Len" Blavatnik, who is also its chairman. Access's industrial focus is in four areas: natural resources and chemi ...
, a conglomerate controlled by Soviet-born billionaire Len Blavatnik, for US$3.3 billion in cash. The price represented $8.25 a share; a 34% premium over the six-month-before average price, and a 4% premium over the day-before price. Overall, this was a drop of over 70% since 2007. According to the ''Wall Street Journal,'' the deal ended a three-month sale process in which as many as 10 bidders, including Los Angeles-based brothers Tom Gores, Tom and Alec Gores, and Sony Corp. vied for the company. Blavatnik was a shareholder and former board member of WMG at the time of the purchase announcement. The purchase was completed on July 20, 2011, and the company became private.


EMI label purchase and divestment

In 2013, Warner acquired longtime EMI division Parlophone, along with EMI Classics and some regional EMI labels, from UMG for £487 million (around $764.54 million US). This news came after reports that WMG was in talks to acquire EMI's recorded music business, which was eventually bought by Universal Music Group, Universal. The European Commission approved the sale in May 2013, and Warner closed the acquisition on July 1. The EMI Classics roster was absorbed into Warner Classics and the Virgin Classics roster was absorbed into the revived Erato Records. In November 2013, WMG paid Universal an additional €30 million for Parlophone, following an arbitration process in respect to the original sale price. In order to accommodate a deal made with Independent Music Companies Association, IMPALA and the Merlin Network when it acquired Parlophone, WMG agreed to offload over $200 million worth in catalogues to various independent labels. The labels had until February 28, 2014, to inform Warner Music of which artist catalogues they were interested in acquiring, and said artists had to approve of the divestments. By March 2015, over 140 independent labels had placed bids on over 11,000 Warner Music artists valuing $6 billion, far higher than expectations. In March 2016, Curb Records acquired Warner Music's 80% share of Word Entertainment, though WMG would continue to distribute the label. In April 2016, the first confirmed sale of a Warner Music artist was the back catalogue of English band Radiohead to XL Recordings. As of the end of May 2016, WMG had sold the catalogue of Chrysalis Records to Blue Raincoat Music, as well as the catalogues of ten other artists, including Everything But the Girl, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, and Lucinda Williams. In September 2016, Nettwerk acquired the rights to albums by Guster and Airbourne (band), Airbourne from Warner Music. In April 2017, Warner Music agreed to sell the independent distributor Zebralution back to its founders. On June 1, 2017, WMG divested additional artists, including the catalogues of Hot Chip and Buzzcocks to Domino Recording Company; Tom Waits to Anti- (record label), Anti-; and Howard Jones (musician), Howard Jones, Dinosaur Jr., and Kim Wilde to Cherry Red Records. Cosmos Music Group acquired the rights to Per Gessle and Marie Fredriksson, while Neil Finn's catalogue moved to his Lester Records label. On July 6, 2017, Because Music acquired 10 French artists, most of London Records' back catalogue, and The Beta Band, while Concord Music acquired albums by Jewel (singer), Jewel, Sérgio Mendes, R.E.M., and several rock, blues, and jazz artists. In August 2017, The Lemonheads and The Groundhogs were transferred to Fire Records (UK), Fire Records. In October 2017, Strut Records acquired albums by Patrice Rushen and Miriam Makeba. In November 2017, T.I.'s catalogue was sold to Cinq Music Group. Woah Dad! acquired over 20 catalogues, including those of Ziggy Marley, Estelle (musician), Estelle, and several Swedish artists, while Believe Digital acquired the rights to EMF (band), EMF and several French artists. In April 2018, Razor & Tie, RT Industries acquired seven catalogues from WMG, including Sugar Ray and Fat Joe. In May 2018, New State Music acquired the catalogues of Paul Oakenfold and Dirty Vegas. Other winning bidders included The Echo Label (Thomas Dolby, Sigue Sigue Sputnik and Supergrass), Nature Sounds (Roy Ayers), The state51 Conspiracy (Donovan), PIAS Recordings (Failure (band), Failure), Evolution Music Group (Mr. Big (American band), Mr. Big), Playground Music Scandinavia (Olle Adolphson), Metal Blade Records (King Diamond), Snapper Music (Mansun) and its sublabel Kscope (Porcupine Tree), Phoenix Music International (Lulu (singer), Lulu), Kobalt Label Services (HIM (Finnish band), HIM), and Tommy Boy Music (which reclaimed its pre-2002 catalogue and the rights to Brand Nubian, Handsome Boy Modeling School’s ''White People (album), White People'', Grand Puba, and Club Nouveau). All the labels had to complete their deals by September 30, 2017; though a few announcements came after that date.


Expansion

In October 2012, WMG became one of the last major labels to sign with Google's music service. It was also one of the last labels to reach an agreement with Spotify. In June 2013, WMG expanded into Russia by acquiring Gala Records, best known as the longtime distributor of EMI. Later that year, Warner Music Russia agreed to locally distribute releases by Disney Music Group and Sony Music. Later that year, WMG closed a deal with Clear Channel Media and Entertainment, Clear Channel Media that saw its artists paid for terrestrial radio play for the first time. Clear Channel would get preferential rates for streaming songs through its iHeartRadio service and other online platforms. It was believed that the agreement would put pressure on other big labels, including Sony and Universal, to reach similar deals.


International labels

On November 14, 2013, it was determined that Warner Music's releases in the Middle East would be distributed by Universal Music as a result of the integration of EMI's branch in said region. Sony Music India would assume distribution of WMG in India, Sri Lanka, and rest of SAARC countries except Bangladesh. In December 2013, Warner Music began operating the wholly owned South African subsidiary after acquiring the Gallo's stakes that it did not own. In April 2014, WMG announced that it had acquired Chinese record label Gold Typhoon. In April 2016, WMG agreed to distribute most of BMG Rights Management's catalogue worldwide through Warner's Alternative Distribution Alliance, ADA division, though a few frontline releases would remain distributed by other labels. Around the end of May 2016, WMG acquired the Indonesian label PT Indo Semar Sakti. Warner Music UK launched The Firepit in May 2016, a creative content division, innovation centre and recording studio located at their United Kingdom headquarters in London. On June 2, 2016, Warner Music acquired Swedish compilation label X5 Music Group. On June 6, 2017, Warner Music Group launched a new division, Arts Music, which consists of labels for classical, jazz and children's music plus musical theatre and film scores, starting with a joint venture with Sh-K-Boom Records and transferring in Warner Classics. In September 2017, one week after acquiring American rock label Artery Recordings, WMG acquired the Dutch EDM label Spinnin' Records. In February 2018, Warner Music launched a division in the Middle East, based in Beirut, Lebanon. Warner Music Middle East will cover 17 markets across North Africa and the Middle East. In January 2019, WMG signed a Turkish distribution deal with Doğan Media Group, which will represent the record company for physical and digital releases. In May 2019, Warner Music Finland acquired the hip-hop label Monsp Records. In July 2019, Warner Music Slovakia acquired Forza Music, which owned the former state-owned label Opus Records. In February 2021, WMG purchased a minority stake in the Saudi Arabian record label Rotana Records.


Elektra Music Group and further investments

In July 2017, Warner Music acquired the concert discovery website Songkick. In May, news media reported that Warner Music led an investment round in Hooch (application), Hooch, a popular subscription-lifestyle application including blockchain-based payment technology. Announced on June 18, 2018 but effective on October 1, 2018, Warner Music Group launched Elektra Music Group as a stand-alone staffed music company with the labels
Elektra Records Elektra Records (formerly Elektra Entertainment Group Inc.) is an American record label owned by Warner Music Group, founded in 1950 by Jac Holzman and Paul Rickolt. It played an important role in the development of contemporary folk music and roc ...
, Fueled By Ramen, Low Country Sound, Black Cement, and Roadrunner Records. A handful of major artists would transfer from Atlantic. This returned the group back to the Warner-Elektra-Atlantic (WEA) triad that had for decades marked the original company organization. On August 2, 2018, Warner Music announced that it acquired Uproxx, Uproxx Media Group and its properties (except for BroBible, which will continue to publish independently) for an undisclosed sum, although Uproxx has raised around $43m (£33m) from previous investment, which provides some sense of the firm's valuation. In September 2018, WMG acquired German merchandise retailer EMP Merchandising from Sycamore Partners for $180 million. In October 2018, Warner Music Group announced the launch of the WMG Boost seed venture fund. Several labels of Warner Music moved into the Arts District, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Arts District in 2019 where the company had purchased a former Ford Motor Company assembly plant. In August 2020, Warner Music acquired Tel Aviv and New York-based IMGN Media in a deal worth approximately $100 million. In September 2020, WMG acquired the online hip-hop magazine HipHopDX. In 2021, WMG invested an eight figure sum into global multiplayer gaming platform Roblox. This followed WMG artist Ava Max's live performance on the platform the previous year.


Public listing

On March 9, 2020, WMG expanded to India, creating the Warner Music India unit based in Mumbai and also handle business in other South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation countries. Jay Mehta, ex-executive of Sony Music India, would take change of the unit in April as managing director. Before the division's foundation, Warner's releases were distributed in the country by EMI/Virgin Records, Virgin Records (India) Pvt., and by Sony Music India since EMI's breakup. In 2017, WMG formed its TV and film division with the hiring of former MGM executive Charlie Cohen as head and in March 2019 Kate Shepherd, Ridley Scott Creative Group's former head of entertainment. This division, Warner Music Entertainment, paired with Imagine Entertainment on a National Geographic (American TV channel), Nat Geo limited series ''Genius (American TV series), Genius: Aretha'', which lead to a music slate co-produce and co-finance agreement in July 2020. Warner Music Group had planned an IPO of current investors' stock in March 2020, but withdrew its IPO just before the March 2 kick off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On June 3, 2020, it completed its IPO on
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Nasdaq, raising almost $2 billion with a valuation of $12.75 billion, making WMG once again a publicly-traded company after previously going private in 2011. On June 12, 2020, Naspers's Tencent announced that it had purchased 10.4% of Warner Music's Class A shares, or 1.6% of the company. Tencent already owns 10% of shares of WMG's largest competitor,
Universal Music Group Universal Music Group B.V. (often abbreviated as UMG) is a global music corporation that is majority owned by the French media conglomerate Vivendi, with Chinese tech company Tencent owning a minority stake. UMG's corporate headquarters are loc ...
, which they acquired from Vivendi in March. Also, this makes Sony Music the only major music company not directly owned in any percentage by a Chinese company (it is wholly owned by the Japanese conglomerate Sony).


Arts Music

Arts Music is Warner Music's umbrella division for classical, jazz and children's music plus musical theatre, soundtracks and film scores labels based in New York. Labels of the division are Erato Records, First Night Record, Sh-K-Boom Records and Warner Classics and licensed labels are Build-A-Bear Workshop, Build-A-Bear, Cloudco Entertainment, and Music of Sesame Street, Sesame Street Records. On June 6, 2017, Warner Music Group launched a new division, Arts Music, which consists of labels for classical, jazz and children's music plus musical theatre and film scores. The division was placed under president Kevin Gore, who reports to Eliah Seton, President of ADA Worldwide, the group's independent distribution and services arm. At the same time, Warner Classics, including the Erato label, while remaining based in Paris and continuing under president Alain Lanceron, were transferred into the new division. Also, a joint venture with Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight Records, the theatrical music company was formed with the founder/president Kurt Deutsch also being named senior vice president of Theatrical & Catalog Development for Warner/Chappell Music. Arts Music signed a multi-year deal in November 2018 with Sesame Workshop to revive the Music of Sesame Street, Sesame Street Records label starting in early 2019. In June 2019, WMG purchased First Night Record, musical theatre cast recording company, and place the company within Arts Music. On June 24, 2019, the division launched the licensed American Greetings#Cloudco Entertainment, Cloudco Entertainment label with the release of the current ''Holly Hobbie'' TV show theme song as a part of a multi-season deal. Build-A-Bear Workshop teamed up with Arts Music and Warner Chappell Music in July 2019 to partner on the Build-A-Bear label with Patrick Hughes and Harvey Russell on board to guide the label. The division arranged to become the distributor of Mattel's music catalog in May 2020. Art Music planned to make available hundreds of ever-before-released songs and new songs for existing properties with first up the digital launch on May 8 of Thomas & Friends’ birthday album.


Music publishing

Warner Chappell Music Warner Chappell Music, Inc. is an American music publishing company and a division of the Warner Music Group. Warner Chappell Music's catalogue consists of over 1.4 million compositions and 65,000 composers, with offices in over 40 countries. Hist ...
dates back to 1811 and the creation of Chappell & Company, a sheet music and instrument merchant in London. In 1929, Jack L. Warner, president of Warner Bros. Pictures Inc., founded Music Publishers Holding Company (MPHC) to acquire music copyrights as a means of providing inexpensive music for films and, in 1987, Warner Bros.' corporate parent, Warner Communications, acquired Chappell & Company from PolyGram. Its printed music operation, Warner Bros. Publications, was sold to Alfred Music on June 1, 2005. Among the historic compositions of which the publishing rights are controlled by WMG are the works of Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. In the 1930s and 1940s, Chappell Music also ran a profitable orchestration division for Broadway musicals, with house arrangers of the caliber of Robert Russell Bennett, Don Walker (orchestrator), Don Walker, Ted Royal and Hans Spialek. Between them they had orchestrated about 90% of the productions seen up to late 1941.


See also

* List of record labels * List of Warner Music Group artists * List of Warner Music Group labels


References


Bibliography

*


External links

* {{Authority control Warner Music Group, Record label distributors IFPI members Tencent Multi-channel networks Companies based in Los Angeles American companies established in 1958 Entertainment companies established in 1958 Holding companies established in 1958 Mass media companies established in 1958 1958 establishments in New York (state) Companies formerly listed on the New York Stock Exchange Companies listed on NASDAQ Bain Capital companies Providence Equity Partners companies Private equity portfolio companies Former WarnerMedia subsidiaries 2011 mergers and acquisitions 2020 initial public offerings