POLYGRAM was a Dutch entertainment company, a division of
It started as a major record label recording company founded by
Siemens as a holding company for their music interests in
1972. The name was chosen to reflect the
Siemens interest Polydor
Records and the
Phonogram Records The company traced
its origins through
Deutsche Grammophon back to the inventor of the
flat disk gramophone, Emil Berliner . Later on,
PolyGram expanded into
the largest global entertainment company, creating film and television
In May 1998, it was sold to
Seagram which owned
merged into Universal
Music Group, and
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
was merged into
Universal Pictures . When the new company faced
financial difficulties, its parent
Seagram was sold in large part to
Vivendi , and MCA became known as Universal Studios , as Seagram
ceased to exist.
Vivendi is the current owner of UMG ;
Comcast is the
current owner of the media conglomerate now known as
In February 2017,
Entertainment was re-launched as the film
& television division of Universal
* 1 Hollandsche Decca Distributie (HDD), 1929–1950
Philips Phonografische Industrie (PPI), 1950–1962
* 3 GPG and PolyGram, 1962–1980
* 4 Reorganization, 1980–1999
* 5 PolyGram, 2010–present
* 6 Notable labels
* 7 See also
* 8 Sources
* 9 References
* 10 External links
HOLLANDSCHE DECCA DISTRIBUTIE (HDD), 1929–1950
Decca Records (London) licensed record shop owner H.W. Van
Zoelen as a distributor in the Netherlands. By 1931, his company
HOLLANDSCHE DECCA DISTRIBUTIE (HDD) had become exclusive Decca
distributor for all of the
Netherlands and its colonies. Over the
course of the 1930s, HDD put together its own facilities for A Philips
Philips noted the risk in creating gramophones without an
interest in music recording and record manufacture, and that Radio
Corporation of America (RCA) had merged with the Victor Talking
Machine Company in 1929 for this reason. Philips' labs were
developing magnetic tape and LPs , and they could support eventual new
formats, although other record companies were notably unenthusiastic
about experimenting with new formats.
After the war,
Philips built a large factory in
Doetinchem to produce
78 rpm records.
PHILIPS PHONOGRAFISCHE INDUSTRIE (PPI), 1950–1962
In the 1940s, the record business was spread out within Philips:
research in the
Eindhoven labs, development elsewhere in Eindhoven,
Hilversum , manufacturing in
Doetinchem , distribution
Amsterdam , and exports from Eindhoven. During the late 1940s,
Philips combined its various music businesses into PHILIPS
PHONOGRAFISCHE INDUSTRIE (PPI), a wholly owned subsidiary.
PPI's early growth was based on alliances. A merger was first
proposed with Decca of London in late 1945, but was rejected by Edward
Lewis , Decca's owner. (
PolyGram finally acquired Decca in 1979.)
In the early 1950s,
Philips set itself the goal of making PPI the
largest record company in Europe.
PPI's second attempt at a merger was with Deutsche Grammophon
Gesellschaft (DGG). DGG, owned by
Siemens AG , and well known for its
classical repertoire, had been the German licensee for Decca from
1935. DGG also owned
Polydor Records . Shortly after PPI was founded
it had made a formal alliance with DGG to manufacture each other's
records, coordinate releases, and refrain from poaching each other's
artists or bidding against each other for new talent. PPI and DGG
finally merged in 1962.
The alliance with DGG still left PPI without repertoire in Britain or
the United States. But in 1951, after Columbia had failed to renew its
international distribution agreement with
EMI , PPI agreed to
distribute Columbia recordings outside the United States. Columbia
became PPI's distributor within the US. This agreement ran until 1961
when Columbia set up its own European network. PPI signed a worldwide
distribution deal with
Mercury Records in 1961. PPI's parent company
Philips, through its U.S. affiliate CONSOLIDATED ELECTRONICS
INDUSTRIES CORP (a.k.a. CONELCO), acquired Mercury in 1962.
PPI built or bought factories in smaller countries. In 1962, PPI had
a large factory in
Baarn and factories in France, Britain, Denmark,
Norway, Spain, Italy, Egypt, Nigeria, and Brazil.
PPI played an important role in the introduction of the long-playing
vinyl record to Europe. Columbia introduced their
LP record in 1948
Philips presented its first LP at a record retailers' convention
in 1949. Philips' commitment to LP technology was an important factor
in its 1951–1961 deal with Columbia.
GPG AND POLYGRAM, 1962–1980
In 1962, PPI and DGG formed the GRAMMOPHON-PHILIPS GROUP (GPG) as a
joint-venture holding company, with
Philips taking a 50% share in DGG
Siemens a 50% share in PPI. In 1971, the UK record labels of
Philips, Fontana, Mercury, and Vertigo were amalgamated into a new
company called PHONOGRAM, LTD. In 1972, Grammophon-
reorganized all it's operations and was renamed THE POLYGRAM GROUP\'
(in some countries, like Argentina, its name was Phonogram), of which
Siemens each owned 50%. In 1977, both organizations merged
operationally, integrating the recording, manufacturing, distribution
and marketing into a single organization.
The various record labels within
PolyGram continued to operate
PolyGram gave its labels, as A&R organizations, great
After the merger,
PolyGram began to move into the US and UK markets,
and did so by a process of both formation and acquisition: Polydor
Records established its American operations, Polydor Incorporated in
1969, Mercury Record Productions (US) was acquired in 1972 from sister
company NORTH AMERICAN PHILIPS CORP., and became Phonogram, Inc. MGM
Records and Verve (US) were acquired in 1972, RSO (UK) in 1975, a 50%
stake in Casablanca (US) in 1977 (with the remaining 50% in 1980),
Pickwick in 1978, and Decca (UK) in 1980 (the latter acquisition
PolyGram full circle, see the HDD section above).
PolyGram acquired United Distribution Corporation (UDC) in 1973, and
changed its name to Phonodisc, Inc., and signed international
distribution deals with MCA and 20th Century Records in 1976.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s,
Philips had been at work on a new
consumer magnetic tape format for music. The
Philips Compact Cassette
came out in 1963. It was small, played longer than an LP and was
robust. In 1965 the cassette accounted for 3% of revenues, growing in
1968 to 8% and in 1970 to 10.6%.
In the late 1960s, and through the 1970s, GPG/
into film and television production and home video. RSO's successes
Saturday Night Fever and Grease . PolyGram's highly
successful marketing during the disco craze included the Casablanca
film Thank God It\'s Friday and its associated soundtrack. During the
boom in disco, PolyGram's US market share had gone from 5% to 20%.
This can also be attributed to multi-million selling LPs and 45s by
ABBA , the
Bee Gees ,
Donna Summer , the
Village People ,
Andy Gibb ,
Kool & the Gang , and rock band Kiss . For a short while in the late
1970s, it was the world's largest record company.
PolyGram established a direct mail-order business in the UK,
Music Club , which ran till 2007.
Before 1978, with the acquisition of UDC, the distribution
organization was too large and
PolyGram was losing money. When US
operations were running at full capacity,
aggressively, and would press large quantities of records without
knowing the demand. In late 1979,
PolyGram was caught off guard by the
sudden end of the popularity of disco music, leaving it with an
underutilized distribution network, profligate labels, and over
optimistic product orders. PolyGram's Casablanca label was infamous
for management spending on lavish industry parties, luxury cars and
cocaine . After 1980, PolyGram's losses had spiraled upwards of US$220
Another contributing factor to PolyGram's financial woes was the
massive failure of the big budget 1978 musical Sgt. Pepper\'s Lonely
Heart\'s Club Band . The film starred the
Bee Gees and Peter Frampton
at the height of their popularity, and featured
The Beatles covers by
them as well as
Billy Preston , and Earth, Wind ">
However, the movie was released to poor reviews and died a quick death
at the box office. Despite its triple platinum start, the soundtrack
LP's sales bombed after the film's release. In turn, record dealers
PolyGram with returned LPs. The resulting losses nearly wiped
out the profits the company had made on both the Saturday Night Fever
and Grease soundtracks. When the disco craze ended in 1979, and record
sales for both the
Bee Gees and Casablanca's
Village People plummeted,
the company's fate was sealed.
PolyGram also experienced losses with
the defection of Casablanca's
Donna Summer to newly formed Geffen
Records as well as the dropping of
Andy Gibb , whose personal problems
with cocaine and alcohol began to affect his recording career, from
RSO. Summer and the
Bee Gees also had legal disputes with their labels
which further complicated matters. Summer ended her contract with
Polygram in 1980, and was award the rights to her songwriting catalog
by the courts; she owed them one more album, and finished out her
contract by recording her album She Works Hard For The Money (from
which the title track was a huge hit in 1983).
PolyGram Pictures in a partnership with
Peter Guber . During the late 1980s and early 1990s, PolyGram
continued to invest in a diversified film unit with the purchases of
individual production companies.
Philips executive, Jan Timmer became a member of the Group
PolyGram and was appointed President and Chief Executive
Officer of newly formed parent company,
PolyGram International Ltd. in
1983. He cut the workforce from 13,000 to 7,000, reduced PolyGram's LP
and cassette plants from eighteen to five, and decreased the company's
dependence on superstars by spreading the repertoire across different
genres and nurturing national and regional talent. Also in 1983,
PolyGram's U.S. roster of labels by this time included: Polydor,
Mercury, London, London/FFRR, Casablanca (until 1986, later to be
reincarnated in 1994), RSO, De-Lite, Riva, Threshold (owned by the
Moody Blues), Tin Pan Apple (under Polydor Records), Total Experience
(founded by Lonnie Simmons, from 1981 to 1984) and Atlanta Artists
(founded by Cameo lead singer Larry Blackmon) all consolidated into
PolyGram Records, Inc. By 1985,
PolyGram was profitable once more.
Wing Records was reincarnated in 1987 and became a very popular label
over the following years, spawning the careers of Tony! Toni! Toné!
Miss America ,
Vanessa Williams ; the label was
discontinued in the mid-1990s. Fontana was revived in the U.S. in
1989, but only for a short while. Today,
Fontana Distribution is an
independent label distribution unit of Universal
Music Group. Vertigo
Records still remained a rare U.S.
PolyGram label, as most of its
music was from Europe.
20th Century Fox Records from 20th
Century Fox , which had just recently been bought out by oil magnate
Marvin Davis, who was not interested in keeping the record company.
The assets of the former
20th Century Fox Records were consolidated
with the company's Casablanca label.
After an attempted 1983 merger with Warner Elektra Atlantic failed,
Philips bought 40% of
PolyGram from Siemens, acquiring the remaining
10% in 1987.
The CD, invented by
Sony , helped greatly in boosting the
company's sales and market share. PolyGram's strength in classical
music helped greatly, as many of the CD's early adopters were
classical music lovers. Total US sales of CDs were $1 million in 1983,
$334 million in 1990 and $943 million in 2000. Total UK sales were
$300,000 in 1983, $51 million in 1990 and $202 million in 2000. The CD
increased PolyGram's profit margin from 4-6% in the mid-1980s to 7-9%
by the early 1990s. As well, videos were distributed by POLYGRAM
Philips acquired the remaining 50% of
PolyGram from long
Siemens and later in 1989, floated 16% of
PolyGram on the
Amsterdam stock exchange, valuing the whole company at $5.6 billion.
PolyGram embarked on a new program of acquisitions, including A&M and
Island Records in 1989, Swedish company Polar
Music which held the
rights to the
Motown and Def Jam in 1994, and Rodven
(Venezuela) in 1995.
In 1990, after acquiring
Island Records and A&M Records, Alain Levy
(then) executive vice president of
PolyGram N.V., re-organized the
U.S. operations of
PolyGram Record's, Inc. into a new expanded
conglomerate entitled POLYGRAM GROUP DISTRIBUTION, INC. In addition to
overseeing the sales, marketing, manufacturing, and distribution of
music and video products created by PolyGram, PGD was also responsible
for supervising a number of other divisions within
PolyGram Video, PolyMedia, PolyGram
PolyGram Merchandising, Independent Label Sales
(ILS), and New Media & Business Development.
Alain Levy was promoted to worldwide president/C.E.O. of
PolyGram purchased ITC
Entertainment for $156 million. In
early January 1999,
Carlton Communications bought ITC television and
film library from PolyGram/
Seagram for £91 million. ITV plc
continues to release ITC's original output through television repeats,
books and DVD releases.
Around the same time,
PolyGram was sold to
Seagram and merged into
Music Group. The name survives via reissue of music under
Polydor Records label as well as a publishing arm of Universal
Music Publishing Group . The Japanese branches of the
that were absorbed to form Universal
Music Japan were merged into one
label named UNIVERSAL SIGMA.
In 2013, Priscilla Chan , who was a major singer of
PolyGram in Hong
Kong from 1980 to 1990 signed to Universal
Music Hong Kong again, with
the relaunch of the
PolyGram label. A number of memorial concerts
themed with the label have also been held in Hong Kong, China,
Singapore and Malaysia.
On February 11, 2017,
PolyGram was relaunched as the film &
television division of Universal
Music Group , headed by David
Entertainment produces film and television programs
that provide deeper narratives and perspectives on the recording
artists, music and cultural events that came to define generations.
Owned by Universal
Music Group, the world leader in music-based
PolyGram develops, produces, finances and distributes
documentary features and original, scripted projects for music fans of
all ages and tastes around the world.
PolyGram most recently
StudioCanal , the
Ron Howard -directed
documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years, a
behind-the-scenes look at the legendary band’s early years.
* ^ A B Hardy, Phil. "Would You Like to Dance?
EMI and WMG".
Download! How The Internet Transformed The Record Business. Music
Sales Group / Google Books. pp. Chapter 4. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
* ^ Geisst, Charles R. "Radio Industry". Encyclopedia of American
Business History. Ifobase / Google Books. p. 352. Retrieved 15 April
* ^ Bakker, p.17. "Philips’ commitment to the LP technology was
an important factor for Columbia’s willingness to enter the
long-term alliance with PPI in 1950. "
* ^ Bakker, p.26. "During the disco-boom, Polygram’s US market
share had jumped from five to twenty percent. For a few years, it was
the world’s largest record company."
* ^ Billboard - 25 Dec 1999 - 1 janv. 2000 - Page 90 "In the year
ending in June, both companies are said to have had combined sales of
$460 million and an operating profit of $50 million. Sales of $480
million are forecast for the year to June 2000. Britannia, launched in
1969 by Poly Gram, has ..."
PolyGram filmed entertainment acquires ITC
Business Wire January 10, 1995. Retrieved on November 21, 2010.
PolyGram buys Itc for $156m. The Times, Wednesday, January 11,
1995; pg. 25
* ^ "Thunderbirds are going, going, gone". BBC News. 1999-01-19.
* ^ Universal
Music shake-up. The Times, Friday, January 15, 1999
* ^ "Universal
Music Relaunching Polygram, Announces \'Story of
Motown\' as First Production". billboard.com. Retrieved 17 February