WARNER BROS. RECORDS INC. is an American major record label established in 1958 as the foundation label of the present-day Warner Music Group (WMG), and now operates as a wholly owned subsidiary of that corporation. Warner Bros. Records was established on March 19, 1958, as the recorded-music division of the American film studio Warner Bros. For most of its early existence it was one of a group of labels owned and operated by larger parent corporations. The sequence of companies that controlled Warner Bros. and its allied labels evolved through a convoluted series of corporate mergers and acquisitions from the early 1960s to the early 2000s. Over this period, Warner Bros. Records grew from a struggling minor player in the music industry to become one of the top recording labels in the world.
In 2003, these music assets were divested by their then owner Time Warner and purchased by a private equity group. This independent company traded as the Warner Music Group before being bought by Access Industries in 2011. WMG is the smallest of the three major international music conglomerates and the world's last publicly traded major music company. Cameron Strang serves as CEO of the company.
Artists currently signed to
Warner Bros. Records include but are not
Sleeping with Sirens ,
* 1.1 Founding * 1.2 1958–1963: formation and early years * 1.3 Warner/Reprise 1963–1967 * 1.4 1967–1969: Warner-Seven Arts * 1.5 1969–1972: Kinney takeover * 1.6 1970–1979: The Ostin era * 1.7 1980–1988
* 1.8 1989–2004: The Time Warner era
* 1.8.1 End of an era: Ostin and Waronker depart
* 1.9 2004–present: Warner Music Group
* 2 Affiliated labels
* 2.1 Current * 2.2 Former
* 3 Artists * 4 See also * 5 References * 6 External links
At the end of the silent movie period, Warner Bros. Pictures decided to expand into publishing and recording so that it could access low-cost music content for its films. In 1928, the studio acquired several smaller music publishing firms which included M. Witmark "> The gold, black and red label design used for Warner Bros. stereo albums from 1958 to 1968 and mono albums from 1964 to 1968. The grey, black, white and yellow label design used for Warner Bros. mono albums from 1958 to 1964 when it switched to the same gold label as the stereo version.
Warner Bros. reëntered the record business in 1958 with the
establishment of its own recording division,
Warner Bros. Records. By
this time, the established
* vocal /spoken word albums by Warner contract players such as Tab
Edd Byrnes ,
Some albums featured jokey or self-deprecating titles such as:
* _Music for People with $3.98 (Plus Tax If Any)_, * _Terribly Sophisticated Songs: A Collection of Unpopular Songs for Popular People_, * _Songs the Kids Brought Home from Camp_ * _Don't Put Your Empties on the Piano_ and * _But You've Never Heard Gershwin With Bongos_.
Almost all were commercial failures; and the only charting album in Warner Bros.' first two years was Warren Barker\'s 'soundtrack' album for the studio's hit series _ 77 Sunset Strip _, which reached #3 in 1959. Tab Hunter's " Jealous Heart " (WB 5008), which reached #62, was Warner Bros. only charting single during its first year.
Warner Bros. singles had distinctive red labels, with the WB
logo to the side and a number of different-colored arrows surrounding
and pointing at the center hole. The first hit was the novelty record
"Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)", which reached #4 on the
_Billboard_ Hot 100 . It was nominally performed by Warner contract
Edd Byrnes , who played the wisecracking hipster character
Gerald Lloyd "Kookie" Kookson III on Warner's TV detective series _77
Sunset Strip _. The story behind the recording illustrates the sharp
practices often employed by major recording companies. Actress and
With only two hits to its credit in two years, the label was in serious financial trouble by 1960, having lost at least US$3 million and music historian Frederic Dannen reports that the only reason it was not closed down was because the Warner board was reluctant to write off the additional $2 million the label was owed in outstanding receivables and inventory. After a restructure, Conkling was obliged to report to Herman Starr; he rejected a buyout offer by Conkling and a group of other record company employees but agreed to keep the label running in exchange for heavy cost-cutting—the staff was reduced from 100 to 30 and Conkling voluntarily cut his own pay from $1000 to $500.
Warner Bros. now turned to rock\'n\'roll acts in hopes of advancing its sales but their first signing, Bill Haley , was by then past his prime and failed to score any hits. The label was more fortunate with its next signing, the Everly Brothers , whom Warner Bros. secured after the end of their previous contract with Cadence Records . Herman Starr effectively gambled the future of the company by approving what was reputed to be the first million-dollar contract in music history, which guaranteed the Everly Brothers $525,000 against an escalating royalty rate of up to 7 percent, well above the industry standard of the day. Luckily, the Everlys' first Warner Bros. single, "Cathy\'s Clown " was a smash hit, going to #1 in the U.S. and selling more than eight million copies, and their debut Warner Bros. album _It\'s Everly Time _ reached #9 on the album chart.
Warner Bros. had signed rising standup comedian Bob Newhart
, marking the beginning of the label's continuing involvement with
comedy. Newhart provided the label's next major commercial
breakthrough—in May 1960, three months after the success of "Cathy's
Clown", Newhart's debut album _The Button-Down Mind of
Bob Newhart _
went straight to #1 in the U.S., staying at the top for fourteen
weeks, charting for more than two years and selling more than 600,000
copies. Capping this commercial success, Newhart scored historic wins
in three major categories at the 1961
New staff joined the label in late 1961. Jim Conkling retired in the fall of that year, selecting as his successor Mike Maitland, a former Capitol executive, with Joe Smith appointed as head of promotions. Warner Bros. made another prescient signing in folk group Peter, Paul & Mary . The trio had been on the verge of signing with Atlantic Records , but before the deal could be completed they were poached by Warner Bros. Artie Mogull (who worked for one of Warner Bros.' publishing companies, Witmark Music) had introduced their manager Albert Grossman to Herman Starr, and as a result the group signed a recording and publishing deal with Warner Bros. Grossman's deal for the group broke new ground for recording artists—it included a substantial advance of $30,000 and, most significantly, it set a new benchmark for recording contracts by stipulating that the trio would have complete creative control over the recording and packaging of their music.
Soon after, Grossman and Mogull signed a publishing deal that gave
Witmark one of its most lucrative clients --
Meanwhile, the label enjoyed further success with comedy recordings. Allan Sherman 's LP _ My Son, the Folk Singer _, which satirised the folk boom, became a huge hit, selling over a million copies. Bill Cosby broke through soon after and he continued the label's dream run with comedy LPs into the late 1960s, releasing a string of highly successful albums on Warner Bros. over the next six years, alongside his groundbreaking career as a TV actor.
The label's fortunes had finally turned around by 1962 thanks to the Everly Brothers , Newhart , folk stars Peter, Paul Warner Bros. Records head Mike Maitland became the president of the new combine and Mo Ostin was retained as manager of the Reprise label.
Reprise was heavily in debt at the time of the takeover, and the Warner Records management team was reportedly dismayed at their balance sheet being pushed back into the red by the acquisition, but they were given no choice in the matter. Ben Kalmenson, a Warner Bros. company director and close aide to Jack Warner, summoned the label's directors to a meeting in New York and explicitly told them that both he and Warner wanted the deal and that they expected them to vote in favor of it.
Despite these misgivings, the purchase ultimately proved very
beneficial to the Warner group. Reprise flourished in the late 1960s
thanks to Sinatra's famous "comeback" and the hits by Sinatra and his
daughter Nancy , and the label also secured the U.S. distribution
rights to the recordings of the Kinks and
In 1964, Warner Bros. started Loma Records which was meant to focus on R"> "Cream Puff War" (1967), the first single by the Grateful Dead . The orange label with chevron border was used on Warner Bros.' American 45s for much of the 1960s.
Warner Bros. successfully negotiated with French label
Disques Vogue and Warner Bros.' British distributor
Pye Records for
the rights to distribute
Another significant development in the label's history came in 1966
when Ostin hired young independent producer
Lenny Waronker as an A&R
manager, beginning a strong and enduring mentor/protege relationship
between the two. Waronker, the son of
Liberty Records founder Simon
Waronker , had previously worked as an assistant to Liberty producer
Snuff Garrett . Later he worked with the small
Waronker had been hired as a freelance producer for some of Autumn's
acts including The Tikis (who later became
Harpers Bizarre ), the Beau
Brummels and the Mojo Men and for these recording sessions he brought
in several musician friends who were then becoming established on the
L.A. music scene - composer/musicians
Randy Newman (a childhood
Leon Russell and
Van Dyke Parks
Warner Bros. took over
Valiant Records , which added
hit-making harmony pop group the Association to the Warner roster.
This acquisition proved to be another huge money-spinner for Warner
The Association scored a string of major hits in the late
1960s, and their 1967 hit "
Never My Love " went on to become the
second most-played song on American radio and TV in the 20th century.
During the year, the label also took its first tentative step into the
burgeoning rock market when they signed leading San Francisco
psychedelic rock group the
In June 1967,
Mo Ostin attended the historic Monterey International
Pop Festival , where
The Association performed the opening set. Ostin
had already acquired the US rights to the
Some of Warner Bros.' biggest commercial successes during this period
were with "
Sunshine Pop " acts.
Harpers Bizarre scored a #13 Billboard
hit in April 1967 with their version of
Simon & Garfunkel 's "The 59th
Street Bridge Song (Feelin\' Groovy) " and a month later, the
Association scored a US #1 with "
Another notable Warner release from this period was _ Astral Weeks _, the second solo album by Van Morrison (his first was on Bang ), who signed with the label in 1968. Although it sold relatively poorly on its first release (and did not reach gold record status until 2001) it has been widely acclaimed by musicians and critics worldwide, has featured prominently on many "Best Albums of All Time" lists and has remained in release almost continuously since 1968.
During 1968, using the profits from Warner/Reprise, W7 purchased Atlantic Records for $17.5 million, including the label's valuable archive, its growing roster of new artists and the services of its three renowned executives, Jerry Wexler , Nesuhi Ertegun and Ahmet Ertegun . However, the purchase again caused rancour among the Warner/Reprise management, who were upset that their hard-won profits had been co-opted to buy Atlantic, and that Atlantic's executives were made large shareholders in Warner-Seven Arts—the deal gave the Ertegun brothers and Wexler between them 66,000 shares of Warner Bros.' common stock.
On 1 June 1968, _Billboard _ announced that WBR's star comedy performer Bill Cosby had turned down a five-year, US$3.5 million contract renewal offer and would leave the label in August that year to record for his own Tetragrammaton Records label. Just over one month later (July 13) _Billboard _ reported on a major re-organization of the entire Warner-Seven Arts music division. Mike Maitland was promoted to Executive Vice-President of both the recorded music and publishing operations, and George Lee took over from Victor Blau as operational head of the recording division. The restructure also reversed the reporting arrangement put in place in 1960 and from this point the Warner publishing arm reported to the record division under Maitland. The _Billboard_ article also noted the enormous growth and vital significance of W7's music operations, which were by then providing most of Warner-Seven Arts' revenue—during the first nine months of that fiscal year, the recording and publishing divisions generated 74% of the corporation's total profit, with the publishing division alone accounting for over US$2 million of ASCAP 's collections from music users.
1969–1972: KINNEY TAKEOVER
In 1969, Warner-Seven Arts was taken over by the Kinney National Company , headed by New York businessman Steve J. Ross , who would successfully lead the Warner group of companies until his death in 1992. The US$400 million deal created a new conglomerate that combined the Warner film, recording and music publishing divisions with Kinney's multi-faceted holdings. Ross had started the company in the late 1950s while working in his family's funeral business—seeing the opportunity to use the company's cars, which were idle at night, he founded a successful hire car operation, which he later merged with the Kinney parking garage company. Ross took the company public in 1962 and from this base it expanded rapidly between 1966 and 1968, merging with National Cleaning Services in 1966 to form the Kinney National Company, and then acquiring a string of companies that would prove of enormous value to the Warner group in the years ahead -- National Periodical Publications (which included DC Comics and All American Comics ), the Ashley-Famous talent agency and Panavision .
In the summer of 1969,
Atlantic Records agreed to assist Warner Bros.
Records in establishing overseas divisions but when Warner executive
Phil Rose arrived in
During 1969, the rivalry between Mike Maitland and Ahmet Ertegun quickly escalated into an all-out executive battle, but Steve Ross favoured Ertegun and the conflict culminated in Maitland being dismissed from his position on 25 January 1970. He declined an offer of a job with Warner Bros. Pictures and left the company, subsequently becoming president of MCA Records . Mo Ostin was appointed as president of Warner Bros. Records with Joe Smith as executive vice-president.
1970–1979: THE OSTIN ERA
Beginning back in 1967 with the signing of the Grateful Dead, Warner
Bros. Records and its affiliate labels steadily built up a diverse and
prestigious lineup of rock and pop artists through the 1970s, and
earning a strong reputation as an "artists first" record company.
Under the guidance of Edward West, Vice-President of Warner Bros.
Records Inc in 1973 and its executives, A&R managers and staff
producers, including Mo Ostin, David Geffen, Joe Smith, Stan Cornyn,
Lenny Waronker, Andy Wickham,
Russ Titelman and ex-Warner Bros.
recording artist (with Harpers Bizarre)
Ted Templeman , sales grew
steadily throughout the decade and by the end of the 1970s Warner
Bros. and its sister labels had become one of the world's leading
recording groups, with a star-studded roster that included Fleetwood
One of the first
Warner Bros. albums to achieve both critical and
commercial success in the early 1970s was Van Morrison's third solo LP
Moondance _ (January 1970) which consolidated his distinctive blend
of rock, jazz and R
By 1970, "Seven Arts" was dropped from the company name and the WB shield became the Warner Bros. Records logo again. During 1971, a financial scandal in its parking operations forced Kinney National to spin off its non-entertainment assets, and the Warner recording, publishing and film divisions then became part of a new umbrella company, Warner Communications .
In July 1970, the Warner recording group acquired another prestige
asset with the purchase of Jac Holzman's
With three co-owned record companies, the next step was the formation of the group's in-house distribution arm, initially called Kinney Records Distributing Corporation, to better control distribution of product and make sure records by breaking new acts were available.
In 1971, UK-based pop rock trio America were signed to the recently
established British division of
Warner Bros. Their debut album ,
released late in the year, at first enjoyed only moderate success, but
in early 1972 their single "
A Horse with No Name " became a major
international hit, reaching #1 in the US. Warner hastily reissued the
album with the song included and it too became a huge hit, reaching #1
on the US album chart and eventually earning a platinum record award.
Although criticised for their similarity to
Neil Young (indeed,
rumours circulated around
In 1972, Dionne Warwick was signed to Warner Bros. Records after leaving Scepter Records in what was the biggest contract at the time for a female recording artist, although her five years at Warner Bros. were relatively unsuccessful in comparison to her spectacular hit-making tenure at Scepter.
After a slow start, the Doobie Brothers proved to be one of Warner Bros.' most successful signings. Their debut album made little impact but their second album _ Toulouse Street _ (1972) reached #21 and spawned two US Top 40 singles, " Listen to the Music " and "Jesus is Just Alright ", inaugurating a string of hit albums and singles over the next five years. Their third album _ The Captain and Me _ was even more successful, reaching #7 in the US and producing two more hit singles, "China Grove " (#15) and "Long Train Runnin\' " (#8); it became a consistent seller and is now accredited 2x Platinum by the RIAA . _ What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits _ (1974) reached #4 and produced two more hits including their first US #1 single "Black Water " (1975). _Stampede _ also reached #4, and produced another hit single with the Motown cover " Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While) " (US #11).
Warner Bros. Records' reputation for nurturing new artists was
demonstrated by the career of
Alice Cooper (originally the name of the
band, but later taken over as the stage name / persona of singer and
main songwriter Vince Furnier). The
Alice Cooper band recorded two
unsuccessful albums for
WBR introduced a new label design for its LPs and singles in mid-1973. This design, which WBR would use until mid-1978, featured a multi-coloured, idealised view of a Burbank street lined by palms and eucalypts, and titled with the slogan "Burbank, Home of Warner Bros. Records".
After several years as a 'cult ' artist,
Randy Newman achieved his
first significant commercial success as a solo artist with his 1974
album _Good Old Boys _ which made the Top 40. His controversial 1977
Short People " was one of the surprise hits of the year,
reaching #2 on the _
Billboard Hot 100 _. On October 12, 1974 WBR and
Phil Spector established
Warner-Spector Records , but the label was
short-lived and folded in 1977; most of its releases were reissues
Philles Records recordings from the 1960s and the only new material
released was two singles by the disco group Calhoon and a single by
In 1975 David Geffen was obliged to leave the company for health reasons, after being told that he had a terminal illness (although this later proved to be a false diagnosis). In his place, Joe Smith was promoted to become President of the combined Elektra /Asylum label. At this time Warner Bros. began to wind down the Reprise label. In 1976–77 almost all Reprise acts, including Fleetwood Mac , Gordon Lightfoot , Ry Cooder and Michael Franks were transferred to Warner Bros., leaving only Neil Young (who refused to move) and founder Frank Sinatra. Apart from these artists and some reissues, the Reprise label was dormant until it was reactivated in 1986 with the issue of the Dream Academy 's single "The Love Parade " on Reprise 28750.
By far the most successful of the Reprise acts who moved to Warner Bros. was Fleetwood Mac , whose massive success firmly established Warner Bros. in the front rank of major labels—although few would have predicted it from the band's tumultuous history. Between 1970 and 1975 there were multiple lineup changes (with only two original members remaining by 1974), their album sales declined drastically, and a legal battle over the group's name kept them off the road for over a year. However, just as Fleetwood Mac was switching labels in 1975, the group re-invigorated by the recruitment of new members Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks . The 'new' Fleetwood Mac scored a string of US and international hits and their self-titled Warner Bros. debut album was a huge success, reaching #1 in the US, charting for more than 30 weeks and selling more than 5 million copies. In 1977, their now-legendary _Rumours _ took both group and label to even greater heights—it generated a string of international hit singles and became the most successful album in the label's history; it is currently ranked the 11th biggest selling album of all time and as of 2009 was estimated to have sold more than 40 million copies.
After a string of albums with the Faces and as a solo artist for
Mercury Records in the early 1970s, British singer
Warner Bros. Records also had unexpected success in the mid-1970s with another 'heritage' act, veteran vocal group the Four Seasons . In early 1975, they signed with Curb Records (which was distributed by WBR) just as lead singer Frankie Valli scored a surprise hit with his independently released solo single " My Eyes Adored You ". Soon after, Valli and The Four Seasons burst back onto the charts with the disco-styled " Who Loves You ", which reached #3 in the US and sold more than a million copies, and the album _ Who Loves You _ sold more than 1 million copies. Their next single "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night) " topped the charts in both Britain and the US in early 1976, becoming the group's first US #1 since 1967. A remixed version was a hit again in 1994 and its total of 54 weeks in charts gives it the longest tenure of any song on the Billboard Hot 100.
By the time of The Doobie Brothers 1976 album _Takin\' It to the Streets _, founding member Tom Johnston had effectively left the band and he was replaced by former Steely Dan session man Michael McDonald , whose distinctive voice helped to propel the group to even greater success. The new album sold strongly, reaching #8 in the US, and the title track reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming a perennial on radio playlists. Warner Bros. also released the massively successful _ Best of the Doobies _ (1976), which has become one of the biggest-selling albums of all time and is currently accredited at 10x Platinum status. 1978's _ Minute by Minute _ marked the peak of their career—both the album and its lead single " What A Fool Believes " went to #1 in the US and the album's title track also made the US Top 20, although it was their last album with founding drummer John Hartman and longserving guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter .
During the late 1970s, Warner Bros.' reputation as an "artists first"
label was challenged by a bitter and long-running dispute with Frank
Zappa . In 1976, Zappa's relationship with manager
Herb Cohen ended in
litigation. For _
Zoot Allures , Z_appa took his own copy of the master
Warner Bros. Records, who agreed to release the album,
therefore bypassing Cohen and DiscReet. However,
Warner Bros. changed
their position following legal action from Cohen. Zappa was then
obligated to deliver four more albums to
Warner Bros. for release on
DiscReet. Zappa sequenced a double live album and three studio albums,
Warner Bros. objected to some or all of these recordings and
refused to reimburse Zappa for production costs, as required by the
DiscReet distribution contract. Zappa then re-edited the material into
a 4-LP set called _
Läther _ (pronounced 'leather'), made a deal with
Phonogram , and scheduled the release of _Läther_ for
Ry Cooder was another Reprise act who was transferred to Warner Bros. in 1977. His first Warner release was the 1977 live album _Showtime_ and he remained with the label until his contract expired in the late 1980s. His 1979 album _Bop \'Til You Drop _ is notable as the first major-label rock album to be digitally recorded, and it became the best-selling album of his career.
Thanks to its distribution deal with
Curb Records , WBR scored the
biggest hit single in the company's history in 1977. The ballad "You
Light Up My Life " (written and produced by Joe Brooks ) was
originally recorded by the late
Kasey Cisyk for the soundtrack to the
film of the same name, in which actress
Didi Conn lip-synched to
Cisyk's recording. Teenager
Debby Boone (daughter of actor-singer Pat
Boone ) was recruited to record a new version for single release, and
this became a massive success, topping the
Billboard Hot 100 for a
record-setting 10 consecutive weeks, and earning a Platinum
certification from the
RIAA . It became the most successful single of
the 1970s in the United States, setting what was then a new record for
longest run at #1 in the US and surpassing Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog
". Boone's success also earned her
Throughout the 1970s, Warner Bros. also benefited from its US/Canada distribution deals with independent labels such as Straight Records , DiscReet Records , UK labels Chrysalis (1972–1976) and Island (1974–1982), Bizarre Records , Bearsville Records (1970–1984) and Geffen Records (which was sold to MCA in 1990).
Although primarily associated with mainstream white acts in the Seventies, Warner Bros.' distribution deals with smaller labels also brought it some success in the disco , soul and funk genres in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Among the imprints it distributed that were notable in these fields were Seymour Stein 's Sire Records (which Warner Bros. soon purchased), Curtis Mayfield 's Curtom , Norman Whitfield 's Whitfield Records , Quincy Jones ' Qwest , Prince 's Paisley Park , RFC Records (formed in December 1978 when Ray Caviano became the executive director of Warner's disco division), and Tom Silverman 's Tommy Boy Records (another label Warner Bros. eventually took over).
Until the late 1970s,
Warner Bros. itself still had very few African
American music artists on its roster, but this began to change with
the signing of artists such as
George Benson and Prince . Benson had
risen to prominence in jazz in the 1960s but was still relatively
little-known by the general public. However, his move to Warner Bros.
in 1976 and the teaming with producer
Tommy LiPuma enabled him to
straddle genres and made him a popular and highly successful
mainstream R&B and pop artist. His first
Warner Bros. LP _Breezin\' _
(1976) became one of the most successful jazz albums of the decade and
a major 'crossover' hit—it topped the American Pop, R&B and Jazz
album charts and produced two hit singles, the title track (which
Prince signed to
Warner Bros. in 1977. His first album _For You _
made little impact, although the single "
Soft and Wet " reached #12 on
the Billboard R&B chart. However, his second self-titled album (1979)
fared considerably better, reaching #3 on the R the first single
lifted from the album, "
I Wanna Be Your Lover " became Prince's first
crossover hit, reaching #1 on the R&B chart and #11 on the main pop
chart, while the follow-up single "
Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad? "
reached #13 on the R its American signings included the Ramones , the
Dead Boys , and
Talking Heads and most importantly of all, Madonna ,
who soon became the most successful female artist in music history,
earning billions for Warner. Sire's distribution deals with British
independent labels including Mute , Rough Trade , Korova and Fiction
gave WEA the American rights to important UK-based New Wave bands
Depeche Mode , the Smiths , the Beat , Madness , Echo "When
Doves Cry " and "Let\'s Go Crazy " both reached #1 and the title track
reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, the sexually explicit
album track "
Darling Nikki " generated a major controversy that had
lasting effects—when politician's wife
Tipper Gore heard her
12-year-old daughter listening to the song and investigated the
lyrics, her outrage led to the formation of the conservative lobby
Parents Music Resource Center . Their stance was vehemently
opposed by former
Warner Bros. artist
1984 also saw
In 1985, Dire Straits' single "Money for Nothing " gained massive
The new incarnation of
The same was true of Prince. He scored numerous hit albums and
singles through the latter half of the 1980s, but his record sales
Warner Bros. executives became increasingly concerned
that he was producing far more material than they could release. His
image was also tarnished by the failure of his later film ventures,
his embarrassing refusal to participate in the recording of "We Are
The World " and his sacking of guitarist
Wendy Melvoin and
long-serving keyboard player Lisa Coleman . The 1985 album _Around the
World in a Day _ held the #1 spot on the
Billboard 200 for three weeks
and peaked at #5 in the UK, selling seven million copies despite
minimal promotion. _Parade _ (1986) served as the soundtrack for
Prince's second film _
Under the Cherry Moon _; although the movie was
a critical and commercial failure, the album peaked at #3 in Billboard
and #2 on the R Prince then proposed a solo LP which he intended to
issue under the pseudonym _Camille _, but he eventually combined
elements from both to create the ambitious three-album set _Crystal
Ball _. However, because of the relatively lower sales of his previous
albums, Prince's manager Steve Fargnoli and
Warner Bros. president Mo
Ostin both doubted the commercial viability of releasing a 3-LP set,
and after previewing _Crystal Ball_, Ostin insisted that Prince pare
it down to two records. Prince at first refused and a battle of wills
ensued for several weeks, but he eventually backed down and removed
seven tracks; the resulting double-album was released in March 1987 as
"_Sign o\' the Times "_. Despite Prince's bitterness over its forced
reduction, it was very successful, peaking at #6 on the Billboard 200
albums chart and selling 5 million copies, while the title single
"Sign o\' the Times " reached #3 on the Hot 100. The follow-up single
If I Was Your Girlfriend " flopped (although it went to #12 on R&B
chart) but he scored big hits with the next two singles, "U Got the
Look " (#2 Hot 100, #11 R&B) and "I Could Never Take the Place of Your
Man " (#10 Hot 100, #14 R the title track also won 'Song of the Year'
in 1987. In jazz,
Warner Bros. scored another artistic coup by signing
In the summer of 1986, Warner Bros. announced the reactivation of Reprise Records with its own separate promotions department, and former Warner Bros. Vice President of Promotion Richard Fitzgerald was appointed as label Vice President.
During 1987, Prince recorded a pared-down funk LP, _The Black Album _, but he withdrew it in December just before it was to be released (even though 500,000 copies had been printed). Its hastily recorded replacement _ Lovesexy _ (1988) was a moderate success, reaching #11 on the Billboard album chart although it reached #1 in the UK. However, he rebounded in 1989 with the soundtrack for the hugely successful _Batman _ film, which sold more than eleven million copies, reached #1 on the _Billboard_ album chart and produced four hit singles including " Batdance ", which topped both the Hot 100 and R they also scored three consecutive hit singles with " Love Shack " (#3 US, #1 Australia), " Roam " (US #3) and " Deadbeat Club " (US #30).
Warner Bros.' most successful decade yet closed in sensational
fashion. In early 1989, Madonna signed an endorsement deal with Pepsi
, who introduced her new single "Like a Prayer " in the lavish "Make a
Wish" commercial—the first time a pop single had debuted in an
advertisement and the first time such a commercial was given a
worldwide satellite premiere. However
1989–2004: THE TIME WARNER ERA
After a long period of relative stability that was notable in the cutthroat American music industry, the death of Steve Ross in late 1992 marked the start of a period of major upheaval at Warner Bros. Records.
R.E.M.'s second Warner album _Out of Time _ (1991) consolidated their
success, topping the charts in both the US and the UK and producing
two major hit singles: "
Losing My Religion
Prince's fortunes in the Nineties were mixed; he scored more hits and renewed his contract in 1992, but his relationship with Warner Bros. Records soon soured, climaxing in a highly publicized legal battle and his eventual departure from the label. Although his fourth film, _Graffiti Bridge _ was panned by critics and bombed at the box office the album of the same name was very successful—it reached #6 on both the Billboard Hot 200 and R&B album chart and produced two US Top 20 singles. _ Diamonds and Pearls _ (1991) became one of the biggest albums of his career, selling 9 million records, reaching #3 in the USA, #2 in the UK and #1 in Australia, with five of the six singles lifted from the album becoming hits in the US and other countries, including "Cream ", which became his fifth US #1.
Prince was appointed a vice-president of Warner Bros. Records when he re-signed with them in 1992, but soon regretted his decision. His next album—identified by the cryptic symbol on the cover later defined as "The Love Symbol "—was another solid hit, peaking at #5 on the _Billboard_ 200 and selling 5 million copies worldwide, but by now tensions were increasing. Warner Bros. wanted to release "7 " as his next single, but Prince successfully pushed for " My Name Is Prince " and it was only a minor hit (#36 Hot 100, #23 R the follow-up "Sexy MF " was censored in the US because of the expletive in the chorus and did not even make the US Top 50 although it was a Top 5 hit in the UK and Australia. When eventually released, "7" became the only major US hit lifted from the album, peaking (appropriately) at #7.
Following the 3-disc compilation _ The Hits/The B-Sides _ (1993), Prince stopped using his first name and started using only the "Love Symbol"—a decision that drew considerable ridicule from the media. Because this sign has no verbal equivalent, he was often derisively referred to as "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince". By 1994, relations between The Artist and his record label had reached an impasse—in February WEA cancelled its distribution deal with Paisley Park , effectively putting the label out of business. Although released by an independent distributor, his next single "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World " (1994) reached #3 in the U.S. and topped the singles charts throughout Europe, becoming the biggest hit single of his career.
Prince had meanwhile prepared two new albums, _Come_ and _The Gold
Experience_; an early version of _Come_ was rejected but Warner Bros.
eventually accepted both albums, although they refused to issue them
simultaneously. By this time Prince had launched a legal action to
terminate his contract and gain ownership of his master recordings,
and he publicised his views by appearing in public with the word
"SLAVE" written across his right cheek. _Come_ (1994) was moderately
successful in the USA (#15, gold record) and the single "
reached #10 on the R it included "The Most Beautiful Girl in the
World" and produced two other charting singles, "
I Hate U " (US #11
and "Gold " UK #10). Prince's remarkable career with Warner Bros.
ended with _
Chaos and Disorder _ (1996), compiled expressly to end his
contract. It was one of his least successful releases but still
managed to reach #26 in the USA and #14 in the UK and produced one
minor hit, "Dinner With Delores" (#36 UK). Prince subsequently
released recordings on his own NPG label (via
R.E.M.'s _ Automatic for the People _ (1992) cemented their status as one of the top bands of the period and was the most successful album of their career, reaching #1 in the UK and #2 in the US, selling more than 10 million copies worldwide and generating three US hit singles, "Drive ", "Man on the Moon ", and " Everybody Hurts ".
During 1992 WBR faced one of the most serious controversies in its history over the provocative recording "Cop Killer " from the self titled album by Body Count , a rap metal band led by Ice-T . Unfortunately for Warner Bros., the song (which mentions the Rodney King case) came out 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 furore seriously rattled Warner Music and in January 1993 WBR made an undisclosed deal releasing Ice-T from his contract and returning the _ Body Count _ master tapes to him. In the wake of the "Cop Killer" affair, Warner Bros. distanced itself from gangsta rap and in late 1995, it sold its 50% stake in Interscope Records and its controversial subsidiary Death Row Records (Tupac Shakur , Snoop Dogg ) back to co-owners Jimmy Iovine and Ted Field. Iovine and Field quickly aligned Interscope with the Universal Music Group ; the label, now known as Interscope-Geffen-A his debut album _ You Might Be a Redneck If... _ was a major hit in the US and Canada, and both it and his follow-up album sold more than three million copies each.
End Of An Era: Ostin And Waronker Depart
During 1994–1995, Warner Bros.'s successes and problems with its artists were overshadowed by a protracted period of highly publicized internecine strife, centering on Warner Music Group chairman Robert J. Morgado and his successor Michael J. Fuchs . In September 1993, Ostin began negotiations to renew his contract and it was at this point that Morgado unveiled his plan for a major corporate shakeup of the Warner group. This triggered a series of damaging corporate conflicts and in particular created a fatal rift between Morgado and Ostin. The first major casualty was Elektra chairman Bob Krasnow , who resigned abruptly in July 1994.
For many years Ostin had reported directly to Time Warner chairman Steve Ross (and then to Ross's successor Gerald Levin) but Morgado now insisted that Ostin should report to him, and he established a new division, Warner Music US, headed by Doug Morris , to oversee the three main record labels. Fearing the loss of autonomy and worried that he would be obliged to implement Morgado's "slash-and-burn" policy to streamline the label's staff and artist roster, he refused to carry out Morgado's orders and decided not to renew his contract. Ostin officially stepped down from Warner Bros. when his contract expired on 31 December 1994, although he stayed on as a senior consultant to Time Warner's chairman until August 1995. He later commented:
“ This business is about freedom and creative control. An executive has to be able to make risky decisions with minimal corporate interference. But Warner is a different company now than the company I was brought up in. And in the end, I found it impossible to operate in that kind of environment. ”
Ostin's departure sent shockwaves through the company and the industry, and elicited glowing tributes from colleagues and competitors like Joe Smith and Clive Davis , and musicians like Paul Simon and R.E.M. It also triggered an exodus of Warner executives who had joined the company primarily because of Ostin. Next to go was Lenny Waronker—he was initially designated to succeed Ostin as chairman but he ultimately declined the job and left WBR soon after. Following a period of uncertainty and speculation, the two joined forces to establish a new label, DreamWorks Records . Waronker was replaced by ex Atlantic Records president Danny Goldberg , but his tenure proved short. Long-serving WBR executive Russ Thyret , who had joined the label in 1971 and worked closely with Mo Ostin for many years, was promoted to Vice-Chairman in January 1995.
Gerald Levin forced Morgado to resign in May 1995 and he was replaced by HBO chairman Michael J. Fuchs . Fuchs sacked Morris a month later (sparking a US$50m breach of contract suit) and Warner Music US was dissolved. Morris' removal led to speculation that Ostin was being courted to return to WBR, but these reports proved unfounded, since Ostin and Waronker moved to DreamWorks soon after. Morris moved to MCA Records .
Despite his close ties to Morris, Danny Goldberg was initially told he could remain as WBR president but he left the company in August 1995 after negotiating a settlement with Time Warner to terminate his five-year, US$20 million contract, which still had four years to run. He was subsequently appointed president of Polygram subsidiary Mercury Records in October. Following Goldberg's departure Russ Thyret was promoted to Chairman, CEO and label president. Fuchs himself was forced out of Time Warner on November 1995. In May 1997, Phil Quartararo took over as president of WBR, only weeks after he had left EMI's Virgin Records following a management shake-up there.
The departure of the team led by Ostin and Waronker also meant that many of the Warner artists whose careers they had nurtured and curated over the previous 30 years were now deprived of their patronage. As a result, by the year 2000 many of the "flagship" Warner acts of the Ostin/Waronker years left the label as their contracts expired. Ry Cooder was dropped in 1995 and Randy Newman followed Ostin and Waronker to DreamWorks, departing with a wry comment on his own status and the recent turmoil at Warner Bros.:
“ "I've sent Warner an amusing letter of resignation, and I haven't heard anything. It's like trying to find a general to surrender to. I think I'm gone, you know? And I signed with DreamWorks and I haven't heard from them! The people I'm leaving don't give a shit that I'm leaving and the people I'm going to don't give a shit that I'm coming!
Although never rising beyond "cult" status in terms of his sales as a
solo artist, one of the most notable survivors from the Ostin era was
Van Dyke Parks, who continued to release albums on
Warner Bros. -
_Tokyo Rose _ (1989), the
In early 2001, there was a major restructure of the Warner Music Group; about 600 positions were eliminated across the three labels, and an executive reshuffle led to the departures of Thyret and Quartararo (as well as Reprise president Howie Klein) and the hiring of then-Interscope president Tom Whalley as head of Warner Bros. Records. In August Whalley appointed Jeff Ayeroff as Creative Director of Warner Bros. Records and Creative Consultant to Warner Music Group. Ayeroff had previously been WBR's Senior Vice-President and Creative Director from 1983–86, overseeing many successful album covers and music videos in that period.
2004–PRESENT: WARNER MUSIC GROUP
Warner Bros. Records headquarters, at 3300 Warner in Burbank, California .
In 2003, amid management disputes, sagging share prices and rising alarm about the impact of digital file sharing , Time Warner decided to unload its music operations. In March 2004, Time Warner's music assets were acquired by a private equity group headed by Thomas H. Lee Partners , Lexa Partners (led by Edgar Bronfman Jr. , who put up US$150 million drawn from his family's stake in Vivendi ), Bain Capital and Providence Equity Partners . The deal set the group's value at around US$2.6 billion, payable in cash and other considerations, and it included an option that would allow Time Warner to buy back in if conditions proved favorable. Bronfman, Lee, Bain and Providence had reportedly recouped their investment by May 2006 through dividends, refinancing and a share offer floated in May 2005.
Today, Warner Bros. Records remains one of Warner Music Group's dominant labels, with around 120 artists on its roster.
Despite the divestiture, WMG currently enjoys a royalty-free license from Time Warner for the use of Warner Bros. trademarks, although this could be revoked if WMG comes under control of a major motion picture studio.
In October 2007, Madonna ended her 25-year association with Warner Bros., becoming the inaugural artist on a new label established by American concert promoter Live Nation . Under the terms of the new US$120 million, 10-year contract, which Warner was unable to match, Madonna reportedly received a signing bonus of about US$18 million and an approximate US$17 million advance for each of three albums, with Live Nation also agreeing to pay US$50 million in cash and stock to promote each Madonna tour. Madonna concluded her career with Warner Bros. through her last studio album _Hard Candy _ (2008) and the greatest hits retrospective _Celebration _ (2009). Even though the latter was to be the final release, she released her live album of the first concert tour through her Live Nation deal, _Sticky & Sweet Tour _ (2010) on the former record label.
In 2008, Metallica 's contract with Warner Bros. had expired and they were hoping to get another contract agreement due to their current one expiring with the release of _Death Magnetic_, but ultimately it ended in Metallica forming their own label called Blackened Recordings , while future releases would be distributed via Rhino Records .
In February 2010, Madonna's long-serving publicist Liz Rosenberg, a 39-year veteran of WBR, left the label to start her own firm.
In 2013, WMG acquired
Parlophone Records from
In June 2014, Warner Bros. announced Prince had re-joined the company after nearly twenty years and was to release a deluxe remaster of the _Purple Rain_ album.
* A dormant)
Maybach Music Group
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