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Reference Library: EMI Primer

From: "Alan V. Karr" (avk@vnet.ibm.com)
Newsgroups: rec.music.beatles
Subject: Re: EMI Parlophone Capitol Apple...
Date: 22 Feb 1996 17:28:52 GMT

EMI stands for Electric & Musical Industries, which at the time the Beatles signed up with had about a 1/3 share of the British record market and was arguably the largest company. (Prior to the early 1950s EMI & its largest competitor, The Decca Record Co. Ltd., controlled the UK market between them.)

EMI is now known as Thorn-EMI since its merger/buyout with Thorn Electric a British firm. EMI was formed in Britain in 1931 when the Gramophone Co. Ltd. & the Columbia Graphophone Co. Ltd (UK arm of American-based Columbia Records) merged. Parlophone was a German record firm that was purchased by OKeh Records, a US co c. WWI, which in turn became part of US Columbia. When UK Columbia was spun off to EMI, the Parlophone Co. w/ name and other trademarks went too ("Odeon"; the stylised "L") (The "L" is not for the British pound but the founders' last name, "Lindstrom")

Parlophone was a lesser division within the ranks of EMI, but by the Beatles' time had increased its chart standing via comedy/novelty records (P. Sellers, Temperance 7, Mike Sarne) & big hits by Adam Faith- though Faith was not signed up by Martin but assigned to the label by EMI. It did not have the artists & sales that its corporate siblings HMV (His Master's Voice) and Columbia did and there was a distinct possibility of its being shuttered as an EMI division prior to the Beat Boom. Parlophone is often unfairly portrayed as a label of poor quality, when in fact much of their output in the rock era is outstanding- they were just unlucky. George Martin did err when he rejected Tommy Steele, who was Britains first "rock" superstar who recorded many hits for Decca.

Capitol is/was a US company that EMI purchased in 1954, as its reentry into the US market. It was the US label of the Beatles starting with I Want To Hold Your Hand, but prior to late '63 refused to release Love Me Do etc. (Its Canadian division did not refuse)

Apple was a company that the Beatles set up to handle their affairs and became a "custom" label, one of the 1st-pressed by EMI.

Maclen Music was an American publishing imprint for Lennon & McCartneys songs; Northern Songs was the publishing co. owning the rights to most Beatles songs.

ATV Music Ltd, a division of British entertainment group ATV (at one time ITC, Associated TV, Pye Records were among its divisions) headed by Sir Lew Grade eventually acquired the music publishing rights to the Beatles catalog. ATV in turn sold catalog to Michael Jackson.

Royalties are money paid out of profits of record sales to the artist (performance) and writer(s). Performance royalties are contractually arranged per artist by the record co; in all cases they are some % of sales, gross or net. Not all Beatles tracks are owned by EMI. The Beatles made recordings for Polydor/Deutsche Grammophon in West Germany (which was founded by the same man who founded Gramophone and Victor-Emile Berliner, inventor of the flat disk) in 1961 (the Hamburg tapes); this company eventually merged with the Dutch Philips record group, Phonogram, to create Polygram. (Polygram acquired British Decca in 1979.) Polygram through today has held onto ownership of the Hamburg tapes; I have never seen an explanation that they *don't* also own the Beatles audition tape from 1/1/62 for UK Decca. Polygram is the licensor of the Hamburg tapes to EMI for Anthology I. Since The Beatles signed with EMI in mid-'62 EMI has held an exclusive right to releasing their recordings; Polydor released the Beatles from any further obligations at that time.

In America, US Decca, as licensee to Polydor/DG released Beatles product stateside with no impact. Capitol, holding first right of refusal to release UK EMI product, passed on the Beatles, who had individual releases licensed by the smaller Vee-Jay, a Chicago indie & Swan, a Philadelphia label. Vee-Jay also released some licensed product on its Tollie label. After Beatlemania hit, EMI product was on all manner of labels, and Polydor product relicensed by MGM & Atco. Capitol after some time & litigation, asserted a right to the Beatles EMI catalog & after 1965 retained sole right to EMI output. Polydor gained a US presence after acquiring MGM c. 1971 and has often reissued the Hamburg tapes worldwide.


Regards, Alan V. Karr (avk@vnet.ibm.com)


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