Saturday, April 23, 2011

A & M Records

A&M Records was formed in 1962 by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss, with the label name taken from the pair's initials.  From 1966 to 1999, A&M was located at the famous Charlie Chaplin Studios at 1416 North LaBrea Avenue near Sunset Boulevard.

The two had a great record label, which initially featured Alpert & the Tijuana Brass but in the next few years signed acts such as Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66, the Carpenters, We Five, Lee Michaels, the Captain and Tennille, Quincy Jones, Liza Minnelli, Paul Williams, Joan Baez, Billy Preston and Toni Basil.  Alpert' group was the only act that could rival the Beatles in the 60's.  Obviously the Carpenters were a huge moneymaker for the label.  A&M soon added artists from across the Atlantic including Cat Stevens, Joe Cocker, Spooky Tooth, Procol Harum, Free and Humble Pie. 

 Within a decade, A&M was the world's largest independent record label.  In the 1970's, A&M released albums by Carole King under an agreement with Ode Records.  They also signed new acts such as Styx, Supertramp, Peter Frampton, the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Nazareth, the Tubes, Rick Wakeman and Squeeze.  The label continued to score in the 80's with Janet Jackson, Bryan Adams, the Police, Atlantic Starr, Joe Jackson, Chris De Burgh, Suzanne Vega and Falco. 
Then, Alpert and Moss sold out, specifically to PolyGram in 1989.  Alpert and Moss had PolyGram sign an integrity clause allowing the duo to continue to manage the label and control the label's image through 2009.  We all know that means nothing to corporations.  Of course, Alpert's nose for talent continued to carry the company as new acts such as Amy Grant, Sheryl Crow, the Gin Blossoms, Extreme and Soundgarden, Blues Traveler were signed and the label also landed new contracts with John Hiatt, Sting, Barry White and Aaron Neville.

But, as said, when you sell out to a corporation, money becomes more important than talent.  In 1998, PolyGram was bought by Seagram and merged with MCA to create the Universal Music Group.  Alpert & Moss, who were supposed to remain in control through 2009, lost that control as a result of the sale.  Most of the famous A&M support staff, many who had been with Alpert & Moss for 15-20 years, were let go.  Alpert & Moss sued for violation of the "integrity" clause, but of course that didn't affect the fired employees.  The A&M building was shut down in January of 1999.  In the farewell celebration of the famed company, the staff placed a black band over the A&M sign above the main entrance, symbolizing the death of the company. 
The message, and it is timeless, is never deal with corporations--they don't care about people, they care bout the bottom line.  And they have zero loyalty.   

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