The legendary U.K. company, which launched in 1897 with Emile Berliner’s invention of the “Gramophone” and whose initials came to stand for "Every Mistake Imaginable," has essentially come to an end.


After 114 Years, Legendary U.K. Company Will Be Dismantled
With last week’s sale of EMI recorded music by Citigroup to Vivendi and its music publishing holdings to a consortium fronted by Sony Corp., the legendary U.K. company which launched in 1897 with Emile Berliner’s invention of the “Gramophone” and whose initials came to stand for "Every Mistake Imaginable," has essentially come to an end.

From Enrico Caruso to Coldplay and Katy Perry, with acts like Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, the Beatles, Beach Boys, Pink Floyd and David Bowie in between, EMI and its famed Capitol Tower have become almost synonymous with the recording industry which grew up alongside it.

1897:  Emile Berliner, a largely self-educated, German-born American, who had previously developed the microphone for Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, invented his “Gramophone” method of recording and reproducing sound using discs, a process that would revolutionize the way music was heard and experienced. EMI’s history starts at The Gramophone Company in London, one of the companies Berliner formed to bring. together the new sound recording technology and musicians.

1902: Company signs the great opera singer Enrico Caruso. In just two hours, he recorded 10 songs. Over the course of his career, the Gramophone Company released some 240 Caruso records.

1914: The Gramophone Company was selling nearly four million records a year but the outbreak of World War I caused serious disruption to its business as their factories were largely turned over to the manufacture of munitions.

1926: The company releases its first million seller, “O for the Wings of a Dove,” from Mendelssohn’s Hear My Prayer, sung by 14-year-old Ernest Lough on the HMV label.

1931: The Gramophone Company and the Columbia Graphophone Company, as it was then called, agreed to a merger, forming the Electric and Musical Industries, or EMI as it quickly became known. The company opens the world’s first custom-built recording studio at Abbey Road in London.

1942: The Capitol Records Company was founded by songwriter Johnny Mercer, with the financial help of fellow songwriter and film producer Buddy DeSylva and the business acumen of Glen Wallichs, owner of Music City, at the time the biggest record store in L.A.

1947: Wallichs replaces Mercer as President of Capitol Records.

1948: Releases the first vinyl 33rpm LP in the U.S. along with the new 45rpm single.

1955: Acquires Capitol Records for $8.5 million, with a roster that includes an impressive roster of artists including Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Dean Martin, Les Paul and Gene Vincent.

1956: As the licensee for RCA’s Elvis Presley outside the U.S., releases his first international recordings on the HMV label; the iconic Capitol Tower is built on the corner of Hollywood and Vine in the shape of a stack of vinyl LPs, at 150 feet, it’s the tallest building allowed in L.A. due to earthquake fears;

1958: Finds its own Elvis in Cliff Richard, who becomes one of the most successful U.K. recording artists in history and releases first stereo LP.

1961: Alan Livingston, whose main claim to fame was inventing Bozo the Clown, succeeds Glen Wallichs as President of Capitol Records.

1962: Signs the Beatles and releases first single, “Love Me Do” only after label executive Dave Dexter famously rejected all four of the band’s first four records, which ended up on the independent label Vee Jay Records; Release the Beach Boys’ debut album, Surfin’ Safari.

1967: Signs Pink Floyd.

1968: Alan Livingston is fired and replaced as Capitol Records President by Stanley Gortikov, who would eventually head up the R.I.A.A.

1969: Forms Harvest Records to release progressive rock. Its roster soon includes Deep Purple, Roy Harper, the Electric Light Orchestra and Pink Floyd; Gortikov becomes President of Capitol Industries, while former CBS TV VP Sal Iannucci is brought in as President of the label.

1971: Thirty-seven year-old music business veteran Bhaskar Menon, CEO of EMI’s Indian and then international operations, is named President of Capitol/EMI, replacing both Gortikov and Iannucci.

1972: Queen signs with the company, which changes its name to Capitol Industries-EMI, after EMI increases its holdings to 71%.

1973: Releases Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, which reamins on the American album chart for longer than any other album in history—741 weeks. Virgin Records issues its first release, Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells; Ken Berry joins Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Records.

1974: EMI Music Publishing formed; Menon brings in Brown Meggs as President of the Capitol label. Meggs went on to head Angel Records, EMI’s classical label

1976: EMI Music Publishing acquires Screen Gems and Colgems music publishing from Columbia Pictures Industries; EMI signs Sex Pistols; EMI purchases remaining shares in Capitol Industries-EMI; Don Zimmermann replaces Brown Meggs as President of Capitol Records.

1979: EMI acquires the Liberty/United Artists record labels, which includes Blue Note, signs Iron Maiden; merges with Throne Electrical Industries, an engineering company, to form Thorn-EMI.

1987: Joe Smith is named Capitol/EMI CEO, vows new artist development; Colin Southgate named Chairman of Thorn-EMI

1988: Former General Mills VP Jim Fifield is named President/CEO of EMI

1989: Elektra marketing vet and inveterate Grateful Dead fan Hale “Hugs” Milgrim is named President

1989: EMI acquires Charles Koppelman’s SBK Entertainment World.

1990: Acquires 50% of Chrysalis Records, then purchases the other half a year later; MC Hammer’s Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em sells more than 10 million copies.

1991: Inks Radiohead.

1992: Capitol celebrates its 50th anniversary by signing production deals with five different imprints; acquires Virgin Music Group record labels and publishing catalogs; purchases leading Christian music company Sparrow Records to form EMI Christian Music Group.

1993: Hale Milgrim steps down as President/CEO is replaced by Geffen A&R exec Gary Gersh; Astralwerks Records sets up shop in N.Y.

1994: Takes controlling interest in Japanese joint venture Toshiba-EMI.

1996: Thorn and EMI shareholders officially vote to demerge companies; Acquires 50% of leading U.S. independent Priority Records, acquiring the remaining 50% in 1998; Robbie Williams joins EMI.

1997: EMI Music Publishing acquires a 50% stake in the Jobete music publishing catalog of classic Motown songs; Ken Berry takes control of recorded music.

1998: Roy Lott is brought on by Ken Berry as Deputy President EMI N.A.; Jim Fifield leaves job as EMI after he failing in a bid to become the group chief executive, bought out of his contract for 12 million pounds, reportedly the largest corporate buyout in UK history at the time

1999: Coldplay and Kyle Minogue sign; Keith Urban releases debut, self-titled Capitol Records Nashville album.

2000: Launches the industry’s first digital album download, David Bowie’s …Hours; the year-long attempt to merge WMG and EMI is withdrawn after failing to achieve regulatory approval from the European Commission.

2001: Merger talks with BMG break down; Andy Slater is named President/CEO of Capitol Records, as Gary Gersh steps down; puts out the first-ever internet video single, Lenny Kravitz’s “Dig In”… The Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett-inspired virtual band Gorillaz release self-titled debut album; Blue Note Records sign Norah Jones; Dan Hubbert replaces Burt Baumgartner as head or promotion; Priority Records is shut down; EMI Group Chairman Eric Nicoli replaces Ken Berry (who exits as does his controversial wife Nancy, Virgin Music Vice-Chairman) with Alain Levy, who names David Munns Vice Chairman; Mark Didia and Larry Jacobson are named Capitol Records SVPs.

2002: Acquires Mute, home to artists including Depeche Mode, Goldfrapp and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds; Colin “Oscopy” Finklestein is named EMI Music Finance Chief; Mariah Carey is paid off a cool $28 million by EMI to walk away after but a single album after inking for a $21 million advance.

2003: Norah Jones sweeps the Grammys with an unprecedented eight awards out of eight nominations, including all major categories; Kevin Carroll is named head of promotion for the newly organized EMI Music Collective, including Angel, Blue Note, Manhattan, S-Curve and Astralwerks; Josh Deutsch named SVP A&R for Virgin Records by Chairman/CEO Matt Serletic.

2004: Completes acquisition of the rest of Jobete; EMI outsources CD manufacturing in Europe and the U.S.; John Boulos named head of promotion at Capitol

2005: Coldplay’s X&Y is the most successful album of the year, selling over 9 million copies worldwide; EMI signs exclusive licensing deal with Walt Disney Records for Europe, the Middle East and Africa; Lily Allen and Corinne Bailey Rae ink recording deals; Matt Serletic exits as Chairman/CEO of Virgin Records, to be replaced by Jason Flom

2006: William Hein is named SVP/GM of Caroline Distribution.

2007: EMI is acquired by Terra Firma’s Guy Hands for a cool $4.7 billion as biscuit boy Eric Nicoli steps down; becomes first music group to make available DRM-free superior quality downloads across its entire digital repertoire; Katy Perry and Lady Antebellum sign recording deals; Capitol Music Group is formed by consolidating the Capitol and Virgin labels, with Jason Flom named Chairman/CEO, as Andy Slater steps down; Roger Faxon is named head of EMI Music Publishing, replacing Marty Bandier, who moves over to Sony/ATV

2008: Coldplay’s Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends’ is the best-selling album of the year globally with sales of nearly 7 million worldwide; Depeche Mode re-sign with the music group, including North America for the first time; Nick Gatfield is named President A&R Labels, N.A./U.K.; Roach spray mogul Elio Leoni-Sceti is named CEO of EMI’s recorded music operation

2009: Coldplay is the first artist to sell more than one million digital albums in the U.S. and two million worldwide; EMI launches live music recording and instant production service Abbey Road Live; The Beatles’ re-mastered catalog comes out 9/9/09 and sells more than 10 million in just four months; Greg Thompson and Angelica Cob-Baehler are upped to EVP Marketing & Promotion and SVP Media and Creative Services, respectively, while Big Jon Platt is upped to President of Creative N.A. at EMI Music Publishing.

2010: The Beatles1 album is confirmed as the biggest-selling album of the decade; Norah JonesCome Away With Me is the third largest seller of the decade in U.S.; The Beatles music is available digitally for the first time at iTunes; Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley and Keith Urban fuel rise of Mike Dungan’s Capitol Records Nashville; Virgin Music Group forms with Rob Stevenson as head; Leoni-Sceti is replaced as CEO by ITV chief exec Charles Allen, but not for long, as publishing chief Roger Faxon takes over the top spot; Mike Harris is named EVP/GM for EMI Label Services and Caroline Distribution, the company’s third-party artist and label unit; Ron Werre, Nick Gatfield and Billy Mann are also out as new leader Faxon names Dan McCarroll President of Capitol & Virgin Label Group N.A.

2011: The Guy Hands era officially comes to a close as EMI is taken over after failing to fulfill its loan coventants by chief lender Citigroup, who split it in two, selling recorded music to UMG (for $1.9bn) and the publishing company to a consortium formed by Sony Corp with David Geffen, among others (for $2.2 bn); Pink Floyd signs a new global agreement, with the catalog reissued in re-mastered box sets; I.R.S. Records re-launches as a new frontline label; Dominic Pandiscia is upped to EVP Commercial and Revenue Development, giving him overall responsibility for all of the company’s revenue streams in North America.

Day one begins. (9/22a)
Whoa, that's early. (9/21a)
Stars across the board (9/21a)
A history lesson from I.B. Bad (9/21a)
As UMG goes solo, Grainge discusses leading the band. (9/20a)
A chronicle of the inexplicable.
We make yet more predictions, which you are free to ignore.
2022 TOURS
May we all be vaxxed by then.
Power pop, global glam and the return of the loud.

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