Thursday, 21 August 2014

Making The Label Matter: A Record Company's Return From Obscurity

When Pink Floyd released Dark Side of the Moon in 1973, it was a breakthrough for the band's label, Harvest Records.MDV/Flickr Creative Commons

Today, there's so much music being released that it can be hard to know what to check out, let alone buy. Mark Rye says that when he worked at a record label in the 1970s, the process was easier — in part because you could often guess what a record would sound like if you knew who released it.

"At that time, it was very much an identifier for the kind of music," he says. "So you would go into a record shop and you would look for what the new releases on certain labels were because those records were probably the kind of music that you would like."

Rye's employer was Harvest Records, which began as a small subset of EMI, the giant British recording company. But Harvest's identity was that of an underground label, created by EMI to tap into what was then the cool new music scene in Britain known as progressive rock: Think long guitar solos, odd rhythms and obscure lyrics.

"The bands that were assigned to Harvest always wanted to push the envelope, and the guys who worked in Harvest wanted to sign bands which were not traditional pop rock," says Brian Southall, who worked as a press officer at EMI in the '70s. "They all had a twist to them."

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