EMI: the inside story of Britain's biggest music company
August 5, 2016 1:38 PM   Subscribe

Electric & Musical Industries was formed in 1931, initially releasing classical music, but went on to launch the Beatles, who changed the record label's operations and funded the company for years and years. The label's recording rules were further broadened by Queen and Pink Floyd. EMI ushered punk into the mainstream with Sex Pistols, and then embraced the New Romanticism and the polished excesses of Duran Duran. They made music videos big with Pet Shop Boys and made Brit Pop a thing with Blur, and were home to Radiohead. This is the inside story of EMI, one of the greatest British brands in recording history, as told by people involved with the record label's storied history, augmented by company and performance footage.

EMI produced both electronics like gramophones and recording equipment, and the music their technology recorded and played. On the label side, EMI initially had Columbia, His Master's Voice (HMV), and Parlophone, and there are some records sold under the Electric & Musical Industries Limited label. In 1972, the parent company formed EMI Records (Ltd).

A video playlist:
posted by filthy light thief (14 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
It's worth noting, out of those artists, Pet Shop Boys and Duran Duran have both not only had enduring careers, but are both on tour RIGHT NOW with new albums and new tours that are garnering accolades. Neither of them are still on EMI, however.
posted by hippybear at 1:46 PM on August 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Neither of them are still on EMI

EMI is now a label/ subsidiary of Universal Music Group (UMG), and similarly EMI Records no longer exists as its own entity, with some branches having their artist rosters cut significantly. For example, "In Japan, Universal Music Japan did a label reorganization in February 2014, with more than half of the EMI Records Japan artists being transferred to Nayutawave Records, renaming to just simply EMI Records."
posted by filthy light thief at 1:58 PM on August 5, 2016

PSB is on their own label now, and DD is with Warner.
posted by hippybear at 2:00 PM on August 5, 2016

Also, they invented the CT scanner.
posted by qntm at 2:41 PM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hello EMI....goodbyyyyye AandM. Bbbbttt!
posted by artdrectr at 3:04 PM on August 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

Needs moar Soundhog.
posted by scruss at 4:35 PM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh wow, that documentary was a satisfying watch. And now I'm down a rabbithole watching a 10cc documentary.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:21 PM on August 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

The four kings of EMI are sitting stately on the floor
There are birds out on the sidewalk
And a valet at the door
He reminds me of a penguin
With few and plastered hair
There's talcum powder on the letter
And the birthday boy is there...

Which is the first I'd ever heard of EMI. I thought it was "Ee-em-eye", or something weird like that, since this is a late 60s song and I fancied myself a clever kid 15 years later. I had to look up that those "four kings" were The Beatles, and the event being (partially) sung about is a party held during the recording of Sgt. Pepper. Mickey wrote a cracking tune, didn't he? Anyway, I think of this song every time I see that label's name.
posted by droplet at 6:32 PM on August 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Every Mistake Imaginable.
posted by Freen at 6:58 PM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

You say they're to blame for Duran Duran?
posted by tommyD at 8:56 PM on August 5, 2016

Anyway, I think of this song every time I see that label's name

Me, I hear those letters in Johnny Rotten's sneering drawl

I even get this when I see "HDMI"
posted by iotic at 11:53 PM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sigue Sigue Sputnik had their own love affair with EMI.
posted by Catblack at 12:25 AM on August 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Mickey wrote a cracking tune, didn't he?

The utter darkness at the core of the Monkees is something that is so often overlooked. Yes, cracking tune!
posted by hippybear at 2:13 PM on August 6, 2016

Worth repeating that Brian shopped the Beatles demo to over 30 British labels ... and they all passed on it. And so, when EMI/Parlophone picked them up, they gained George Martin ... who helped them get past the stodgy old guard on matters like the Sergeant Pepper cover, and added the studio as their 5th instrument.

Brill collection Filthy, as per always.
posted by Twang at 4:37 PM on August 6, 2016

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