Virgin Records (EMI owned) is a British recording label founded by British entrepreneur Richard Branson, and Nik Powell in 1972 after a period of selling discount records via their small shop in London. The name predates the record label which was set up after the music shops. The name Virgin, according to Branson (in his autobiography), arose from a colleague of his when they were brainstorming business ideas. She suggested Virgin - as they were all new to business - like “virgins”. The original Virgin logo (known to fans as the “Gemini” or “Twins” logo) was designed by British artist and illustrator Roger Dean: a young naked woman in mirror image with a large long-tailed serpent and the word “Virgin” in Dean’s familiar script.

The current Virgin logo (known informally as “The Scrawl”) was created in 1982 as a hasty doodle on a cocktail napkin; rather than hiring the graphic designer, Branson simply paid him for the napkin.

The first release on the label was the classic progressive rock album Tubular Bells by multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield in 1973 (see 1973 in music). The group Genesis recorded various albums for this record company beginning with 1983’s self-titled effort. (Virgin reissued the group’s prior albums, which had originally been released on the Charisma label in the U.K.

Although Virgin was initially one of the key labels of British progressive rock, the 1977 signing of the Sex Pistols, who had already been asked to leave both EMI and A&M, reinvented the label as a new wave outpost. Afterwards they signed groups like Human League, Culture Club, Simple Minds, and less successful bands like the Motors, Holly and the Italians and Fingerprintz. A short-lived subsidiary label, Dindisc, had Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and the Monochrome Set during its brief 1980-81 existence. Similarly, Virgin Front Line became one of the U.K.’s most successful reggae labels in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

After several false starts licensing its bands to American labels like Epic (Culture Club, Holly and the Italians) and Atlantic (Genesis), Virgin Records opened up its American division, Virgin Records America, in 1987. Virgin Records America’s releases were distributed by WEA with arrangement from Atlantic Records until 1992. Prior to the formation of Virgin Records America, its artists were licensed in the United States to labels such as CBS, A&M, Warner Bros., and others.

Virgin Records was sold by Branson to EMI in 1992 for a reported £550 million. It now faces competition from Branson’s new label: V2 Records. Branson sold Virgin Records to fund Virgin Atlantic Airways which at that time was coming under intense anti-competitive pressure from British Airways. (In 1993 BA settled a libel action brought by Branson, giving him £500,000 and a further £110,000 to his airline).

After being acquired by EMI, Virgin launched several subsidiaries like Realworld Records, Innocent Records, blues specialty label Point Blank Records, and Hut Records, and continued signing new and established artists like Brooke Valentine, Beenie Man, Korn, The Rolling Stones, The Smashing Pumpkins, We Are Scientists, The Kooks, Bubba Sparxxx, Sharissa, Bossman, Zeitia Massiah, Meat Loaf, Purple Ribbon All-Stars, Janet Jackson, Daft Punk, the Chemical Brothers, Shape:UK, Juliet, the Spice Girls,Gorillaz, and Paula Abdul.

Edited by bushworms on 20 Sep 2012, 22:41

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