At the beginning of the period 1980-1990, the entire recording industry started to suffer hugely from a serious decline in sales. This period marked the end of the phenomenon of ‘Disco’ which allowed many new music styles to emerge, and one of the new directions was ‘Heavy Metal’.
Among the first successful heavy metal bands to hit the charts was London-based Iron Maiden, under EMI contract. A few decades later, Iron Maiden are still successful EMI recording artists, and they still are touring relentlessly.
The band is a true icon of a new generation that’s rocking all over the world. Other music genres that emerged during this period were sample-based and electronic music, for example house, techno, and hip-hop. An important exponent of electronic music is the band Kraftwerk, who started already to experiment with electronic music and computers in the preceding decade.
Other successful EMI artists in the early 1980’s included Duran Duran, and Kate Bush.
The period late 80’s – early 90’s marked for EMI, just like most of the industry, a time of huge changes. In 1983, the company released the first recordings on CD format, and the changes were so impressive that new silver-shiny CD disc was responsible for most album sales by the end of the decade. It was also in this period that EMI started to embark on a number of business deals that were to transform the company forever.
EMI bought SBK Entertainment World in 1989. This was a company active in music publishing, and their portfolio included songs like ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’, Singing In The Rain’. And ‘Wizard Of Oz’. This move made EMI Music Publishing instantly the world’s undisputed business leader in music publishing, and in 1989 EMI bought also a 50 percent stake in Chrysalis Records, a record company founded in 1969 that was responsible for launching artists like Blondie and Jethro Tull.
In 1990, EMI Music Publishing expanded again by acquiring the activities and catalogue of Filmtrax which extended the company’s leading role in music publishing even further, and in 1991, EMI took full control of Chrysalis Records when it bought the remaining fifty pet.
During the period 1990-2010, EMI went through enormous challenging times again. In 1992, the company acquired the Virgin Music Group, which was the world’s largest independent music enterprise at the time. Virgin came with an impressive roster of artists that included also the Rolling Stones. During the 1990’s, EMI closed a number of deals that re-energized and completely transformed the company.
In the 1990’s EMI signed quite a few deals that launched the careers of later world-famous artists like Blur and Radiohead. For many decades, EMI has promoted and supported the best music stars not only in the UK, but across the world, from Cliff Richard to this decade’s most successful British girl-band, the Spice Girls, and Robbie Williams, Britain’s biggest male pop artist.
In this period, EMI was continuing to grow and bringing successful music companies, artists, and entrepreneurs under the Group’s umbrella. In 1996, EMI acquired 50 percent of Berry Gordy’s Jobete Music Publishing Catalogue. Berry Gordy was founder of the Motown Recording company, and his catalogue included more than 15,000 Motown classics. EMI Music Publishing grew even bigger as it acquired the copyrights to some 40,000 song from the Windswept Pacific catalogue, and in that same year, the company also bought a majority stake in Britain’s Hit & Run music publishing company.
In 2003 and 2004, EMI bought the rest of Berry Gordon’s Motown stake so that the company owned all of the rights to Motown’s most popular songs. Realizing that EMI started out in the world of sound recording and that the company was the inventor of stereo sound recording, it may not come as a surprise that it has continually remained at the forefront of the music industry’s technological developments and changes.
In 1993, EMI’s first website went ‘live’, and in 1999 EMI was the world’s first company in the music industry to produce a digital album that could be downloaded, ‘Hours’ by David Bowie. In 2001, EMI was launching the world’s first single on the internet (‘Dig In’ by Lenny Kravitz), and in 2002, EMI was the world’s first big music company that made new music releases simultaneously available online and on the radio.
The worldwide recession that hit the world and specifically the music industry during the second half of the decade, also left its mark on EMI. The company was severely wounded by collapsing record sales and in 2007, EMI was bought by Terra Firma, an investment company of British financier Guy Hands.
This started a years long period of uncertainty and severe turmoil within the company, and despite that Mr. Hands downsized the company across the board and across the globe, Terra Firma failed to pay back its bankers, so U.S.-based CitiGroup took ownership in 2011 with the perspective to put the company up for sale one more time, and business rivals Warner music and Universal finally succeeded in 2013.
Universal acquired EMI Worldwide, but European legislators immediately forced the company to sell the UK-based EMI Records (for the purpose re-named ‘Parlophone’) to Warner Music. EMI Music Publishing, which was also forced to be sold, was bought by Sony Music, the 3rd major UK music company.
The EMI Group Archive Trust
Throughout all periods of turmoil, the EMI archives at Hayes in the UK have remained intact, and all parties fully appreciated and respected the value and incalculable importance of every single part that falls under the responsibility of the EMI Group Archive Trust. The EMI Archive Trust realizes it is highly indebted to the understanding and the enthusiasm of Universal Music. The Trust respects the amounts of support that Universal has injected to its work, and while EMI Records may not continue in the way we’ve seen it over the past 116 years, the company’s history and legacy continue to shine through the activities of the EMI Group Archive Trust.
EMI Group Archive Trust, Dawley Road, Hayes, Middlesex, UB3 1HH, United Kingdom, Phone: 020-8848-2005