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Monday, 24 January, 2000, 16:37 GMT
EMI: A brief history

EMI merger EMI signed The Beatles in 1962

EMI can trace its history back to 1897, when it was known as The Gramophone Company and based in London.

EMI merger HMV's famous branding - Nipper the dog

Two years later, the company bought Francis Barraud's painting, His Master's Voice, and adopted the image and title as its trademark, one which is still used today as HMV.

By 1912, factories were operating in eight countries, including England and Russia, and there were sales branches in 12 cities around the world. It was estimated that one-third of British households owned a gramophone at that time.

In 1921, the first HMV shop was opened on London's Oxford Street by composer Sir Edward Elgar.

Abbey Road

It became EMI - Electric and Musical Industries - in 1931 when it merged with the Columbia Gramophone Company. EMI's now-famous recording studios at Abbey Road were also opened in this year.

The first managers to spot and develop music talent in Britain were appointed in 1940. Among them was George Martin, who later signed the Beatles.

EMI History
Company founded in 1897
Enrico Caruso is first major artist in 1902
One-third of British households own a gramophone by 1913
Abbey Road studios open in 1931
The Beatles sign 1962, Pink Floyd in 1967, Queen in 1972, Spice Girls in 1996

The 1940s and 1950s were a busy period for EMI. It established a European licensing agreement with US film and record company MGM, Paramount Record Corporation and Mercury Record Corporation.

It also acquired Capitol Records, one of America's largest, which featured artists such as Frank Sinatra and Nat 'King' Cole.

By the start of the 1960s, EMI had established a joint venture record company with Toshiba in Japan.

But probably the best decision in its history came in 1962 when it signed the Beatles and released their first single Love Me Do.


In 1966, HMV began expanding its retail operations in London and three years later EMI purchased Keith Prowse Music Publishing and Central Songs.

The 1970s saw rapid expansion in the HMV retail division, which doubled in size in six years and became one of the country's leading specialist music retailers.

EMI acquired Screen Gems and Colgems music publishing companies, as well as Liberty/United Artists record company. It also merged with Thorn, a sprawling conglomerate famous for its Radio Rentals business.

EMI released its first compact disc recordings in 1983 and in 1986 HMV Music Retailing became a separate division and began an international expansion. SBK Entertainment World was also acquired.

The 1990s saw EMI acquiring a number of high-profile record companies, including Chrysalis Records, Virgin Music Group, Sparrow Records and Intercord, a leading independent German record company.

EMI merger Richard Parsons, new co-chairman of Warner EMI Music

When HMV celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1996, there were more than 300 outlets worldwide.

EMI also signed the Spice Girls in this year. That year also saw it demerge from Thorn, which led to the forming of the EMI Group as it is now known.

Since the demerger, EMI has been under constant threat of a takeover and in May 1998 a deal almost materialised when Seagram, the Canadian company which owns Universal music and film business, made a 600 pence per share offer, which was refused by the then executive chairman, Sir Colin Southgate.

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See also:
24 Jan 00 |  Business
Music giants join forces
10 Jun 99 |  The Company File
EMI tunes into Internet
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