Long before branding became something other a personal mark burnt with a hot iron onto cow hides and slave skins to determine ownership, record labels garnered loyalty due to the uniqueness of their artist rosters and the type of music record buyers could expect. Or maybe not, because the dawn of the 70s was a time of ‘new’ music, of ‘bulge’ (UK) and ”boom’ (USA) babies having a freedom to express themselves quite unlike any other generations.
For example, in the UK (and Jamaica) Island took Bob Marley onto international stages. and also brought us the likes of Traffic and John Martyn whose albums still sell nearly fifty years later. For a while Virgin, especially through its sub-label Caroline (1973-76), guaranteed interesting listening, as did the Harvest label which primarily released progressive rock recordings From 1969 to the mid-70s Vertigo released “prog-folk-post-psych” music.
All these labels, and others such as Deram, focussed on British acts, and the newly enfranchised record buying public weren’t particularly interested in the ownership of the companies. Richard Branson (Virgin), Chris Blackwell (Island) and Peter Jenner (Harvest) had impeccable taste, and noticing their label logos in record shop racks (or second-hand bins in charity shops) provoked the opening of our wallets.
That these labels have either folded or been subsumed into capitalist consumer conglomerates is a matter of record or nostalgia.
In 1969, while the above were building a record buying public in the UK, Manfred Eicher in Germany was creating a record label which to this day is still independent and continues to build an ever-growing and loyal following: his ‘Edition of Contemporary Music’.
In the pre-CD and internet days, when the postman still came to call, if you couldn’t get to a record store, or you weren’t sure what you wanted to buy, major record companies.issued ‘samplers’, compilations of tracks by artists they wished to promote. At just $1 for a single album and $2 for a double one, they were a bargain, especially as all it took was a coupon cut out from a magazine or newspaper filled in and posted off with a cheque. And who could resist one that was free, eh?
In 1980, Warner Brothers, who distributed ECM albums in the USA, added a double vinyl album of ECM tracks as one of their series of ‘loss leaders’. That meant that although they would barely cover the costs of producing them, they hoped to recoup their investment through the album sales of the artists they included.
You can learn more about the Warner Brothers loss leaders here.
Magazines often included a compilation CD with their issues, presumably in return for a paid advertisement, and the record companies also sent out ‘promo’ samplers to radio stations. And that is how we can now offer you three ECM ‘official’ compilations as a complement to the two already posted here which were sourced from the IndoJazzia archives.
Warner Bros/ECM 1980 ‘loss leader’ Music With 58 Musicians, a double album in one folder.
ECM Story 1969 – 1994 – a freebie with an Italian music magazine.
ECM Promo 1995, i.e. not for sale.