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MCA Records
Final MCA Records logo.png
Parent company Universal Music Group
Founded 1934 (as Decca Records USA)
Status defunct since 2003
(Fate: Absorbed into Geffen Records)
Distributing label self-distributed
Genre various
Country of origin USA

MCA Records was an American-based record company owned by MCA Inc., which later gave way to the larger MCA Music Entertainment Group (now Universal Music Group), of which MCA Records was still part. MCA Records was absorbed by Geffen Records in 2003.



MCA entered the recorded music business in 1962 with the purchase of the New York-based US Decca Records branch (established in 1934[1]), including Coral Records and Brunswick Records. As American Decca owned Universal Pictures, MCA assumed full ownership of Universal and made it into the top film studio in town, producing hit after hit.[2] In 1966, MCA formed Uni Records[3] and in 1967 purchased Kapp Records.[4]


MCA Records formation outside North America

MCA's Decca Records only had the rights to the Decca name in North and South America and parts of Asia including Japan. British Decca owned the rights to the Decca name in most of the world. The two Deccas severed their ties during World War II. After the war, British Decca formed a new American subsidiary, London Records.

American Decca issued their records outside North America on the Brunswick and Coral labels. In 1967, the Brunswick and Coral labels were replaced by the MCA label to release American Decca and Kapp label material outside North America.[5]

Among the first releases on the U.K. MCA Records label were the debut albums of British rock groups such as Budgie (1971), Stackridge (1971), and Wishbone Ash (1970.) Early releases were distributed by U.K. Decca but soon moved to EMI. U.K. releases from the mid 1970s and later were self distributed. There are at least 3 common label designs on early MCA U.K. releases. As the U.S. division of MCA was not established until 1972, the U.S. versions of these three recordings were released on either Kapp or Decca.

MCA U.K. also issued American Brunswick material on the MCA label until MCA lost control of Brunswick in 1970 at which point American Brunswick material was issued in the UK on the Brunswick label. Uni label material was issued on the Uni label worldwide.

MCA Records

In 1970, MCA reorganized its Canadian record company Compo Company Ltd. into MCA Records (Canada).[6]

In April 1970, former Warner Bros. Records president Mike Maitland joined MCA and initally served as Decca's general manager. Maitland was unsuccessful in his attempt to consolidate Warner Bros. Records with co-owned Atlantic Records which led to his departure from Warner.

In April 1971, Maitland supervised the consolidation of the New York based Decca and Kapp labels plus the California based Uni label into MCA Records based in Universal City, California with Maitland serving as president.[7] The three labels maintained their identities for a short time but were retired in favor of the MCA label in 1973.[3][8] The first MCA Records release in the US was former Uni artist Elton John's Crocodile Rock in 1972.[9] In 1973, the final Decca pop label release was issued. The catalogues of the Decca, Uni and Kapp labels were reissued on the MCA label.

In the same period a music icon scored a series of hit singles and albums on MCA (at that time Kapp Records): Cher. While Sonny & Cher became less popular, Cher as a solo artist reached the #1 and the Top 10 in the Billboard Hot 100 and internationally with the singles Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves (1971) on Kapp, "Half-Breed" (1973) on MCA and Dark Lady (1974) and other singles released from the albums of the same name. With these successes Cher became the most popular female artist in the world and one of the biggest-selling artists of the 1970s. This was followed by Olivia Newton-John originally on Uni, then MCA, as the biggest solo female artist of the 1970s.

MCA also profited from reissuing in the 1970s, classic early rock and roll recordings made by artists who recorded for the numerous labels absorbed by MCA over the years. One notable example was the 1954 Decca recording Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley & His Comets, which was featured as the lead track of MCA's No. 1-charting American Graffiti soundtrack album, and as a single returned to the American top 40 that year, 20 years after it was recorded.

In 1977 MCA president Sidney Sheinberg set up the Infinity Records division, based in New York City with Ron Alexenberg as CEO. Alexenberg had previously been with the Epic division of CBS Records, now Sony Music Entertainment. The intention was to give MCA a stronger presence on the east coast. The only big hit the Infinity label had was Escape by Rupert Holmes which was #1 at the end of 1979. Infinity also had some success with Hot Chocolate, Spyro Gyra, New England and TKO. But MCA pulled the plug on Infinity after it failed to sell most of the 1 million advance copies of an album featuring Pope John Paul II in October 1979. Infinity was fully absorbed by the parent company in 1980.

In 1979, Bob Siner succeeded Maitland as MCA Records president.[10] Shortly afterwards, MCA acquired ABC Records along with its subsidiaries Paramount Records, Dunhill Records, Impulse! Records, Westminster Records, and Dot Records. ABC had acquired the Paramount and Dot labels when they purchased Gulf+Western's record labels, the Famous Music Group, thus MCA now controlled the following material once owned by Paramount Pictures: the music released by Paramount's record labels, and the pre-1950 films by Paramount as well. The better selling ABC Records catalogue albums were reissued on the MCA label.[11]

The combined effects of the Infinity Records failure, the purchase of ABC Records, rising vinyl costs and a huge slump in record sales produced tremendous losses for the company between 1979 and 1982. It was not until the mid 1980s that the record labels returned to significant profitability. MCA received negative publicity when it tried to raise the list prices of new albums from $8.98 to $9.98. Steely Dan's Gaucho was the first $9.98 list album in November 1980. Tom Petty succeeded in his campaign to force the label to drop prices back to $8.98 for his album Hard Promises released in May 1981.

The Chess Records catalog was acquired from the remnants of Sugar Hill Records in 1985. Motown Records was bought in 1988 (and sold to PolyGram in 1993). GRP Records and Geffen Records were acquired in 1990. Unlike most of MCA's previous acquisitions, the GRP and Geffen labels kept their identities and MCA created a new holding company called MCA Music Entertainment Group. In the same year, the MCA Inc. parent company was purchased by the Matsushita group.

MCA Music Entertainment Group becomes Universal Music Group

In 1995, Seagram Company Ltd. acquired 80% of MCA and the following year the new owners dropped the MCA name; the company became Universal Studios, Inc. and its music division, MCA Music Entertainment Group, was renamed Universal Music Group (UMG). Former Warner Music president Doug Morris was named president.

In 1998 Seagram acquired PolyGram (owner of British Decca) from Philips and merged it with its music holdings. When Seagram's drinks business was bought by France-based Pernod Ricard, its media holdings (including Universal) were sold to Vivendi which became Vivendi Universal which was later renamed back to Vivendi SA after selling most of the entertainment division (which included Universal Pictures) to General Electric.

MCA label phaseout

In spring 2003, the MCA Records label was absorbed by sister UMG label Geffen Records,[12] which continues to manage MCA's rock, pop, and urban back catalogues (including those from ABC Records and Famous Music Group). Its country music label, MCA Nashville Records is still in operation. MCA's jazz catalogue is managed by Verve Records, while its classical music catalogue is managed by Deutsche Grammophon. MCA's musical theatre catalogue is managed by Decca Records on its Decca Broadway imprint.

MCA Music (Philippines)

The MCA name is still in use in the Philippines because of a trademark dispute with an unrelated label known as Universal Records, which holds the rights to the word "Universal" for recorded music in the Philippines. As a result, Universal Music Group is instead traded as MCA Music, Inc. Philippines in that country. However, the company has adopted the moniker "Universal Music Philippines" to simplify identification, even though no formal "Universal" branding is exercised.



MCA Records recording artists

See also


  1. ^ "Decca Records Profile". Discogs. Archived from the original on 2007-09-07. Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  2. ^ "After the Octopus". Time. 1962-07-20.,9171,896402,00.html?promoid=googlep. Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  3. ^ a b Edwards, Dave; Patrice Eyries and Mike Callahan (2007-04-24). "Universal City Records [UNI] Album Discography". Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  4. ^ "Kapp Records Profile". Discogs. Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  5. ^ "MCA Records Profile". Discogs. Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  6. ^ "MCA Records (Canada) Profile". Discogs. Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Hall, Claude (1973-02-10). "MCA Drops Vocalion, Decca, Kapp and Uni". Billboard. 
  9. ^ "Crocodile Rock by Elton John". Songfacts. Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ Edwards, Dave; Patrice Eyries and Mike Callahan (2007-07-30). "ABC-Paramount Records Story". Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  12. ^ Billboard (2003-05-20). "MCA & Geffen Merger". ISM Sound Network. Archived from the original on 2005-12-26. Retrieved 2008-11-22. 

External links

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