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Creator / Arista Records

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The first Arista logo...
...and the second...
...and the logo for the 2018 relaunch.

Established in 1974, Arista Records soon became a leader in the music industry, but it already had a lot of history behind it.

Clive Davis, who had run Columbia Records throughout The '60s, had recently been ousted and was looking for a new job. Meanwhile, Columbia Picturesnote  wanted to revitalize its ailing music division, Bell Records; while Bell's British branch was doing okay with Glam Rock-based acts like the Bay City Rollers, in America their biggest assets were fading pop acts The Partridge Family (whose show had been canceled) and Tony Orlando and Dawn (who had switched labels to Elektra). Davis was appointed head of Bell, changed its name to Aristanote , and got to work. Davis and his staff dropped most of Bell's acts but helped turn three they did keep, Barry Manilow, Melissa Manchester, and the aforementioned Bay City Rollers, into hitmakers. Meanwhile, Arista established its credibility quickly; one of Davis' first signings was Patti Smith, and well-known acts like The Kinks, The Alan Parsons Project, Lou Reed and Gil Scott-Heron soon joined the label.


A financially troubled Columbia sold off Arista to the German label Ariola Records in 1979. However, Arista continued successfully; Davis and company rejuvenated Aretha Franklin's career, helped The Grateful Dead get their only Top 10 single, and turned Whitney Houston into a superstar. Arista also began a Country Music branch, Arista Nashville, in 1989, with Alan Jackson as the first signing. However, the company's reputation took a hit with the revelation that the alleged vocalists of Milli Vanilli, one of Arista's best-selling acts, had been lip synching to the real singers all along. Embarrassed, Arista immediately dropped the band and deleted their releases.

A gradual decline began in 2000 when Arista's then-current owner, Bertelsmann Music Group, deposed Davis, who formed J Records. His replacement L. A. Reid signed some successful acts (Avril Lavigne, P!nk), but exceeded his budgets; his tenure only lasted until 2004. Meanwhile, BMG merged with Sony Music Entertainment and Davis was put back in charge, but things were never the same.


In 2011, RCA Music Group, the Sony division that oversaw Arista, eliminated the label after a corporate restructuring and moved its roster to RCA, which was being run by none other than Clive Davis. While the name was still used by Arista Nashville and the French division, Arista France, that was the end of Arista as an American rock/pop label... until July 2018, when the Arista brand was revived under the leadership of former Mercury and Island head David Massey. Clive Davis, still running RCA at 86, gave Massey his blessing.

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