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Creator / Columbia Records

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The company logo, nicknamed "The Walking Eye".note 

Columbia Records is not only one of the leading names in the music industry, it's also the Ur-Example of a record label—it's existed since 1887.note  It was the first company to switch from wax cylinders to shellac discs. Later, its technicians created long-playing records, also known as LPs; that is, the album as a 10" or 12" disc rather than a literal album, with a bunch of 78s all in one package. After a format war with its main rival RCA Records in the late 1940s and its 7-inch 45 rpm format, the LP remained the dominant format for music albums until the 1980s, when it was supplanted by the cassette and Compact Disc. In turn, Columbia would open the first CD pressing plant in the world, CSR Compact Disc, to manufacture discs for the format's launch in 1982 as part of a partnership in Japan with co-inventor Sony that stretched back to 1968; all 50 titles in the launch lineup were by artists signed to Columbia and the Epic Records sublabel. The CD would also become the dominant format for physical music releases until the advent of (legal) digital music distribution in the 2000s and the vinyl revival starting later in that decade.

Columbia's been owned by various companies, most notably CBS (1938-88) and Sony Music Entertainment (1988-present); despite the name, it had no connection with Columbia Pictures until the Sony deal brought both companies under common ownership. note 

As you might expect from such a long-lived company, Columbia has signed a lot of major acts in just about every genre. Legends such as Johnny Cash, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Earth, Wind & Fire, Johnny Mathis, Simon & Garfunkel, Bruce Springsteen and Barbra Streisand have had long, successful relationships with the label.

Note: This article is about the American Columbia Records, not the European and Japanese divisions that split off into separate but identically-named companies. (The European division, the Columbia Graphophone Company, became part of EMI; its catalogue is now owned by Warner Music Group through Parlophone Records.) Because of this, the label was called CBS Records overseas until the Sony buyout. The Japanese company still uses the Columbia name (at least in Japan; they use their original name Nipponophone internationally), so the label is called Sony Music there. Meanwhile, the CBS TV network launched a new version of CBS Records in 2006, which is distributed by Sony via RED Distribution. Confused yet?

Also see Columbia's sublabels Epic and Okeh.

Columbia Records performers, past and present, with TV Tropes pages:

* Signed to the Epic Records subsidiary in America
** Formerly on Epic
+ Signed in the US and Canada only