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Creator / I.R.S. Records

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The "I.R.S. Man" logo.

No, not that I.R.S. This page is about the International Record Syndicate, which was a pre-eminent Punk Rock, New Wave Music, and Alternative Rock label from its creation in 1979 to its dissolution in 1996.

The I.R.S. story starts with its co-founder, British music executive Miles Copeland III; he and his brothers Stewart and Ian were the sons of a CIA agent who was stationed in the Middle East. Copeland got involved in the late 60s/early 70s Rock scene in London, helping to bring the members of Progressive Rock band Wishbone Ash together, then creating the short-lived record label and management company BTM (British Talent Management). (The other Copeland brothers also got music jobs during this era; Ian became a booking agent, while Stewart became the drummer for Curved Air.) BTM went out of business just as the punk movement was beginning, so Copeland quickly switched to the new music; in 1977, he began a family of punk labels (Illegal, Step Forward, Deptford Fun City), all of which were distributed by a parent company called Faulty Products. Illegal released the first single by Stewart's new band, The Police, before Miles got them signed to A&M Records.

Buoyed by The Police's success, Copeland went to A&M in 1979 and persuaded them to distribute I.R.S., which began as an American outlet for the Faulty imprints, as well as other small English and American punk labels. During its early years, I.R.S. gave noteworthy British bands such as Buzzcocks, The Damned, The Fall, and Throbbing Gristle their first American releases. It also established Faulty Products as an independent US outlet for signings A&M wasn't interested in, such as Dead Kennedys (whose Alternative Tentacles label was distributed by Faulty for a while) and The Bangles. (On a literally related note, around the same time Ian began a booking agency called Frontier Booking International, which continued the government agency Fun with Acronyms Theme Naming for the Copelands' projects.) However, I.R.S. really took off when signings such as The Alarm, Fine Young Cannibals (in North America only), The Go-Go's, R.E.M., and Wall of Voodoo began having mainstream hits. The label's newfound success came at a cost, though: R.E.M., probably one of the best-known acts on the label both then and now, left in favor of signing onto Warner (Bros.) Records under the promise of full creative control and improved international distribution, having felt shafted in both departments ever since I.R.S. switched distribution to MCA in 1985.

I.R.S. also moved into TV and film production. The label sponsored two MTV series; the first, I.R.S. Presents The Cutting Edge, ran videos from I.R.S. performers and was hosted by one of the label's artists, Peter Zaremba of Garage Rock band The Fleshtones. This led to 120 Minutes, a similar series that was not restricted to the I.R.S. roster. There was also a small film studio, I.R.S. Media, which financed several indie movies, most notably Bobcat Goldthwait's Shakes the Clown, which R.E.M. coincidentally paid homage to with their song "Binky the Doormat" in 1996.

I.R.S. also signed several non-genre bands, such as The Animals (during their 80s reunion), Black Sabbath (during its Audience-Alienating Era with Tony Martin on vocals), Steppenwolf, and some groups that Miles Copeland had been involved with during the BTM era, such as Renaissance and Wishbone Ash.

Eventually, I.R.S. switched distributors from MCA to EMI in 1990. However, the hits gradually stopped coming, and I.R.S. went out of business in 1996. As a fitting bookend, Buzzcocks, whose compilation Singles Going Steady was the first I.R.S. release, also ended the label with its All Set album. There were also two brief revivals of the I.R.S. brand during The New '10s, neither of which was very successful.

I.R.S. Records acts with TV Tropes pages:

* US only

I.R.S. Media films with TV Tropes pages: