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Creator / Pye Records

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Pye Records was one of the "Big Four" labels that dominated the British record industry during The '50s and The '60s, along with EMI, Decca and Philips. Like its competitors, Pye was an electronics company that diversified by entering the music business.

The label began in 1953, when the Pye Company, maker of televisions and radios, bought Nixa Records, turning it into Pye Nixa. (The Nixa name would be dropped in 1959.) Two years later, the company absorbed Polygon, a label that had been formed specifically to record Petula Clark, who became one of Pye's best-selling artists. In 1958, the Pye International division was formed to compete with Decca's successful London Records subsidiary; both imprints specialized in licensing records from independent American labels for the British market. In 1959, Pye sold 50% of the label to ITV franchise holder Associated Television (ATV, which also owned ITC Entertainment); the remaining stake was sold to ATV in 1966.note 

During The British Invasion era, Pye prospered with popular acts like The Kinks, The Searchers, Donovan, The Honeycombs and Sandie Shaw. Pye also became the European distributor for several large American labels, including Warner (Bros.) Records and its sublabel Reprise, who reciprocated by licensing several Pye acts (most notably Petula Clark and The Kinks) for the US.

However, the success rate for Pye slowed in the early years of The '70s. Unlike the other members of the Big Four, Pye's attempts to start an American division were short-lived and unsuccessful. Pye first attempted one in 1969, when it entered into a joint venture with GRT to form Janus Records, which was intended to supply homegrown American product to Pye and serve as an American outlet for some of the acts Pye hadn't licensed to other U.S. labels; the effort yielded only two clear hitsnote  and GRT bought out Pye's stake in the label in 1971. Pye tried again to have an American division of its own in 1974; this effort yielded only one clear U.S. hit,note  and, in 1976, was sold to the president of that division, Marvin Schlachter, who renamed it to Prelude Records. Meanwhile, its Progressive Rock imprint, Dawn Records, never did as well as its competitors Deram, Harvest and Vertigo.

In 1970, Pye formed another joint venture with GRT, Precision Records and Tapes, which was intended to serve as an outlet for manufacturing 8-track and cassette counterparts to Pye LP releases; Pye bought out GRT's stake in the firm the following year. Pye opened 1972 by announcing that its artist roster was cut by 30% a year before. In June of that year, Pye sold its 50% in an Irish pressing plant called Carlton Productions, with the intent of having Irish releases of its records be pressed in the U.K. or custom-pressed elsewhere; in October 1972, Pye decided to have Polydor handle Irish distribution of its records.

In the middle of the decade, in the U.K. at least, Pye resumed its rate of successes, launching a successful vehicle for Northern Soul releases called Pye Disco Demand. Its distribution deal with 20th Century Fox's record division yielded hits from Barry White, who proved successful on both sides of the Atlantic. It also was home to England's biggest hit of 1976, "Save Your Kisses for Me", by the Brotherhood of Man, who would go on to be among the hitmakers for Pye in 1977, a list of which also included The Real Thing, Meri Wilson, Carl Douglas, The Muppets and Space. Toward the later half of the decade, the success rate of Pye releases slowed again. In 1978, Pye had two chart-topping hits in the U.K.,note  two top 40 singles from The Real Thing, and a novelty version of the song "You're the One That I Want" from the popular film Grease, as recorded by the comic duo of Hylda Baker and Arthur Mullard, which nearly made the top 20 in the U.K. 1979 yielded the company's final chart-topper in the U.K., Scottish singer Lena Martell's rendition of "One Day at a Time".

Pye, Ltd., which had lost its connections to the label by this point, fared worse. Overseas electronics manufacturers Sony and Hitachi rapidly gained success with low-cost equipment in a U.K. market that Pye proved unable to successfully compete in, resulting in Philips stepping in to acquire the company outright, sell of its factory in Lowestoft, and outsource some of its manufacturing assets. Philips gave ATV, owners of Pye Records, a contract to use the name which would expire in September 1980.

In response to the pending expiry, during the summer of 1980, Pye was meeting with executives at RCA Records, with the intent of fully merging the two labels and also of acquiring Michael Levy's Magnet Records in the event of the merger being successful. In the end, it was not to be; the merger was called off in August 1980; the next month, the label changed its name to PRT Records and the Pye International imprint, which was home to The Real Thing, was shuttered entirely. Around the same time, the name of its corporate parent changed from ATV to ACC.note  The new PRT Records formed or distributed a number of other labels in The '80s, such as Fanfare,note  R&B, note  Splash,note  and Numa.note  It scored its last top-10 U.K. hit in 1988, when Petula Clark's "Downtown '88"note  made it to #10 on the Singles Chart.

Changes in its corporate ownership ultimately ended the life of the label as a whole. In 1982, PRT, as part of ACC, was subjected to a hostile boardroom coup by the Bell Group, run by Australian businessman Robert Holmes à Court, who promptly sold off ACC's stake in ITV's Midlands franchise Central to other partners, and would later sell ACC's publishing arm, ATV Music Publishing,note  to Michael Jackson.note  In 1988, the Bell Group was taken over by the Bond Corporation, which immediately ran into financial problems, and, as a result, sold off many of that group's assets, including the holdings of PRT Records.

Pye/PRT's non-classical catalogue was sold to Castle Communications, which was absorbed into Sanctuary Records, which was then sold to Universal Music Group. In 2013, Universal sold Sanctuary off to BMG Rights Management, which now owns most of the Pye catalogue. The sale was the result of conditions UMG needed to meet in order to complete its buyout of EMI's recorded music business. In March 2017, BMG made a deal with the Warner Music Group to have its Alternative Distribution Alliance control the Pye/PRT catalogue on BMG's behalf. Pye/PRT's classical catalogue was sold to EMI and became part of EMI Classics, which WMG acquired in 2013 and subsequently folded into Warner Classics.

Pye Records performers with TV Tropes pages:

1978-79 Greek reissues of Denny Cordell/Regal Zonophone catalog: