Atlantic Records (Atlantic Recording Corporation) is an American record label best known for its many recordings of rhythm & blues, rock and roll, and jazz. Long one of the most important American independent labels, Atlantic now operates as a wholly owned subsidiary of Warner Music Group, which consolidated Atlantic Records and the Elektra Entertainment Group into one label in 2004. Craig Kallman is currently Chairman of Atlantic Records. Ahmet Ertegün served as "Founding Chairman" until his death on December 14, 2006 at age 83. The label also has a number of deals with independents such as Must Destroy (which brought Goldie Lookin' Chain and The Darkness into the label) and VP Records in Jamaica, home to reggae artists such as Sean Paul.
The label was founded in 1947 by Ahmet Ertegün and Herb Abramson.  Upon its creation, Atlantic was principally a jazz and R&B label, signing Ray Charles from 1952 to 1959, though it also released some country and western recordings as well. In the early fifties Ahmet was joined by Jerry Wexler and then Nesuhi Ertegün.  From February 7, 1955 Nesuhi headed the label's jazz division and was responsible for major signings such as Charles Mingus and John Coltrane; later Joel Dorn became Nesuhi's full-time assistant from the success of his produced album The Laws of Jazz by flutist Hubert Laws.  Although it began as an independent record company, it became a major player in the music business in the 1960s, with mainstream pop signings like Sonny and Cher. Competing record labels included Columbia Records and RCA Records.
The engineer, and later producer, Tom Dowd headed Atlantic's engineering department. Several sub-labels have been created or acquired since then. A short-lived but significant sub-label was Cat Records established in 1954. Atco Records was started in 1955 by Herb Abramson. Spark Records (the record label of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) was purchased in November 1955. Others including Lava Records and 143 Records became part of the Atlantic group. In 1960, Wexler began a distribution relationship between Atlantic and Memphis-based Stax Records.   The association with Stax ended in 1968.
Atlantic was acquired by Warner Bros.-Seven Arts in 1967. Initially, it and Atco were to be run entirely separate from WB-SA's other labels, Warner Bros. and Reprise Records. One of Atlantic's major signings around this time was British rock band Led Zeppelin. The band had a deal with Atlantic Records directly from 1968 to 1973. After this contract ran out, they started their own vanity label, Swan Song Records. It signed a distribution deal with Atlantic after being turned down by other labels.
WB-SA was sold in 1969 to the Kinney National Company, which later became Warner Communications. After buying Elektra Records and its sister label Nonesuch Records the following year, Kinney combined the operations of all of its record labels under a new holding company, Warner-Elektra-Atlantic, or WEA for short, and also known as Warner Music Group. WEA was also used as a label for distributing the company's artists outside North America.
In May 1988, the label held a 40th Anniversary concert, broadcast on HBO. This concert, which was almost 13 hours in length, featured performances by a large number of their artists and included reunions of some rock legends like Led Zeppelin and Crosby, Stills, and Nash (being David Crosby's first full band performance since being released from prison).
Warner Communications merged with Time Inc. (owners of the aforementioned HBO) in 1990, forming Time Warner. That same year, Jimmy Iovine founded Interscope Records, which Atlantic owned a 50% stake in. Interscope released notable gangsta rap titles — many in conjunction with Death Row Records. Pressure from activist groups opposed to gangsta rap, however, later led to parent company Time Warner's decision to sell Atlantic's stake in the label to MCA in 1995.
A country music division, which was founded in the 1980s, was closed in 2001.
Time Warner sold Warner Music Group to a group of investors for $2.6 billion in late 2003. The deal closed in early 2004, consolidating Elektra Records and Atlantic into one label operated in the eastern United States.
In 2006, the label denied "Weird Al" Yankovic permission to release "You're Pitiful", a parody of James Blunt's "You're Beautiful", despite Blunt's own approval of the song. Atlantic claimed that it was "too early" in Blunt's career, and that they didn't want Blunt to become a one-hit wonder. Although Yankovic could have legally gone ahead with the parody anyway, his record label, Volcano Records, thought that it was best not to "go to war" with Atlantic. The parody was released onto the Internet as a free download, and can be legally accessed and downloaded from Yankovic's official website. Later he recorded two more parodies, White & Nerdy, and Do I Creep You Out, to replace You're Pitiful.
In 2007, the label celebrated its 60th anniversary with the May 2 PBS broadcast of the American Masters documentary Atlantic Records: The House that Ahmet Built and the simultaneous Starbucks Entertainment CD release of Atlantic 60th Anniversary: R&B Classics Chosen By Ahmet Ertegun.
The country music division was re-established in late 2008. That year also saw Atlantic reach a milestone for major record labels: "More than half of its music sales in the United States are now from digital products, like downloads on iTunes and ring tones for cellphones", doing so "without seeing as steep of a decline in compact disc sales as the rest of the industry."