Virgin Records is a British record label founded by English entrepreneur Richard Branson, Simon Draper, and Nik Powell in 1972. It was later sold to Thorn EMI, and then, in the US, merged with Capitol Records in 2007 to create the Capitol Music Group.
Branson & Powell had initially run a small record shop called Virgin Records and Tapes on Notting Hill Gate, London, specialising particularly in "krautrock" imports, and offering bean bags and free vegetarian food for the benefit of customers listening to the music on offer. After making the shop into a success, they turned their business into a fully fledged record label. The name Virgin, according to Branson (in his autobiography), arose from a colleague of his when they were brainstorming business ideas. She suggested Virgin - as they were all new to business - like "virgins". The original Virgin logo (known to fans as the "Gemini" or "Twins" logo) was designed by English artist and illustrator Roger Dean: a young naked woman in mirror image with a large long-tailed serpent and the word "Virgin" in Dean's familiar script. A variation on the logo was used for the spin-off Caroline Records label.
The first release on the label was the progressive rock album Tubular Bells by multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield in 1973. This was soon followed by some notable krautrock releases, including electronic breakthrough album Phaedra by Tangerine Dream (which went Top 10), and The Faust Tapes and Faust IV by Faust. The Faust Tapes album retailed for 49p (the price of a 7" single) and as a result allowed this relatively unknown band to reach number 12 in the album charts. Other early albums include Gong's The Flying Teapot (Radio Gnome Invisible, Pt. 1) (V2002), which Daevid Allen has been quoted as having never been paid for.
Although Virgin was initially one of the key labels of English progressive rock, the 1977 signing of the Sex Pistols, who had already been asked to leave both EMI and A&M, reinvented the label as a new wave outpost. Shortly afterwards, the Notting Hill record shop (above which the label's office was located) was raided by police for having a window display of the Sex Pistols' album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols in the window. Afterwards they signed groups like XTC, Human League, Culture Club, Gillan, Simple Minds, and less successful bands like Shooting Star, the Motors, Boxer, Holly and the Italians and Fingerprintz. A short-lived subsidiary label, DinDisc, had Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and The Monochrome Set during its brief 1980-81 existence. Similarly, Virgin Front Line became one of the UK's most successful reggae labels in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The current Virgin logo (known informally as "The Scrawl") was created in 1982 as a hasty doodle on a cocktail napkin; rather than hiring the graphic designer, Branson simply paid him for the napkin.
The group Genesis recorded various albums for the company after Virgin's purchase of their previous label Charisma, beginning with 1983's self-titled effort.
The first Virgin label in the US was distributed by Atlantic (Robert Wyatt, Mike Oldfield, Gong, Hatfield and the North, Kevin Coyne and Henry Cow). After several false starts licensing its bands to American labels like Epic (Culture Club, Holly and the Italians & Shooting Star), Atlantic (Genesis, Julian Lennon) and A&M (UB40, Human League, Simple Minds, Breathe), Virgin Records opened up its American division, Virgin Records America, in 1986 releasing the debut album by Cutting Crew and the hit single "I Just Died In Your Arms"; other Virgin America signings included Camper Van Beethoven, Bob Mould, Warren Zevon, Paula Abdul and Steve Winwood. Virgin Records America's releases were distributed by WEA until 1992. Prior to the formation of Virgin Records America, its artists were licensed in the United States to labels such as CBS, A&M, Warner Bros. Records, and others.
Virgin Records was sold by Branson to Thorn EMI in June 1992 for a reported US$1 billion (around £560 million) http://www.virgin.com/aboutvirgin/allaboutvirgin/thewholestory/default.asp?era=199http://ec.europa.eu/comm/competition/mergers/cases/index/m4.html#m_202, with a special non-competition clause that would prevent Branson from founding another recording company during the five years following the agreement (see the final paragraph in E.U. Merger Decision IV/M202 of 27.04.1992). It now faces competition from Branson's new label: V2 Records. Branson sold Virgin Records to fund Virgin Atlantic Airways which at that time was coming under intense anti-competitive pressure from British Airways. (In 1993 BA settled a libel action brought by Branson, giving him £500,000 and a further £110,000 to his airline).
After being acquired by Thorn EMI, Virgin launched several subsidiaries like Realworld Records, Innocent Records, blues specialty label Point Blank Records, and Hut Records, and continued signing new and established artists like 30 Seconds to Mars, Tina Turner, Beenie Man, Korn, The Rolling Stones, Spice Girls, The Smashing Pumpkins, We Are Scientists, Darren Hayes, The Kooks, Lenny Kravitz, Meat Loaf, Placebo, Janet Jackson (contract ended in 2006), Daft Punk, Does It Offend You, Yeah?, Massive Attack, The Future Sound of London, Blur (US), The Chemical Brothers, Gorillaz, Paula Abdul (contract ended in 1999), Brooke Allison, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, The Almost, Mariah Carey (contract ended in 2002), N.E.R.D. and recently Laura Marling, RBD, Thalía, Priscilla Renea and Swami.
In August 2008, Virgin Records filed a $30 million lawsuit against 30 Seconds To Mars, claiming the band refused to deliver three albums as required by its contract. According to the lawsuit, the band "repudiated" a 1999 contract in July.
See main article: Capitol Music Group. Capitol Records and Virgin Records were merged in 2007 to create Capitol Music Group after a massive restructuring of EMI Group Ltd.http://www.rapbasement.com/content/view/2380/35/ Stepping down as chief executive of Capitol Records was Andy Slater, with Jason Flom, former executive of Virgin, taking the reins as Chairman and CEO of the newly created company.
EMI international companies directly operate Virgin Records imprint divisions known as "Virgin Music" in many countries, including Germany, France, and Canada. Most of these markets previously operated standalone "Virgin Records" labels before being merged and consolidated into their national EMI companies in the early part of the twenty-first century when EMI Group businesses underwent drastic restructuring.