Learn the Interesting History of Island Records Recording Company


Founded in 1959, Island Records is established in Jamaica and was based on the United Kingdom for many years before the Universal Music Group owned it. This label operates as a division of Island Def Jam Music Group in the United States and as a standalone label in the United Kingdom. Island Records was one of the largest independent record labels in history and has exerted a significant influence on the UK music scene during the 70s.

Company Background

Island Records is a British record label that operates as a division of Universal Music Group (UMG). Both Island and a label A&M Records were both the largest independent record labels in history, with Island, in particular, has exerted a major influence on the progressive music scene in the UK in the early 1970s.

DarcusBeese, a renowned and iconic British music executive, has been named as the president of Island Record since 2018.

Island Records operates four international divisions: Island US, Island UK, Island Australia, and Island France. Due to its legacy, Island Records remains one of UMG’s pre-eminent record labels.

These are the labels and subsidiaries under Island Records that are still active:

  • Dublekick Company
  • Island France
  • Island Records Australia
  • Mercury Records
  • MonarC Entertainment
  • Safehouse Records
  • Tuff Gong

Company History

Chris Blackwell founded Island Records in Jamaica in 1959. Blackwell has signed Toots and the Maytals, as well as Bob Marley, who introduced the term “reggae” and the concept of reggae music to the world. Blackwell had a strong commitment to his artists and established the company almost single-handedly.

However, the label struggled as a business in the late 1970s to the early 1980s. The death of Bob Marley in 1981 has been detrimental to the label, especially after it engineered Marley’s international breakthrough just a few years earlier. While it signed U2, the band has not yet reached its international superstar status that was about to come.

Island Records was eventually sold to PolyGram UK in 1989. After the sale, the Island Records was no longer an independent company, but Blackwell was given a position on PolyGram’s board as the CEO of the Island Entertainment division. Blackwell eventually ended his association with PolyGram in 1997. PolyGram then closed Island’s film business.

In May 1998, PolyGram and all its associated labels were acquired by Seagram, who plans to integrate PolyGram with UMG. This helped the company gain a significant presence internationally. From December 1998 to 1999, UMG placed three divisions under the management of the Island brand: one in the US, one in the UK, and one in Germany.

When UMG was owned by French company Vivendi in 2001, the music company remained under the same name. In the US, Island became a pop/rock label, since urban artists were assigned to either Def Soul or Def Jam.

In 2009, Island Records celebrated its 50th anniversary with a series of concerts and performances showcasing the label’s reggae and jazz roots. At its sixth decade, Island Records saw fresh success and a new wave of new artist signings, including PJ Harvey, Paul Weller, and Keane.

Island was also responsible for securing major British breakthroughs for the biggest international superstars such as Drake and The Weeknd. The company held the top spot in the UK singles chart for 19 consecutive weeks in 2016, thanks to Drake’s “One Dance.” The Weeknd also established its position as one of the world’s top recording artists, with the success of his 2016 album Starboy.

Island signed a licensing deal with independent label PMR. It signed Disclosure, a duo from two brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence. The two went on to enjoy success with their two Island albums. Another Island act to experience a significant breakthrough was John Newmann.

In 2018, Island president David Massey left the company to join Sony Music Entertainment’s relaunch of Arista Records. British music executive DarcusBeese took on the role of president in return.

Popular Artists

  • Ariana Grande
  • Bob Marley
  • Bon Jovi
  • Chaka Khan
  • Demi Lovato
  • Drake
  • Elton John
  • Fall Out Boy
  • Hailey Steinfeld
  • Hozier
  • Jessie Reyez
  • John Newman
  • Mumford and Sons
  • Nick Jonas
  • Olivia O’Brien
  • Post Malone
  • Sean Paul
  • Shawn Mendes
  • Skip Marley
  • The Killers
  • Tony Braxton
  • U2
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