Learn the Interesting History of RCA Records Recording Company


RCA Records is one of the oldest and most successful record companies in the world. Its origins go back to 1901, when Victor Talking Machine Company, its precursor, went into business. Now owned by Sony Corporation of America, RCA Records is now one of Sony Music’s four flagship labels along with its former long-time rival Columbia Records, as well as Epic Records and Arista Records.

Company Background

RCA Records, formerly known as RCA Records Label, is an American record label owned by Sony Music Entertainment. Its name is derived from its defunct parent company, the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). Since its inception, the label has released different genres of music, including classical, rock, pop, afrobeat, electronic, R&B, hip hop, blues, jazz, and country.

The label was responsible for introducing the 7” 45 RPM single to compete with the 10” and 12” album, and ushering the rock & roll era by signing Elvis Presley.

Peter Edge is the current CEO and Chairman of RCA Music Group. Joe Riccitelli and John Fleckenstein were appointed as co-presidents of RCA Records in 2018.

Other RCA labels include:

  • RCA Records (UK)
  • RCA Red Seal Records
  • RCA Records (France)
  • RCA Records (Italy)
  • RCA Records (Australia)
  • RCA Victor
  • Bluebird Records
  • RCA Inspiration

Company History

Standard RCA Victor 78 RPM label design in the 1950s image

RCA Record’s history dates back to 1901 when Victor Talking Machine Company went into business. In 1929, the Radio Corporation of America purchased Victor, the world’s largest manufacturer of phonographs and phonograph records. The company was named RCA Victor. In 1931, the Gramophone Company, RCA Victor’s British affiliate, to form EMI. That same year, Victor introduced the world’s first 33 ½ rpm records sold to the public. The format was a commercial failure because the new two-speed Victrolas designed to play these records were very expensive, and the economy is bad due to the Great Depression. The format was abandoned by 1993, and the two-speed turntables were discontinued.

In 1935, RCA sold its interest in EMI, but EMI continued to distribute RCA Victor recordings in the UK.

During World War II, RCA Victor severed ties with JVC’s record company. RCA Victor was seriously impacted by the American Federation of Musicians’ recording ban from 1942 to 1944. Due to this ban, all union musicians in North America were forbidden from making recordings.

After the war in 1949, RCA Victor introduced the 7-inch 45 rpm micro-grooved vinylite record. This new format was originally intended to replace the standard 78 rpm discs. By the time the company unveiled it, the 45 was now competing with the 10-inch and 12-inch 33 ½ rpm vinyl. The company also released some EP with playing times up to 7 minutes per side. The 45 became the preferred speed for pop music singles, but Columbia Records’ LP prevailed as the standard format for classical music and a one-disc album of eight or more pop songs. By 1950, RCA Victor began issuing LPs itself due to fear of losing further market share.

During the 1950s, RCA Victor had three subsidiary labels: Vik, Groove, and “X.” Groove was an R&B specialty label established in 1954, and folded into Vik by 1957. The label “X” was originally nameless, but Billboard chose to refer to the unnamed label in its magazine feature as label “X,” and the name stuck until 1955. In 1954, the company made its first commercial stereophonic recordings. This pioneered the practice of recording orchestras with both monaural and stereophonic equipment.

In 1955, Elvis Presley signed with RCA Victor after the company purchased his recording contract from Sun Records for $35,000. Presley became RCA Victor’s biggest-selling recording artist. The company sold ten million Presley singles in 1956.

In 1957, RCA ended its 55-year association with EMI after the latter acquired Capitol Records. Capitol Records became the leading distributor for EMI recordings, while RCA Victor distributed its recordings with Decca Records in the UK. By 1968, RCA set up its own British distribution in 1969.

RCA Records introduced a very thin, lightweight vinyl LP in late 1969, calling it the Dynaflex. This vinyl prevents warping and other problems experienced in thicker pressings. However, it had a controversial reputation in the recording industry and was later abandoned by the late ‘70s.

In the 1970s, RCA began releasing the first quadraphonic vinyl recordings, known as the Quad-8 and later Q8. It was made commercially by Quadracast Systems Inc., making RCA’s trade name to be Quadradisc. Labels under Warner Music Group also adopted the Quadradisc, but the format did not become popular. Both RCA and Columbia both abandoned this format by 1976.

During the 1980s, Arista Records owner sold 50% of Arista to the company. In 1984, they RCA Records formed a joint venture with Arista owner Bertelsmann called RCA/Ariola International. The following year, General Electric (GE) acquired RCA Corporation. RCA sold its 50% interest to its partner Bertelsmann. The company was renamed as Bertelsmann Music Group. BMG revived its old RCA logo that was retired in 1968 to differentiate RCA Records from its other divisions.

During the mid-80s, RCA Records operated in deficit due to overpriced deals with pop stars like Diana Ross and Kenny Rogers. As a corrective action, RCA Records adapted a decentralized management style that allowed the company to function as a free-standing business. Bob Buziak, the president of the label at the time, cut the RCA roster from 40 acts to only 11 and began to rebuild the company by focusing on developing artists. By the end of the fiscal year of 1988, RCA Records made a gross revenue of $236 million, which became its most profitable year in the company’s history. The soundtrack of the film Dirty Dancing, which cost the company $200,000 to produce, sold 1.6 million copies.

By the end of the 90s decade, RCA Records have undergone a remarkable turnaround with the success of its artists like Britney Spears, Natalie Imbruglia, Christina Aguilera, NSYNC, Foo Fighters, The Dave Matthews Band, and Robyn.

In 2004, BMG and Sony merged their music divisions to form Sony BMG. By 2007, the company was rebranded as the BMG Label Group.

The 2000s decade brought success to RCA records in the pop genre, with NSYNC, Kesha, Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson, Pitbull, and Pink landing multiple #1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts. NSYNC’s album No Strings Attached became the best-selling album of the decade, selling more than a million singles in one day and 2.3 million albums in a week.

Popular Artists

Here are some famous artists who have previously and are currently signed in with RCA Records:

  • ABBA
  • Ace of Base
  • Adam Lambert
  • Alicia Keys
  • Aretha Franklin
  • Arthur Rubinstein
  • ASAP Ferg
  • ASAP Rocky
  • Avril Lavigne
  • Backstreet Boys
  • Barry Manilow
  • Billy Graham
  • Bonnie Tyler
  • Britney Spears
  • Childish Gambino
  • Chris Brown
  • Christina Aguilera
  • David Bowie
  • Daughtry
  • Dave Matthews Band
  • Diana Ross
  • Doja Cat
  • Dolly Parton
  • Duke Ellington
  • Eddie Fisher
  • Elvis Presley
  • Emily Blunt
  • Eurythmics
  • Fergie
  • Foo Fighters
  • Garth Brooks
  • Glenn Miller
  • Hilary Duff
  • James Blunt
  • Jamie Foxx
  • Jamie O’Hara
  • Jordin Sparks
  • Julie Andrews
  • Justin Timberlake
  • Katharine McPhee
  • Kelly Clarkson
  • Kenny Rogers
  • Kesha
  • Khalid
  • Kygo
  • Lighthouse
  • Little Mix
  • Magic!
  • Mark Ronson
  • Martin Garrix
  • Menudo
  • Miley Cyrus
  • Modern Talking
  • Natalie Imbruglia
  • Natasha Bedingfield
  • Neil Sedaka
  • Nicole Scherzinger
  • Nina Simone
  • Normani
  • Paul Anka
  • Pentatonix
  • Phil Collins
  • P!nk
  • Pitbull
  • Prince
  • Rick Astley
  • Kelly
  • Rod Stewart
  • Sammy Davis Jr.
  • Sarah McLachlan
  • Shakira
  • Sia
  • Snoop Dogg
  • Sugababes
  • T-Pain
  • Taylor Swift
  • The Pointer Sisters
  • Tinashe
  • Trisha Yearwood
  • Usher
  • Van Morrison
  • The Village People
  • Weird Al Yankovic
  • Westlife
  • Westworld
  • Whitney Houston
  • Zayn

Criticisms and Controversies

Kelly Clarkson singing image

With the number of artists RCA records signed, they eventually had to deal with various scandals and criticisms. The most notable ones are Kelly Clarkson, Avril Lavigne, Kenny Rogers, and R. Kelly.

Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson and the head of Sony BMG, Clive Davis, feuded publicly in the Summer of 2007 regarding the direction of Clarkson’s album, My December. This was supposed to be Clarkson’s follow-up to her multiple-platinum album called Breakaway. Clarkson had written the song My December, which showcased a darker and edgier side to her songwriting. Davis insisted that Clarkson should work with hired hitmakers as she did previously. This was Davis’s way of ensuring that the songs were polished and radio-friendly. However, Clarkson denied and refused to change the direction of her album and released it in June 2007. It has since become a certified Platinum album. 

Avril Lavigne

Avril Lavigne stated in November 2010 that the long delay of her fourth album Goodbye Lullaby was because of a “bunch of bureaucratic BS” related to RCA. Her album was eventually released in March 2011. Soon after, in October 2011, she left RCA and signed with its sister label, Epic Records. 

R. Kelly

RCA got into a lot of trouble in 2018 when they ignored the allegation of sexual misconduct by R. Kelly. His crimes included running a violent cult and holding teenagers hostage for sexual favors. RCA did not respond to this news and continued to release music for R. Kelly throughout 2018. Finally, the pressure from the Mute R. Kelly campaign got to them, and they terminated his contract. The broadcast of Surviving R. Kelly also pushed them to make this decision.  

Kenny Rogers

Kenny Rogers left RCA Records in 1987 after he accused the label of trying to ruin his career. Rogers had signed with the company in 1982 for an advance sum of $20 million. This was by far one of the largest deals a country musician had gotten at that time. 


RCA Records is an American record label currently owned by Sony Music Entertainment. It has many notable artists under it, including Shakira, Taylor Swift, Pitbull, Little Mix, Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus, and more. They have had a turbulent history and have been operating since 1901.

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