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Music was key to the Disney Brother Studios' success. Either public domain or original music were used for their cartoons. With neither Walt Disney nor Roy O. Disney having any music industry experience, the studio had to rely on outside music publishers.[MTk 1] In 1928, Walt Disney produced the third animated Mickey Mouse short, Steamboat Willie, which had a soundtrack while previous efforts were silent films. Thus soundtracks are added to the previously two produced Mickey Mouse short films.[ChWDC 1] In 1929, Walt Disney and Carl Stalling wrote "Minnie's Yoo-Hoo", the first song from the Walt Disney Studios, for Mickey's Follies.[ChWDC 2] On December 16, 1929, the Disney Film Recording Company, Limited was incorporated as a subsidiary of Walt Disney Productions.
Walt Disney Productions then began licensing out its music with the record company either selecting its own or Disney's talent to record the music. Until 1936, no one had issued an actual song track recording on disc. RCA's HMV label released a selection of Disney short film music in England with the US release a year later.[MTk 1] The Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs soundtrack album released by Victor was the first feature film soundtrack. Disney had sold its rights to the Snow White music to Bourne Co. Music as they needed more funds to complete the film.[MTk 2]
In addition to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney also sold the music publishing rights to Pinocchio and Dumbo to Bourne. To date, all attempts to reacquire the music rights to the three films had failed. After Bambi, the effects of World War II reduced the production of new feature length animation, with Disney either making feature length live films with some animation or themed short film into anthology films like Make Mine Music. The latter films contain the bulk of the more commercial music which was done by recording stars thus released by their record company.[MTk 2]
In April 1947, the Walt Disney Music Company (WDMC) was incorporated, with Fred Raphael putting the company together in late 1949 to publish and license songs from Cinderella.[MTk 3]Cinderella records appeared in stores along with other merchandise in 1949 before the 1950 release of the movie. The RCA multi-album release was number 1 on the Billboard magazine pop charts. Disney music was moving into the big business level. While WDMC did not produce the records, Raphael handled the selection, performance and recording.[MTk 3]
James Alexander "Jimmy" Johnson, Jr., a fired Disney publicity staff member who wanted to stay at Disney, moved through a series of jobs there in the traffic department, and then accounting. After a stint in the military, he became assistant to the corporate secretary, then handled merchandising issues among other additional duties. With Roy Disney's split of the merchandising division from Walt Disney Productions, Johnson became head of the merchandising division's publication department in 1950 and took on managing business affairs for the Walt Disney Music Company.[MTk 3]
The Walt Disney Company traces the Disney Music Group back to the founding of Disneyland Records in 1956. In that year, the Walt Disney Music Company's Disneyland Records record company was founded on the strength of Fess Parker's 1954 hit recording of the "Ballad of Davy Crockett" using the Disneyland label which was licensed to Columbia Records. The Disneyland label issued its first album, A Child's Garden of Verses.[ChWDC 5] Also, Disneyland Records issued a Parker's "Wringle Wrangle" single from the "Westward Ho the Wagons!" film within a year of starting operations; the single became a hit. This led the company to start recording music from outside the films. However, whatever was released by the company, the industry categorized as intended for an audience of children. Pricing was directed towards an adult audience, which was more than standard children fare. The only outside success was "Tutti's Trumpets". Thus in 1959, the Disneyland label became the children's label, and Buena Vista became the label for the occasional pop song record. The Lyric Street Records label was founded in July 1997 as a division of Hollywood Records. In August 1997 Mammoth Records was purchased for $25 million to act as an independent music label within Disney.
Buena Vista Music Group
The industry recognized founding of the group was in March 1998 with the reorganization in Disney that brought all Disney music labels into one unit, Buena Vista Music Group, in the Walt Disney Studios. The group consisted of Hollywood Records, Buena Vista Records, Lyric Street Records and Mammoth Records with Walt Disney Records and Disney Music Publishing transferred out of Disney Consumer Products.
In September 2005, BVMG signed with EMI for distribution of its album in the UK, Europe, South Africa and the Middle East replacing Warner Music Group. In November 2006, Disney Music Publishing and Warner/Chappell Music Inc. agreed to a licensing agreement for Europe and South America major markets. In 2006, BVMG launched a concert production arm, Buena Vista Concerts starting with The Cheetah Girls: The Party's Just Begun Tour and High School Musical: The Concert.
Disney Music Group
In April 2007, Disney decided to semi-retire the Buena Vista brand from the group's name. In November 2008, Disney Music Group formed the Disney Pearl label in conjunction with a multi-part deal with Yanni.
Lyric Street launched a subsidiary label, Carolwood Records, in October 2008 which was soon shuttered in November 2009. On April 14, 2010, Disney Music Group announced the closure of the Lyric Street label with some bands transferred to other branches of Disney Music Group and others dropped altogether.
On January 31, 2012, DMG chair Bob Cavallo retired with Ken Bunt succeeding him as head of DMG with a promotion to executive vice president from his post as senior vice president of marketing. Bunt became president on March 27, 2013. A unified licensing department was formed with in Disney Music Group by December 2012 under vice president of licensing Dominic Griffin.
Lucy Hale signed with Hollywood Records' Lyric Street sublabel in June 2012 indicated a return to country music changed to DMG Nashville with her single release "You Sound Good To Me" in the 2nd quarter of 2014.
In early April 2017, DMG and Universal Music Group Nashville relaunched Buena Vista Records as a joint venture label for country music and worldwide country music genre projects with the label's first signed act of CB30 duo of brothers, Christian and Brody. The company and DigiTour Media formed in June 2017, RMI Recordings, a new label for "digital-first" talent.
During American Idol's Disney Night on April 29, 2018, DCappella, Disney Music Group's new a cappella singing group, made their debut. On Friday, August 23, 2019, Disney Music Group debuted their first podcast, For Scores, a composer interview series, and kicked of at D23.
Divisions and labels
Walt Disney Records, the flagship record label of the group, was founded in 1956 as Disneyland Records, so that Disney would not have to release through third-party labels not associated with the studio, such as RCA Victor or Capitol Records, which had issued Disney albums in the past. Under the Disneyland label, among its other recordings, the studio also released new soundtrack LP's of some of the animated Disney films, including, a 3-LP album set in monophonic sound of all of the classical music heard in Fantasia, perhaps the first soundtrack album containing virtually all the music from a feature-length film. (The "Meet the Soundtrack" intermission segment and the jam session were not included, and Deems Taylor's commentary was also omitted.) Disneyland Records released cover versions (rather than soundtracks) of the songs from some of the other animated films, such as Lady and the Tramp. In 1989, the label was renamed to its current branding and now releases a broad range of Disney-branded music, such as soundtracks to Walt Disney Pictures' films, original studio albums from Disney Channel artists, compilations albums by Radio Disney, and soundtracks to the Star Wars films.
Disney Music Publishing, controls the publishing rights to music from Disney's film, television, theater and theme park divisions. Imprints include Walt Disney Music Company, Wonderland Music Company, Agarita Music, Bantha Music, Buena Vista Music Co., Falferious Music, Five Hundred South Songs, Fuzzy Muppet Songs, Holpic Music, Inc., Hollywood Pictures Music, Mad Muppet Melodies, Marvel Comics Music, Marvel Superheroes Music, Pixar Music, Pixar Talking Pictures, Seven Peaks Music, Seven Summits Music, Touchstone Pictures Music & Songs, Inc., Utapau Music, and Wampa-Tauntaun Music.
Disney Concerts, formerly Buena Vista Concerts, is themselves involved in the holding, production, distribution and sponsoring of concert events related to Disney.
Buena Vista Records was relaunched in April 2017 as a joint DMG and Universal Music Group Nashville country label. The label's first signed act is CB30 duo of brothers, Christian and Brody. A rising duo their catchy track "Marina" has a Luke Bryan appearance.
DMG Nashville, is the brand name used by Hollywood Records to specialize in country music. Patrick Joseph Music and DMG Nashville signed a co-pub agreement with songwriter Melissa Peirce in 2012 with an extension in May 2015. In June 2012, Lucy Hale was signed to Hollywood Record formerly defunct country sublabel, Lyric Street, for a single and album due in 2013. In June 2013, Patrick Clifford was named Vice President of Music Publishing and A&R for Disney Music Publishing in Nashville with responsibility for the A&R functions for Disney Music Group in Nashville. In November 2013, DMG and Bigger Picture Group signed an agreement for DMG to handle music licensing for Bigger Picture. After Bigger Picture's closure in 2014, DMG Nashville released its first studio album, Lucy Hale's Road Between, on June 3.
RMI Recordings, a new label formed in June 2017 to sign "digital-first" talent. It was formed with the founders of DigiTour Media, which produces live events with social media artists. The first talent signed to the label was Max & Harvey, a pair of UK twins, in April 2018.
Disney Pearl, also as Disney Pearl Series, was an imprint of Disney Music Group for adult contemporary and pop music launched in November 2008 with a deal with Yanni for Yanni Voices albums including a Buena Vista Concert extensive tour, two Yanni PBS specials and deals for the album's four vocal talent, Nathan Pacheco, Chloe, Ender Thomas and Leslie Mills. The label released albums, including from Kenny Loggins and Brian Wilson, until 2012.
Lyric Street Records, was an American record label specializing in country music. President Randy Goodman, formerly a general manager for RCA Records, founded the label in 1997. Among its first artists were Lari White, John Berry, Aaron Tippin, SHeDAISY and extremely popular Rascal Flatts.
Carolwood: The label launched a short-lived subsidiary label, Carolwood Records, in October 2008. In April 2010 the label was folded into Hollywood Records.
Mammoth Records, the formerly independent record label was founded by Jay Faires in 1989. In 1993 it became part of a joint venture with WEA-owned Atlantic Records but hit the market again in 1997, when it was bought by the then Buena Vista Music Group, up until which it was based in North Carolina. It had a very successful alternative artist roster including acts such as Antenna, Blake Babies, Chainsaw Kittens, Dash Rip Rock, Dillon Fence, Frente!, Fun-Da-Mental, Fu Manchu, Jason & the Scorchers, Joe Henry, Juliana Hatfield, Kill Creek, Machines of Loving Grace, the Bats, the Melvins, My Friend Steve, Seven Mary Three, Squirrel Nut Zippers, the Sidewinders, Vanilla Trainwreck, and Victoria Williams. In 2003, the label was folded into Hollywood Records.
For Scores podcast
On Friday, August 23, 2019, Disney Music Group debuted their first podcast, For Scores, produced with Treefort Media and longtime Disney Music executive Maria Kleinman and kicked of at D23. The podcast is a composer interview series with the composer working in film, television and games and hosted by journalist Jon Burlingame. The first set dropped has four episodes interviewing Henry Jackman, Pinar Toprak and Alan Silvestri. A second set is slated for October 2019 and a third for early 2020.
Originally, Disney Music Group did not have its own distribution network, either in its native market of the US or internationally. It had a licensing deal with Warner Music Group from 1995 to 2005. Furthermore, Sony Music Entertainment was also a distributor of Hollywood Records' releases in mainland Asia. After the agreement with Warner expired, Disney engaged in distribution negotiations with other third-party companies.
In September 2012, Universal Music Group acquired EMI and initially pledged not to renew EMI's European distribution license with Disney. However, in March 2013, Disney Music Group renegotiated their agreement with Universal Music Group, in which distribution and marketing rights were expanded on a worldwide basis, as a method of incurring collaboration between Disney's record labels and artists with Universal's production department. This allows DMG access to Universal's large roster of award-winning music producers and songwriters. In return, UMG now will have access to Disney's extensive marketing entities (including ABC, Radio Disney, Disney Channel, ABC Radio etc.).