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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How George Martin Changed The Finances Of The Record Business

George Martin and The Beatles 1966 imageThe recent passing of record producer George Martin has brought effusive thoughts, memories and well-deserved accolades from all quarters of the music business. Most have dwelled on Sir George’s creative accomplishments, and truly there were many. Just his work with The Beatles alone changed the way we make music forever, not to mention his work with other top selling artists like America, Jeff Beck, Paul McCartney, Little River Band, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Kenny Rogers, Kate Bush and many more.

But an unsung Martin contribution to the music business is the way he changed the finances of making a record. And, as sometimes happens with many giant changes that occur, it has been to the betterment of some and at the expense of others.

Martin’s career as a producer began in 1950 when he joined EMI Records as an assistant to Oscar Preuss, the head of EMI's Parlophone Records. When Preuss retired in 1955, Martin took over as head of the label, which at the time specialized in classical and Baroque music, original cast recordings, and regional British music, and was a rather insignificant subsidiary of the company.

Martin turned the rather sleepy division into a moneymaker though, by concentrating on comedy and novelty records by the likes of Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Dudley Moore and Peter Cook, among others, but it wasn’t until he signed The Beatles that the label hit gold - vaults of it. The band went on to sell hundreds of millions of records worldwide and reap EMI record-setting profits within a very short period, but Martin was still only a salaried employee with no participation in the profits he had such a big part in developing, which was a common trait of record producers of the time.

In 1969, after being passed over for a small bonus even though The Beatles had made EMI another year of historic profits with a succession of #1 worldwide hits, Sir George decided to use his considerable leverage to obtain a piece of the action by leaving his EMI staff position and going his own way. Soon many other successful producers followed, finally starting to cash in on large advances as well as receiving a piece of their best-selling artist’s pie. Read the rest on Forbes.

Some of the above is an excerpt from The Music Producer's HandbookYou can read more from The Music Producer's Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of


Beatrek said...

I believe that your source is incorrect as George Martin left EMI in 1965 and went freelance and formed Associated Independent Recording (AIR). Thankfully he still worked with The Beatles when he went freelance.

Nichole said...

Bobby, I haven't read the Beatle/EMI production/history books,yet. However, I was wondering ~how many assistants existed between 1950-1955; and what was it in your opintion that Mr.Preuss saw within George to take the helm?

Bobby Owsinski said...

Can't say how many assistants but I believe GM was the only one since the label was so small.

Mr Preuss saw that GM was classically trained and had spent time working for the BBC classical music department, which probably landed him the job.


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