American Record Corporation
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American Record Corporation (ARC), also referred to as American Record Company, American Recording Corporation, or (erroneously) as ARC Records, was a United States based record company. It resulted from the merger in July 1929 of the Cameo Record Corporation (Cameo, Lincoln and Romeo labels), the Pathé Phonograph and Radio Corporation (the US branch of the Pathé and Perfect labels), the Plaza Music Company's group of labels (Banner, Domino, Jewel, Oriole, and Regal labels) (although apparently the Plaza company itself was excluded from the final merger), and the Scranton Button Company, the parent company of Emerson Records (and the company who pressed most of the above labels).
Louis G. Sylvester (former head of Scranton) became president of the new company located at 1776 Broadway in Manhattan, New York City. In October 1929, Herbert Yates, head of Consolidated Film Industries, took control of ARC. In the following years, the company was very involved in a depressed market, buying failing labels at bargain prices to exploit their catalogue.
In December 1931 Warner Bros. leased Brunswick, Vocalion and associated companies to ARC. By 1932, ARC was king of the "3 records for a dollar" market, selling 6 million units in that year, twice as much as RCA Victor. In an effort to get back on top, RCA created its "Timely Tunes" label in 1931, and the Bluebird and Electradisk labels in 1932. ARC bought out the Columbia catalogue in 1934, including OKeh. As the Depression began, ARC began discontinuing some of the slowing selling labels (including Domino, Regal, Jewel, see below). ARC started a theater-only label using instrumental versions of their standard 35c recordings. In the 1930s ARC produced Brunswick and (after 1934) Columbia at 75c and Oriole (sold at McCrory), Romeo (sold at Kress), as well as Melotone, Vocalion, Banner and Perfect (which were general purpose labels) at 35c. Also for a time in 1933-34, ARC revived the Domino label exclusively as a client label for John Gabel company in Pennsylvania (they were a jukebox distributor).
As with the companies that they bought, some of the labels were created exclusively for specific stores: Challenge and Conqueror (Sears, Roebuck), Oriole (McCrory), Romeo (Kress) and when the contracts ended, the labels ended too. Other labels (Banner, Perfect, Melotone) were known to have been sold at enough varied businesses that they are considered "general purpose labels". Many of the remaining labels have not been attributed with a specific store contract, but it's likely that the smaller and shorter-lived labels were exclusive to some business or another.
In April 1938, ARC discontinued Melotone, Banner, Romeo, Oriole and Perfect. In December 1938, the entire ARC complex was purchased from Consolidated Film for $700,000 by the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). The record company was renamed Columbia Recording Corporation, which revived the Columbia imprint as its flagship label with Okeh as a subsidiary label. This allowed the rights to the Brunswick and Vocalion labels (and pre-December 1931 Brunswick/Vocalion masters) to revert to Warner Bros., who sold the labels to Decca Records. The ARC legacy is otherwise now part of Sony Music Entertainment.
Labels ARC issued or pressed (1929-1938)
+ labels that existed prior to the formation of ARC
- ARC sold to theaters for background music 1931-1933?
- Banner +1929-1938
- Bernardo (client label)
- Broadway +from 1932 (fulfilling a contract with Montgomery Ward)
- Brunswick +1932-1938 (under lease agreement from Warner Bros. Pictures)
- Cameo +1929-1930
- Challenge +(client label for Sears)
- Columbia +late 1934-1938
- Commodore (client label for Commodore Music Shops)
- Conqueror +(client label for Sears from 1929-1938)
- Domino +1929-1931 (but was restarted (with a gold label) as a client label for the John Gabel Co. circa 1933-34)
- Fox Movietone (client label sold only at Fox Theaters)
- Gospel Herald
- Gramophone Shop Varieties (client label for The Gramophone Shop)
- Hollywood 1936-1937
- Homestead (mail order label 1929-circa 1931)
- Hot Record Society (client label for the Hot Record Society)
- Jewel +1929-circa 1932
- Liberty Music Shops (client label for the Liberty Music Shops)
- Lincoln +from 1929-1930
- Master 1937
- Mel-O-Dee (client label as a specialty jukebox label)
- Melotone +1932-1938
- Oriole +1929-1938 (client label for McCrory)
- Pathe +1929-1930
- Perfect +1929-1938
- Regal +1929-1931
- Romeo +1929-1938 (client label for Kress Stores)
- Shamrock Stores - (client label for the Shamrock Stores)
- Special Editions - a reissue label
- Supertone +1930-circa 1931 (short-lived series made by Brunswick after the Gennett period ended, but this rare series probably hails from right before the ARC takeover of Brunswick)
- U.H.C.A. - (client label specializing in reissues for United Hot Clubs of America through Commodore)
- Variety 1937
- Vocalion +1932-1938 (under lease agreement from Warner Bros. Pictures)
- American Radio Networks: A History - Jim Cox - Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved on 2012-08-11.
- Charles Wolf and Kip Lornell, The Life and Legend of Leadbelly (New York: Da Capo Press,  1999, pp. 178, 198; Sing Out! 21 (1971), p. 44
- Komara, Edward (ed.) (2006), Encyclopedia of the Blues, Routledge
- LPs historic. Musicinthemail.com. Retrieved on 2012-08-11.
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