BYG Records was founded in March 1967 by Jean Georgakarakos, Jean-Luc Young and Fernand Boruso. The name of the label was formed from the initial letters of the founders' surnames. Karakos had previously established himself as a record distributor and importer, while Young worked for Barclay Records and Boruso for Saravah, the record label formed by filmmaker Claude Lelouch.
The label invited American free jazz musicians to Paris to record in the summer of 1969, a time when they were receiving little support or attention in the United States. Many of these musicians were already overseas at the time, having appeared at the Pan-African Music Festival in Algiers in July 1969. (Jazz photographer Jacques Bisceglia was largely responsible for connecting the label and musicians, and the "B" in BYG is often wrongly held to refer to Bisceglia.) The resulting albums are an important repository of free jazz recordings from the period.
BYG Actuel was also responsible for organising the Actuel festival, which took place in late October 1969 in the small Belgian town of Amougies. The festival was initially intended to take place in or near Paris, but was banned by the French authorities. It featured many leading exponents of free jazz and progressive rock, e.g. Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd, Captain Beefheart, Soft Machine, Ten Years After, Yes and The Nice. The festival was a popular success, with around 20,000 visitors over the space of five nights, but it was a financial failure. In July 1970, Georgakarakos organised the Popanalia festival at Biot on the French Riviera, but this was also financially unsuccessful. By 1972, financial problems had plagued BYG to the point where it virtually went underground. Georgakarakos and Young later formed their own record labels, Celluloid (Georgakarakos) and Charly (Young). In 2002 a compilation album featuring the best of the label, JazzActuel: a collection of avant garde/free jazz/psychedelia from the BYG/Actuel catalogue of 1969–1971, was released by Charly (as a 3-CD set) and Get Back Records of Italy (as a 6LP set). The collection was curated by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and journalist Byron Coley.
|529301||Cherry, Don||Mu - First Part|
|529302||Art Ensemble of Chicago||A Jackson in Your House|
|529303||Murray, Sunny||Hommage To Africa|
|529304||Shepp, Archie||Yasmina, a Black Woman|
|529309||Lyons, Jimmy||Other Afternoons|
|529310||Jack, Alan||Bluesy Mind [never issued]|
|529311||Shepp, Archie||Poem for Malcolm|
|529312||Silva, Alan||Luna Surface|
|529314||Acting Trio||Acting Trio|
|529316||Cyrille, Andrew||What About?|
|529317||Kuhn, Joachim||Sounds Of Feelings|
|529319||Coursil, Jacques||Way Ahead|
|529321||Moncur III, Grachan||New Africa|
|529322||Terroade, Kenneth||Love Rejoice|
|529325||Freedom||Freedom At Last|
|529326||Musica Elettronica Viva||Sound Pool, The|
|529327||Marietan, Pierre & Terry Riley||Germ-Keyboard Study 2|
|529328||Art Ensemble of Chicago||Message to Our Folks|
|529329||Art Ensemble of Chicago||Reese and the Smooth Ones|
|529330||Burrell, Dave||La Vie de Bohème|
|529331||Cherry, Don||Mu - Second Part|
|529332||Murray, Sunny||(Never Give A Sucker) An Even Break|
|529333||Moncur, Grachan||Aco Dei De Madrugada|
|529335||Musica Elettronica Viva||Leave The City|
|529336||Wright, Frank||One For John|
|529338||Shepp, Archie||And The Full Moon Ensemble Live In Antibes Vol. 1|
|529339||Shepp, Archie||And The Full Moon Ensemble Live In Antibes Vol. 2|
|529340||Sun Ra||Solar-Myth Approach, The Vol. 2|
|529341||Sun Ra||Solar-Myth Approach, The Vol. 1|
|529345||Allen, Daevid||Banana Moon|
|529346||Kuhn, Joachim||Paris Is Wonderful|
|529347||Braxton, Anthony||This Time...|
|529349||Coursil, Jacques||Black Suite|
|529351||Shepp, Archie||Live at the Pan-African Festival|
- Bridge across the cliff. Village Voice, 18 July 2000.
- Downbeat, June 2002.