Jem Records (also known as JEM Records) was a U.S. record label that existed from 1970 to 1988, at the time principally known as the parent company of Passport Records. The label has been resurrected as of 2013, as Jem Recordings.
Jem Records, based on South Plainfield, New Jersey, was founded in 1970 by college friends Jeff Tenenbaum, Ed Grossi and Marty Scott, also known as Martin L. Scott. Scott was attending Franklin and Marshall College, while Tenenbaum was attending Cornell University and Grossi was attending Wesleyan University. The label name is an acronym for the first letters of the first names of the three founders of the label.
The motivation for establishing the label was when co-founder Marty Scott discovered that he could only obtain the album Direct Hits, by The Who, by importing it from England. The three co-founders started to import a number of albums from England, including foreign releases of American records, and found that they were outselling nearby record stores, through selling the records at their respective colleges.
The company was originally formed to sell imported records from Europe. Its most successful import transaction was the licensing from Epic Records of the right to import Cheap Trick at Budokan, which at the time was only available in North America as a Japanese import. Epic had initially decided not to release the record in the United States. As a result of the success of the imported record, Epic Records decided to delay release of the next Cheap Trick studio album, Heaven Tonight and released Cheap Trick at Budkokan domestically, to great success. "I Want You To Want Me", from the album, became the band's breakout single. Another notable success was in releasing the soundtrack to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, as an import to America. The record, released in 1975, had been deleted everywhere but in Canada. Marty Scott contracted with Lou Adler, whose label, Ode Records, had originally released the album, to distribute the record from Canada, under a production and distribution license.
Jem Records was also notable for releasing in America, through licensing arrangements, the first albums by The Cure, Simple Minds, Siouxie and the Banshees and X, among others. Jem Records was also the exclusive American distributor for such labels as WEA International, Virgin America, and EG Records.
The company's principal record label was Passport Records, which it formed in 1973, in partnership with the Sire Records Group. Concurrently with the founding of Passport Records, the company established an alternate record distribution network, with warehouses on both the U.S. east and west coasts. The Passport Records partnership was dissolved in 1977, when Sire Records was acquired by Warner Bros. Records. Jem operated Passport Records on its own, thereafter.
Jem Records went public in 1984, with its initial public offering meeting with mixed success, resulting in a reduction in the offering price. At the same time, the import and distribution activities of Jem Records were negatively affected by the loss of as copyright lawsuit brought by T.B. Harms Music. Prior to this judgement, Jem Records had not been paying royalties on imported records. Jem Records went from reported net income of approximately $391,000 on sales of approximately $14 million in 1984 to a loss of approximately $225,000 on sales of approximately $16 million in 1985.
In early 1987, the company's principal label, Passport Records, separated from Jem Records, to be led as a separate operation by Marty Scott. Tenenbaum and Grossi left soon afterwards. They sold their shares to John Matarazzo, who became Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, owning 40% of the equity. Also in 1987, Jem Records signed a letter of intent to sell its distribution and record operations to Enigma Records. In 1988, Enigma declined to complete the transaction. Jem Records subsequently went bankrupt, in 1988.
In 2013, Marty Scott resurrected the label, as Jem Recordings, with a focus on signing new artists and licensing older recordings for release under the label. The first release of the reconstituted label was announced as The Bongos' Phantom Train, recorded in 1986 and remixed in 2013.
- Marty Scott resurrects JEM Records; All Access Music Group. Retrieved 2013-08-20.
- Profile of Jeff Tenenbaum; venable.com. Retrieved 2013-09-07.
- Profile of Ed Grossi; edgrossilaw.com. Retrieved 2013-09-07.
- Interview: Excavating Jem with Marty Scott; The Second Disc. Retrieved 2013-08-27.
- Profile of Jem Reoords; Discogs. Retrieved 2013-08-19.
- Julia Flynn Siler, Business People: Jem Records president confident despite woes; New York Times, August 22, 1988. Retrieved 2013-08-20.
- Jem Recordings, What is Jem Recordings?; www.jemrecordings.com. Retrieved 2013-08-25.
- JEM Records reports earnings for Year to July 31, New York Times, October 31, 1985. Retrieved 2013-08-22.
- Profile of John Matarazzo, PRWeb. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
- Richard Ross, Flash: Marty Scott resurrects Jem Recordings; Legendary lost album from The Bongos to be label's first release. Popdose, July 10, 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-24.