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Phonogram Inc. was started in 1962 as a unit of the Grammophon-Philips Group (GPG), a joint venture of Philips N.V. of the Netherlands and Siemens A.G. of Germany. Phonogram was the name of a parent company that owned and or distributed many different record companies. In 1972, Phonogram was merged with Polydor Records into PolyGram. Following PolyGram's acquisition of Mercury in the U.S., they changed the corporate name of Mercury Record Productions, Inc. to Phonogram, Inc.
In the UK, Phonogram Records were originally known as Philips Records, which started in 1953 and launched a second label, Fontana, in 1958. As well as producing many of their own recordings and UK hits, Philips/Fontana licensed the rights from Columbia (US) to release and distribute their product from 1953 until the end of 1964. After that time, Columbia set up their own marketing and production unit in Theobalds Road, London, having acquired Oriole Records and its record-pressing plant that had prospered in manufacturing discs for UK budget labels including Embassy, sold through Woolworths. Unable to use the label 'Columbia' as it had already been copyrighted by EMI Records, their product was released on the 'CBS' record label. See A Short History of Philips Records Ltd & Phonogram (UK) website: www.philipsrecords.co.uk.
Phonogram was launched as a record company in 1971, but was never a record label as such - just the holding company for a number of its labels which included Philips, Fontana, Vertigo and Mercury, and US product that was licensed at that time: Avco, Sire, Janus, Westbound, All Platinum, Chess, etc. In the US, Phonogram's artists were generally released on Mercury Records, with some releases in parts of Europe issued by Vertigo Records and Philips Records. In 1997, all PolyGram units still using the Phonogram name were renamed Mercury Records. By that time, Mercury had become Phonogram's flagship label. PolyGram continued until 1998, when the company was purchased by Seagram and merged with Universal Music Group, now owned by Vivendi.
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