WWE Music Group
|Stephanie Music Publishing, Inc.|
|Distributor(s)||Sony Music Entertainment (1985–2013)
Warner Music Group (2013–present)
|Country of origin||United States|
|Location||Stamford, Connecticut, United States|
Stephanie Music Publishing, Inc.; operating publicly as WWE Music Group is an American record label funded and operated by WWE. It was manufactured and co-marketed by Columbia Records and distributed by Sony Music Entertainment until 2013 when the distribution moved to Warner Music Group. The label specializes in compilation albums of the WWE wrestlers' entrance themes, often by contributing performing artists, but also releases titles that have been actually performed by the wrestlers themselves, including the various-artists album WWE Originals and John Cena's You Can't See Me.
Historically, most WWE entrance themes have been created by Jim Johnston since the 1980s, while in recent times, themes have been written or performed by John Alicastro and Mike Lauri, known collectively as CFO$ and Kromestatik. The label is currently under the management of Neil Lawi.
The series of World Wrestling Federation (WWF) produced albums began in 1985 with The Wrestling Album. The album contained the song "Land of a Thousand Dances", recorded by a majority of the WWF roster at the time (including Roddy Piper, Jesse Ventura, and Randy Savage). The locker room would later reconvene for the song's music video.
Format change and success
The format of the wrestling albums changed in 1996, as the focus went from the wrestlers themselves singing to a compilation of various wrestlers' entrance themes. WWF Full Metal was the first album released with the new focus. In October, the album reached No. 184 on the Billboard 200 and by 2002, had sold 173,000 copies. This new format proved to be a success. The follow-up album, WWF The Music, Vol. 2, which was released two years later, spent sixteen weeks on the chart and sold over 480,000 copies.
WWF The Music, Vol. 3 and WWF The Music, Vol. 4, released in December 1998 and October 1999 respectively, each sold over a million copies. In particular, Vol. 3 reached No. 10 on the Billboard 200, spent thirty weeks on the chart, and sold over 1.21 million copies. The album reached position No. 4 in its début week, stayed on the charts for twenty weeks, and sold over 1.13 million copies.
On 21 March 2000, the company worked with Priority Records to release a hip-hop album titled WWF Aggression, which featured rappers such as Snoop Dogg, ODB, Method Man, and Kool Keith, all of whom recorded versions of various wrestlers' entrance themes. This album differed from previous albums, which were more along the lines of rock music. Despite the change, the album still sold approximately 640,000 copies.
In February 2001, WWF The Music, Vol. 5 débuted on the Billboard 200 at position No. 2, spending two weeks in the top twenty and selling 176,000 copies. as well as reaching No. 2 in the UK Albums Chart and No. 5 in the Canadian Albums Chart. The album featured an original song by The Rock. By 2002, Vol. 5 had sold 640,000 copies. In September 2001, the WWF Tough Enough album sold 138,000 copies.
In May 2001, WWE signed their first act, the heavy metal band Neurotica, and released their third album in June 2002, the only non-wrestling related album released on the label so far, before they disbanded.
In 2002, WWF Forceable Entry sold 145,000 copies in its first week to enter the Billboard 200 at position No. 3. It was the fourth consecutive WWF album to début in the top ten of the Billboard 200. Forceable Entry also débuted on the Billboard Hard Rock Albums Chart. The album included music from Creed, Our Lady Peace, Limp Bizkit, Marilyn Manson, Kid Rock, Drowning Pool, Rob Zombie, Sevendust, and Saliva. Later in the year, WWE Anthology was certified platinum after just 10 days of release.
As of March 2006, WWE officially announced the launching of the "WWE Music Group" under the management of Neil Lawi, who not only maintains the label but selects songs to be used on television and pay-par-view events, and regularly scouts new talent to showcase via WWE. Within two months of operation, the newly restructured label had an album reach the top 10 of the Billboard 200 when WWE Wreckless Intent, featuring songs by artists such as Motörhead, Three 6 Mafia, P.O.D. and Killswitch Engage, reached No. 8. In 2007 the label released ¡Quiero Vivir!, the début album of WWE ring announcer Lilian Garcia, in conjunction with Universal Music Latino.
In 2007, WWE released WWE The Music, Vol. 7, the first digitally exclusively album released on the label iTunes, and starting in 2012, WWE began making old albums available through online stores, starting with the first five "Volume" albums released from 1995 to 2001.
On 20 April 2013, the entrance theme of wrestler Fandango reached No. 44 in the UK Singles Chart, after briefly being close to the Top 10 in the mid-week charts. Following the NXT Arrival show on 27 February 2014, WWE released singles of eight NXT wrestlers created by CF0$, and was followed in May by the music video and single of Tyler Breeze.
Composer James D. Papa filed a lawsuit against the WWE Music Group, Michael Hayes, and Jim Johnston in July 2012 over the use of the music from World Championship Wrestling citing redirected royalty payments to several wrestling related songs he either wrote or co-wrote by securing the rights to music unlawfully. Along with the defendants of the case were long with VE Newco LLC, the parent company of Vivendi Entertainment (distribution of WWE DVD and Blu-rays), Yukes (WWE video games) and Take-Two Interactive (who owns the WWE video game license after last year when THQ filed for bankruptcy in January 2013) were added in September 2013.
The filing noted that the two sides resolved their issues following an Alternative Dispute Resolution conference due to the fact that there are a number of WWE Network versions of World Championship Wrestling PPVs using all 11 songs from the "Slam Jam" CD were placed on the Network, replacing versions of the PPV that had edited out the original music. A similar lawsuit brought against the company by Harry "Slash" Grivas and Roderick Kohn over the rights to original music used by Extreme Championship Wrestling that WWE had been using during the Invasion storyline of 2001 was resolved with a settlement that saw WWE purchase the catalogue outright in January 2005 along with the assets in 2003 in bankruptcy court.
The case was then settled in court on May 5, 2014 before the March 23, 2015 trial date. However, WWE has again denied any wrongdoing and claimed that since Papa "consented to use" of his music in WCW and World Class Championship Wrestling broadcasts, and subsequently WWE would have the rights to his material since they acquired the copyrights "lawfully". WWE also said that the music in the World Class documentary would be "fair use" and that Papa did not have any copyright for the "clone song" that Johnston created, so any claim against that song should be thrown out.
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