Arcade Records

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Not to be confused with the Philadelphia-based American record label active from the 1950s-1970s
Arcade Records
Founded1972
Statusdefunct since 2001
Genrevarious
Country of originNetherlands

Arcade Records was a British record company specialised in multi-artist compilation albums (often in the mid-price or budget price ranges), founded in 1972. In the 1970s, it found itself in direct competition with K-tel and other compilation labels. In the 1980s, the original company was sold to Dutch entrepreneur Herman Heinsbroek, who expanded it into a worldwide multi-media company.

History[edit]

Arcade Records was founded in 1972 by Laurence Myers, a British music industry professional who had been working in music management and production for various top British artists such as The Animals, David Bowie and The Rolling Stones. In the early 1970s, he realised that many music consumers were hometaping their favourite songs in order to create a mixtape of current top hits or the best songs by one artist.[1] Myers copied this trend by releasing multi-artist and one-artist compilation albums.

The idea of issuing several hit songs on one album was not new to the UK market, which had been flooded by cheap compilations like Top of the Pops on budget labels like Hallmark or MFP, most of which contained cover versions by anonymous artists, rather than the original hit versions. Although these albums were very successful - three of them had reached number one in 1971 alone - Arcade decided to pick only original songs and artists for their releases.

Arcade relied heavily on promotion through TV and radio ads, an idea conceived by Myers' business partners (and his brothers-in-law) Michael and Larry Levene, who had made their fortunes selling kitchen appliances through TV commercials.

Arcade's first release was 20 Fantastic Hits, released in the summer of 1972. It rapidly rose to the top of the UK LP chart, where it replaced K-tel's 20 Dynamic Hits, which had been K-tel's first number one album. Despite this promising start, Arcade eventually only managed to release a handful of multi-artist compilation hits (fewer than K-tel had), while it had some success with its range of one-artist compilations. In the UK, it had four number one albums:

  • 20 Fantastic Hits - Various Artists (1972)
  • 40 Golden Greats - Jim Reeves (1975)
  • The Best of Roy Orbison - Roy Orbison (1976)
  • 40 Greatest Hits - Elvis Presley (1977)

By the early 1980s, Arcade's UK division was close to dormant, while its international activities - most notably in the Benelux, operated by Arcade Records Benelux in the Netherlands - remained active and successful. In 1983, the head of the Benelux operations, Herman Heinsbroek, bought Arcade's international parent company and began to rebuild the brand.

Other divisions soon started in Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Heinsbroek also bought Arcade International, which handled publishing and copyrights obtained by Arcade.

The "new" Arcade was instantly successful, thanks to the upcoming CD market from the mid-1980s onwards. Many consumers who had owned their favourite music on vinyl for years began to replace it on the new digital format. Arcade stepped into this new market by releasing many compilation albums, which catered for those consumers who would prefer to buy a Best Of-CD from their favourite artist, rather than their entire back catalogue.

By the early 1990s, Arcade even returned to the UK market, where it found a lot of success with its compilations of house music (e.g. the Ghetto Groove series).

By now the company had become a multi-media operation, with interests in publishing, broadcasting (both radio and TV), retail and video. It had also acquired several local and international record labels, such as Dutch CNR Music. In 1998 the parent company in the Netherlands, until then still owned by Herman Heinsbroek, was sold to Dutch publishing house Wegener.

However, the compilation market had become saturated by the late 1990s, while the biggest-selling compilations were either issued by large conglomerates (e.g.,the Now That's What I Call Music! series, which was released by majors such as EMI or Virgin) or by an artist's own record label. Arcade's fortunes began to dwindle, which resulted in Wegener eventually selling Arcade's music interests.

Eventually, Arcade formed a joint venture with Roadrunner Records in 2000 as Roadrunner Arcade Music, thereby becoming one of the world's largest indie record companies. It released everything from Nu-Metal to Nu-NRG. Later, all divisions (except CNR Music and Arcade's Belgium division) were sold to Roadrunner Records. The Arcade moniker completely disappeared and CNR Music was revived as a fully independent company.

After several attempts to revive the label (only domestically in the Netherlands and with only modest success), Arcade currently serves as a digital platform which compiles playlists for Spotify based on Arcade's catalogues.[2]

Meanwhile, Herman Heinsbroek was an Economic Affairs Minister in a short-lived Dutch coalition government in 2001, led by Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende.

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