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Sanctuary Records

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Sanctuary Records Group Ltd.
Parent companyBMG Rights Management
FounderRod Smallwood, Andy Taylor
Distributor(s)Universal Music Group[1]
GenreRock, heavy metal, pop, electronic, hip hop
Country of originUnited Kingdom

Sanctuary Records Group Limited was a record label based in the United Kingdom and is, as of 2013, a subsidiary of BMG Rights Management solely for reissues.[2] Until June 2007, it was the largest independent record label in the UK and the largest music management company in the world.[3] It was also the world's largest independent owner of music intellectual property rights, with over 160,000 songs.[4]



The company was formed in 1979 by Rod Smallwood and Andy Taylor, who met as undergraduates at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1979, they discovered Iron Maiden in a London pub and went on to manage the group. They named the record company after the band's song "Sanctuary," which was released as a single in 1980, and later included on American pressings as well as the reissued CD version of their 1980 eponymous debut album.

Sanctuary Records has historically signed artists with long-term appeal that have had a long career and steady fan base.

Between 1989 and 1991, Sanctuary was co-owned by the Zomba Group, whose music publishing arm still held the music of Iron Maiden in 2001.[5]

In 1994, the company diversified. Amongst the new media interests included a joint venture with screenwriter and producer, Raymond Thompson, which evolved into the Cloud9 Screen Entertainment Group.

Iron Maiden's catalogue was re-issued by Sanctuary in conjunction with Columbia/SME Records in the US in 2002.

Kenny Rogers' 1980s catalogue (originally released on RCA Records) was re-issued by Sanctuary's Castle Music label in conjunction with Kenny Rogers' Dreamcatcher Records in the UK. The albums were only available as imports in the US. Rogers' 2003 release "Back to the Well" was released by Sanctuary in the UK.

Mayan Records was an imprint of Sanctuary Records, under which Lordi's UK album The Monster Show was released.

2006 saw Sanctuary's notable twentieth anniversary release of CD86: 48 Tracks from the Birth of Indie Pop, a reissue of the pivotal UK independent compilation C86.[6]

The company incurred significant losses in its 2004 and 2005 fiscal years. Sanctuary's losses in 2005 increased to £142.6m from £26.7m in 2004. In October 2005, the company announced that one quarter of its staff, representing 175 positions, would be eliminated.[7] One such layoff was John Kalodner,[8] senior vice-president of A&R, with over thirty years of industry experience.[9]

The company partly blamed the loss increase on record release delays, while announcing, in early 2006, a £110m rescue deal.[10] These events, plus pressure from the UK financial and business leaders led to Smallwood becoming merely a general manager of the company, Taylor becoming Chief Executive and former British Airways chief executive Bob Ayling being installed as the new chairman. On 26 May 2006, Ayling dismissed Taylor, following a review of accounting practices prompted by inquiries from the Financial Reporting Review Panel.[10] The board's publicly stated reason for the dismissal was "that certain of the prior year adjustments made in the 2005 accounts should have been presented as a correction of fundamental errors and not as changes in accounting policy".[10] Taylor was replaced by Frank Presland, the chief executive of Sanctuary-owned Twenty-First Artists Management.[10]

In July 2006, it was reported that MAMA, the management group behind the Kaiser Chiefs and Franz Ferdinand and headed by Mean Fiddler chief Dean James, had bid for the group. This proved unsuccessful, further depressing the share value of the company. In late 2006, Rod Smallwood left the company, taking with him Iron Maiden's management interests.

In April 2007, Billboard reported that Sanctuary Records would cease to exist as a new release label in the US that summer, though catalogue, licensing, and new media operations would continue. On 15 June 2007 Universal Music Group announced it had reached an agreement to buy Sanctuary Records for £44.5 million.[11] The agreement was completed in October 2007. By December 2007, it appeared that the Sanctuary name had begun to be phased out, with both Morrissey and Robert Plant being transferred to the Universal-owned Decca Music Group and Iron Maiden to Universal Music Enterprises (with distribution by Sony Music Entertainment, a successor to Sanctuary and Columbia's distribution partnership for the band's releases) for future releases.

On 21 September 2012, regulators approved Universal Music Group's planned acquisition of EMI from Citibank for £1.2 billion.[12] However, due to conditions imposed by the European Commission, UMG was required to sell Sanctuary.[13] It was one of the three units of Universal Music, never fully owned by EMI, that were forced to be sold; other such units were Vivendi Entertainment and V2 Records. BMG Rights Management acquired Sanctuary for over €46 million.[14] In June 2013, BMG agreed to have INgrooves distribute the label's catalogue in North America, while the PIAS Group would handle international rights; however, Black Sabbath's catalogue remained at Universal until March 2014, when BMG took over the band's distribution.[15] In March 2017, BMG transferred the distribution rights of select Sanctuary artists to Warner Music Group's ADA division.[16]

In 2023, BMG signed a new distribution deal with Universal Music Group, Sanctuary's previous owner.[17]

Labels catalogue


Former artists


Iron Maiden was one of the last artists signed to Sanctuary, which released their album, The Book of Souls in North America, on 4 September 2015.[18]

See also



  1. ^ "BMG forms alliance with Universal Music Group; plans to move physical distribution to UMG's Commercial Services division". musicbusinessworldwide.com. 19 October 2023.
  2. ^ BBC News, "Universal Music to buy Sanctuary" Archived 12 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, 15 June 2007, accessed 16 June 2007
  3. ^ BBC News, "Sanctuary may sell off some units" Archived 5 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine, 26 January 2007, accessed 16 June 2007
  4. ^ "Corporate Information". Sanctuary Records Group Official Website. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  5. ^ White, Adam. "The Untold Saga of the Zomba Group: Clive Calder's Empire is World's Largest Independent Music Firm" Billboard 113/18 (5 May 2001)
  6. ^ Bob Stanley, sleevenotes to CD86
  7. ^ BBC News, Sanctuary cuts a quarter of staff Archived 30 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine, 10 October 2005, accessed 29 December 2016.
  8. ^ Melinda Newman, Kalodner looking forward with an eye on past. Billboard, 8 July 2006, p. 47, accessed 4 January 2017.
  9. ^ Kalodner opted to leave the music business entirely. See Matt Wake, A&R Legend John Kalodner Talks Aerosmith and Why Rock Won't Reach the Masses Again Archived 21 September 2016 at the Wayback Machine. LA Weekly, 16 June 2016. Retrieved 4 January 2017.
  10. ^ a b c d BBC News, Sanctuary sacks boss over figures Archived 30 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine, 26 May 2006, accessed 29 December 2016.
  11. ^ Kate Holton and Chris Wills, "Universal agrees to buy struggling Sanctuary" Archived 9 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Reuters, 15 June 2007, accessed 16 June 2007
  12. ^ Joshua R. Wueller, Mergers of Majors: Applying the Failing Firm Doctrine in the Recorded Music Industry, 7 Brook. J. Corp. Fin. & Com. L. 589, 602 (2013).
  13. ^ Sweney, Mark (21 September 2012). "Universal's £1.2bn EMI takeover approved – with conditions". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  14. ^ Chmielewski, Dawn C. (14 February 2013). "Universal Music agrees to sell Sanctuary Records". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 15 February 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2013.
  15. ^ "Universal, Sony, [PIAS] and InGrooves partner with BMG on Sanctuary and Mute catalogues - Music Business Worldwide". musicbusinessworldwide.com. 25 June 2013. Archived from the original on 17 March 2017. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  16. ^ "BMG moves distribution of 8,000 albums to Warner's ADA - Music Business Worldwide". musicbusinessworldwide.com. 7 March 2017. Archived from the original on 13 March 2017. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  17. ^ "BMG forms alliance with Universal Music Group; plans to move physical distribution to UMG's Commercial Services division". musicbusinessworldwide.com. 19 October 2023.
  18. ^ nickderiso (18 June 2015). "Iron Maiden Announces First-Ever Double Album, 'The Book of Souls'". Ultimate Classic Rock. Archived from the original on 24 February 2017.