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MGM Records was a record label started by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio in 1946, for the purpose of releasing soundtrack albums of their musical films. Later it became a pop label, lasting into the 1970s.

A sucessor company, MGM Music, was established in 2008 under MGM.

Soundtrack albums

Their first soundtrack was of Till the Clouds Roll By, based on the life of composer Jerome Kern. The album was originally issued as a set of four 10-inch 78-rpm records. As in many early MGM soundtrack albums, only eight selections from the film are included. In order to fit the songs onto the record sides the musical material needed editing and manipulation. This was before tape existed, so the record producer needed to copy segments from the playback discs used on set, the copy and re-copy them from one disc to another adding transitions and cross-fades until the final master was created. Needless to say it was several generations removed from the original and the sound quality suffered for it. Also, the playback recordings were purposely recorded very "dry" (without reverberation) otherwise it would come across too hollow sounding in large movie theatres. This made these albums sound flat and boxy.

MGM Records called these "original cast albums" in the style of Decca's Broadway show cast albums. They also coined the phrase "recorded directly from the soundtrack." Over the years the term "soundtrack" began to be commonly applied to any recording from a film, whether taken from the actual film soundtrack or re-recorded in studio. The phrase is also sometimes incorrectly used for Broadway cast recordings. While it is correct to call a "soundtrack" a "cast recording" (since it represents the film cast) it is never correct to call a "cast recording" a "soundtrack."

Among their most notable MGM soundtrack albums were those of the films Good News (the 1947 version), Easter Parade , Annie Get Your Gun, Singin' in the Rain, Show Boat, The Band Wagon, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and Gigi. When the film The Wizard of Oz was first shown on television in 1956, the label issued a soundtrack album of songs and dialogue excerpts recorded directly from the film.

MGM Records also issued albums of film scores, including Ben-Hur, King of Kings, and How the West Was Won. The Ben-Hur and King of Kings albums were studio recreations of the scores; the How the West Was Won album was the genuine soundtrack. The label also offered a modest catalogue of classical recordings; among the latter was E3711, an account of two sonatas by Franz Schubert, billed as the first in a complete cycle, recorded by pianist Beveridge Webster.

Beginning in the 1990's, authentic soundtrack albums of the musical scores to Ben-Hur and King of Kings have become available.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Records

There was also a short-lived Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Records of 1928, which produced recordings of music featured in MGM movies, not sold to the general public but made to be played in movie theater lobbies. These Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer records were manufactured under contract with the studio by Columbia Records.

As a pop label

In the early 1950s, MGM Records was considered one of the "major" record companies (besides Columbia, RCA, Decca, Capitolmarker, Mercury and Coral). Subsidiary Cub Records was launched in the late 1950s and Verve Records was acquired from Norman Granz in 1961. Other MGM subsidiaries and distributed labels included: Kama Sutra (from 1965 until Kama Sutra's sister label Buddah Records took over distribution in 1969), Ava, Heritage, Metro (for budget albums), Hickory, MGM South, L&R, and Lionel.

MGM also distributed Cameo-Parkway Records briefly in 1967. Four albums and two singles were released under this arrangement before Allen Klein bought the Cameo-Parkway catalog and renamed the label ABKCO.

Another label distributed by MGM was American International Records, the record label division of American International Pictures - whose film library is now owned by MGM.

MGM Records was sold to PolyGram in 1972. In 1975 PolyGram began to deemphasize the label; before long the MGM release schedule was reduced to a slow trickle of soundtrack albums and reissues, which stopped altogether in 1982. Artists under contract to MGM were moved to the Polydor Records roster by 1976.

The MGM Records catalogue is now split. The pop music catalogue is still managed by Polydor Records. The country music catalogue is managed by Mercury Nashville Records. The MGM soundtracks catalogue is managed by Rhino Records for Turner Classic Movies Music.

MGM Records artists


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