Since its formation in the 1940s, Atlantic Records has played a significant role in shaping the landscape of modern music. From the early days of rhythm and blues to today’s chart-topping hits, the label has been at the forefront of the music industry. Along the way, they’ve nurtured and promoted some of the most immense talents the world has ever seen.
In this article, we’ll delve into the history of Atlantic Records, exploring their impact on music and taking a closer look at the people responsible for steering the company through the years. We’ll also examine the significance of the Atlantic Records logo, discover some of the label’s notable artists, past and present, and speculate on the future of Atlantic Records.
The History of Atlantic Records
Atlantic Records was founded in 1947 by Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson, two visionaries who shared a passion for music, particularly rhythm and blues. The duo set out to create a record label to nurture and promote African American musicians struggling to find mainstream success at the time. With financial backing from Abramson’s dentist, Dr Vahdi Sabit, Atlantic Records was born.
The Early Years
In the early days, the company focused on recording jazz and R&B artists. The label had modest beginnings, with frequent cash-flow shortages and the need to vacate the initial Atlantic Records headquarters for a room in Manhattan’s Hotel Jefferson. Despite the difficult start, it wasn’t long before the label found success. The Clovers‘ 1951 hit ‘Don’t You Know I Love You’ saw Atlantic Records hit the top of the R&B charts, before Ruth Brown’s Teardrops from My Eyes’ became their first million-selling record shortly after. Then, in 1953, the label scored its first major hit with Brown’s ‘(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean’, a song that went on to become an R&B classic. This early success was followed by a string of hits throughout the 1950s, with Atlantic Records firmly establishing itself as a major player in the music industry.
The 1960s saw the label expand its roster to include a more diverse range of artists, branching into different genres such as soul and rock. Iconic soul singer Aretha Franklin signed with Atlantic Records in 1966, resulting in seven consecutive top-ten hits in the U.S. pop and soul charts.
In the late 1960s and 70s, Atlantic Records branched out even further and signed artists in the growing rock music scene, such as Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Foreigner, Genesis, and Yes. The label also helped define the early sound of heavy metal, championing bands such as Iron Butterfly and Vanilla Fudge, who were signed to the Atlantic subsidiary Atco Records.
From the current Atlantic Records headquarters on New York’s Broadway, the label has continued diversifying its roster, pushing the envelope of new sounds, and uncovering some of the world’s best breakthrough artists.
Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2023, Atlantic Records has navigated the choppy waters accompanying the 21st century’s boom in digital music to survive the industry’s new frontiers and find ways to thrive. Indeed in 2007, Atlantic Records were the first major label to see half of their total sales come from digital avenues.
Who Owns Atlantic Records?
Since its inception, Atlantic Records has undergone several changes in ownership. In 1967, Warner Bros.-Seven Arts purchased the label for $17.5 million, with the former owner of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun, continuing as CEO and playing a crucial role in the company’s operations and development. Then, in 1970, Kinney National Company, later renamed Warner Communications, acquired Warner Bros.-Seven Arts.
In 1990, Time Inc. and Warner Communications merged to form Time Warner, with Atlantic Records becoming a part of the newly formed company. In 2004, Time Warner sold its music division, Warner Music Group (WMG), to a consortium led by Edgar Bronfman Jr.
Following the sale, Atlantic Records was merged with sister company Elektra Records in a cost-cutting effort, forming the Atlantic Records Group. However, in 2018, the two companies were again split into separate entities. Today, the Atlantic Records Group remains an intrinsic part of WMG, one of the world’s largest and most influential music companies.
Atlantic Records Net Worth and Industry Influence
As one of the world’s most successful and influential record labels, Atlantic Records has a significant net worth and considerable industry influence. While the exact net worth of the company is not publicly available, it is estimated to be in the region of several billion dollars.
Furthermore, Atlantic Records’ influence on the music industry is undeniable. The company’s success has helped shape popular music and has profoundly impacted the careers of countless musicians and industry professionals. Additionally, Atlantic Records has played a vital role in developing and growing subgenres, such as R&B, soul, and hard rock.
The company’s ongoing commitment to discovering and nurturing new talent and its dedication to championing innovative and genre-defining artists has ensured that Atlantic Records remains a vital and influential force within the music industry.
The Role of the Atlantic Records CEO and Notable CEOs
The CEO of Atlantic Records is pivotal in guiding the company’s direction, overseeing its operations, and nurturing its roster of artists. The label’s first CEO was Atlantic Records owner Ahmet Ertegun, who held the position for decades. Under his leadership, the label grew from a small, independent company into a significant player in the global music industry. Ertegun’s passion for music and keen ear for talent helped shape the careers of countless legendary artists.
In 2005, co-president Craig Kallman was appointed co-chairman and CEO of Atlantic Records. During his time as CEO, the label has continued to thrive, signing and developing a diverse range of artists across various genres. Kallman has been instrumental in ensuring Atlantic Records remains at the forefront of the music industry, adapting to the ever-evolving landscape and embracing new technologies and trends.
Atlantic Records’ A&R Team and Their Role in Artist Development
A crucial aspect of Atlantic Records’ success is the work of its A&R (Artists and Repertoire) team. These dedicated individuals are responsible for scouting and signing new talent and working closely with established artists to help them develop and grow.
The Atlantic Records A&R team has a rich history of discovering and nurturing some of the most successful and influential artists in music. They are known for having an exceptional ear for talent and the ability to identify and sign artists with unique and innovative sounds. At Atlantic Records, new artists aren’t the sole focus of the A&R team however; they also play a crucial part in guiding the careers of artists signed to the label, helping them reach their full potential.
Some of the most successful artists in the Atlantic Records family, such as Aretha Franklin, Led Zeppelin, and Ray Charles, owe their success in part to the hard work and dedication of the A&R team. Their commitment to identifying and developing talent has helped Atlantic Records maintain its position as a leading force in the music industry.
The Significance of the Atlantic Records Logo
The Atlantic Records logo is an instantly recognisable symbol that has grown to represent the company’s rich history. The original logo featured a stylised and elongated ‘A’, with a horizontal line that underscores the rest of the word ‘Atlantic’. This logo has returned in various iterations over the years, often later encased in a circle.
An alternative, modernised logo, again highlighting the ‘A’ of ‘Atlantic’ but with a sleek turbine-like symbol alongside it, has also been used in the past and is the company’s currently used logo.
Over the years, the logo has undergone several iterations, with both subtle and wholesale design and colour palette changes. However, the core elements of the logo have remained consistent, ensuring that it persists as a recognisable and enduring symbol of the company’s storied history and ongoing commitment to nurturing and promoting the best in music.
Iconic Atlantic Records Artists and Their Impact
Throughout its history, Atlantic Records has been home to some of the most influential and iconic artists in music. These artists have achieved immense success and played a significant role in shaping the course of popular music and culture.
One of Atlantic Records’ most famous artists, Aretha Franklin (the ‘Queen of Soul’), was signed to the label in 1966. Under the guidance of producer Jerry Wexler, Franklin’s career blossomed, and she became one of the most successful and respected artists of all time. Her powerful voice and passionate performances have had a lasting impact on generations of musicians and fans alike.
Led Zeppelin, one of the most successful rock bands ever, signed with Atlantic Records in 1968. Their groundbreaking sound, a fusion of blues, rock, and folk, played a pivotal role in defining the identity of rock music and influenced countless bands that followed. The success of Led Zeppelin solidified Atlantic Records’ reputation as a label that championed innovative and genre-defining artists.
Regarded as one of America’s greatest popular music singers, Otis Redding was a defining artist in both soul and R&B. Known for his soulful and emotive voice that captivated audiences worldwide, Redding began his musical journey at a young age, with his career taking off after signing a deal with Atlantic Records representative Joe Galkin.
His collaboration with the label led to numerous hit songs such as ‘These Arms of Mine’, ‘Try a Little Tenderness’, and, perhaps most famously, ‘(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay’. Tragically, Otis Redding’s life was cut short when he died in a plane crash on December 10, 1967. Despite his untimely passing, his music continues to inspire generations of artists and remains an integral part of American musical history.
Ray Charles was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer who significantly contributed to the development of soul music. Often referred to as ‘The Genius’, Charles combined various musical genres such as blues, gospel, and jazz to create his own distinctive style. He rose to prominence with Atlantic Records in the 1950s, producing several hit songs showcasing his unique blend of rhythm and blues.
Despite being blind from a young age, Charles’ exceptional musical talent and charismatic stage presence left an indelible mark on the music industry, earning him numerous accolades and the admiration of fans worldwide.
ABBA is a Swedish pop group that gained international fame during the 1970s and early 1980s. The group, who took their name from a combination of the member’s initials, are known for their catchy tunes, innovative production, and memorable performances, making them one of the most successful bands in pop music history.
ABBA signed with Atlantic Records in the U.S. in 1974, helping to catapult them to global stardom with hit songs like ‘Waterloo’, ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Mamma Mia’, and ‘Take a Chance on Me’. Their distinctive sound, characterised by lush harmonies and infectious melodies, continues to be a massive influence on contemporary artists and resonates with fans from multiple generations.
The Bee Gees are an iconic music group formed by the three Gibb brothers, Barry, Robin, and Maurice, in the late 1950s. Hailing from the Isle of Man, this talented trio rose to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s, becoming one of the most successful pop acts of all time. The group’s harmonious vocals and exceptional songwriting abilities led to numerous chart-topping hits.
Under the guidance of Atlantic Records boss Ahmet Ertegun and producer Robert Stigwood, the group embraced a disco-inspired sound that resonated with audiences worldwide, solidifying their status as true industry legends.
Widely regarded as one of the most influential groups in the history of rock music, the Rolling Stones possess a unique sound and style that has contributed immensely to the genre’s evolution. Signing with Ahmet Ertegun in 1971, the Rolling Stones solidified their global status by releasing numerous chart-topping albums and singles, earning them the title ‘The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band’.
Their longevity, iconic performances, and enduring influence continue to captivate fans and inspire new generations of musicians. It’s impossible to overstate the impact of these artists and many others on the Atlantic Records roster. Each played a crucial role in shaping the sound and direction of popular music throughout the decades.
Who Is Signed to Atlantic Records?
Today, there is an impressive roster of talented and successful artists signed to Atlantic Records that span a wide variety of genres. Using the fantastic Atlantic Records press site, you can learn more about every act currently signed to the label and see a selection of their recent video releases, but here’s our guide to ten of the most notable and influential Atlantic Records artists:
Born Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar, Cardi B is a Grammy-winning rapper. Her music is known for its powerful beats, catchy hooks, and unapologetically honest lyrics that speak of her experiences and struggles as a woman of colour from humble beginnings. Her unique blend of hip-hop, Latin trap, and reggaeton has made her a formidable force in the male-dominated rap industry.
After initially gaining fame for her vibrant personality on social media and her appearances on the reality television series ‘Love & Hip Hop: New York’, Cardi B signed a record deal with Atlantic Records in 2017. Her debut single under Atlantic, ‘Bodak Yellow’, hit the top of the charts, becoming an instant hit.
The song earned her numerous accolades and made Cardi B the second female rapper to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart with a solo song. Following the track’s massive success, Cardi B released her 2018 debut album, Invasion of Privacy. The album was a commercial and critical success, earning her a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album – making her the first-ever female solo artist to win in that category.
Born Edward Christopher Sheeran and originally hailing from Halifax, West Yorkshire, Ed Sheeran is a singer-songwriter who has taken the world by storm with his captivating music and heartfelt lyrics. Sheeran began his musical journey at a young age, playing the guitar and writing songs while still in school. His passion for music grew stronger, and in 2008, he moved to London to pursue a career in the industry.
Sheeran’s hard work and determination paid off when he signed with Atlantic Records in 2011. This partnership with Atlantic launched his career and brought him worldwide fame. He released his debut album, ‘+’, later that year, featuring the hit singles ‘The A Team’ and ‘Lego House’. The album became a commercial success, earning him multiple awards and solidifying his status as a global sensation.
With his subsequent albums, including ‘x’ (2014) and ‘÷’ (2017), Sheeran has had a string of chart-topping hits, such as ‘Thinking Out Loud’, ‘Shape of You’, and ‘Perfect’, which have become anthems for millions of fans worldwide. In addition to his own music, Ed Sheeran has had a significant impact as a songwriter for other artists, such as One Direction, Justin Bieber, and Taylor Swift.
Bruno Mars is an acclaimed American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer. In a career spanning over a decade, Mars has established himself as one of the most successful and versatile artists in the pop music industry. During his youth in Hawaii, he was exposed to music through his family of musicians and performers before his passion for music led him to move to Los Angeles in 2003 to make a name for himself.
In 2009, Mars signed with Atlantic Records and quickly gained recognition for his songwriting abilities. He co-wrote and produced hits for artists including Flo Rida, B.o.B, and Travie McCoy, but it wasn’t long before Mars stepped into the spotlight with his own music. His debut album, ‘Doo-Wops & Hooligans’, featured chart-topping singles like ‘Just the Way You Are’ and ‘Grenade’, earning him commercial success and critical acclaim.
Mars continued to dominate the charts with subsequent releases, including ‘Unorthodox Jukebox’ (2012) and ’24K Magic’ (2016). Throughout his career, Mars has been recognised for his dynamic performances incorporating various musical genres, such as pop, R&B, funk, soul, and rock. His unique sound has earned him numerous accolades, including multiple Grammys and Brit Awards.
Kelly Clarkson is a renowned American singer, songwriter, and television personality. Her journey to stardom began when she auditioned for, and subsequently, won the inaugural season of the reality television competition, ‘American Idol’ in 2002. Following her victory, Clarkson signed a record deal with RCA Records and released her debut single, ‘A Moment Like This’, which became a chart-topping hit and set the stage for her successful career in the music industry.
In 2016, Clarkson made a significant career move by signing with Atlantic Records. This decision allowed her to explore new musical styles and collaborate with different producers. Her first album under Atlantic Records, 2017’s ‘Meaning of Life’, showcased her powerful vocals and a more soulful sound than her previous records.
To date, Clarkson has released nine studio albums and numerous hit singles. Her most popular songs include ‘Since U Been Gone’, ‘My Life Would Suck Without You’, ‘Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)’, and ‘Breakaway’. She has also won numerous awards and accolades, including multiple Grammys, American Music Awards, and Academy of Country Music Awards.
Charli XCX began her musical journey at a young age, posting her songs on Myspace. Her unique sound and style quickly garnered attention, leading her to sign with Atlantic Records in 2010.
Charli’s career took off with the release of her 2013 debut, ‘True Romance’. The album featured a unique blend of electro-pop, witch house, and emotive lyrics that showcased her distinct musical vision. However, her collaborations with Iggy Azalea on the hit single ‘Fancy’ and on Icona Pop’s ‘I Love It’ propelled her into the spotlight. These songs perfectly showcased Charli’s ability to craft catchy hooks and solidified her status as a sought-after songwriter and performer.
Despite having the world at her feet after the release of her sophomore effort, 2014’s ‘Sucker’, Charli rejected the chance to truly break into the mainstream to stay true to her musical goals. With her critically acclaimed mixtapes, ‘Number 1 Angel’ and ‘Pop 2’, she demonstrated her prowess in curating innovative sounds while pushing the boundaries of hyperpop music.
Recent releases, including 2020’s ‘How I’m Feeling Now’, and her latest effort, ‘Crash’, have seen Charli XCX solidify her status as one of pop’s most innovative voices.
Halestorm is a breakout rock band hailing from Red Lion, Pennsylvania. The band formed in 1997 around the nucleus of siblings Lzzy Hale, charismatic lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, and drummer Arejay Hale. They quickly started to receive attention for their powerful live performances, leading to their signing with Atlantic Records in 2005. Since then, Halestorm has carved out a unique niche in rock music.
Over the years, Halestorm has released several critically acclaimed studio albums, including 2012’s Grammy-winning ‘The Strange Case Of…’. Lzzy Hale’s powerful vocals, anthemic choruses, and hard-hitting guitar riffs characterise their distinct sound.
Halestorm has had the opportunity to share the stage with some of rock’s most prominent names. They’ve also headlined numerous tours across North America and Europe, earning a reputation as a must-see live act.
Burna Boy is a Nigerian singer, songwriter, and record producer who has quickly become a global phenomenon. With his distinctive blend of Afrobeat, reggae, dancehall, and hip-hop, profound lyrics, and an arresting stage presence, he is a force to reckon with in the music world.
Burna Boy started his music career in 2011, but his breakthrough came the following year with the release of the critically acclaimed single ‘Like to Party’. His debut studio album, 2013’s ‘L.I.F.E (Leaving an Impact for Eternity)’, saw Burna Boy receive several awards and nominations, further cementing his status as one of Nigeria’s most promising talents.
Later releases have seen Burna Boy’s international status grow even further. 2019’s ‘African Giant’ earned the singer a Grammy nomination for Best Global Music Album. However, the following year he went one step further and won the award with his follow-up effort, ‘Twice as Tall’.
Burna Boy’s unique fusion of African musical styles and contemporary sounds has made him a trailblazer in global music. His collaborations with artists like Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, and Sia have further expanded his reach and influence as he continues to push boundaries and redefine the landscape of African music.
Coldplay is an iconic British rock band that formed in London in 1996. Centred around famous frontman Chris Martin, the band’s music has evolved to encompass various styles such as alternative rock, pop-rock, electronic, and post-Britpop. Their emotive lyrics and compelling live performances have captivated millions of fans worldwide.
The band signed with Atlantic Records in 1999 before releasing their debut album, ‘Parachutes’, in 2000. The album’s success, accelerated by mega-hit ‘Yellow’, marked the beginning of Coldplay’s rise to fame. They have since released multiple chart-topping albums, including ‘A Rush of Blood to the Head’ (2002), ‘X&Y’ (2005), ‘Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends’ (2008), and their latest work ‘Music of the Spheres’ (2021).
Throughout their career, Coldplay has received numerous awards and accolades for their outstanding contributions to music. They’ve sold over 100 million records worldwide and have several albums among the U.K.’s 50 best-selling albums of all time. Furthermore, Coldplay was the first band to surpass one billion streams on Spotify. These stats have led many to regard Coldplay as the most successful band of the 21st century.
Formed in 2004 in Franklin, Tennessee, Paramore is an internationally famous rock band led by frontwoman Hayley Williams. Throughout the band’s somewhat turbulent history of lineup changes. Williams has been the constant driving force behind their unique sound and passionate performances.
Paramore’s music has evolved significantly over time, encompassing a range of styles from emo and pop-punk to alternative rock. On occasion, the band has even experimented with new wave and elements of electronic and synth-driven music. Paramore has released six studio albums to date, beginning with 2005’s ‘All We Know Is Falling’.
The album was released through Fueled by Ramen, a label also owned by WMG. Their subsequent albums, including ‘Riot!’ (2007), and 2013’s self-titled effort propelled them to international fame. Along the way, they’ve also earned a loyal fanbase and critical acclaim.
The band’s latest album, 2023’s ‘This Is Why’, was their first release solely under the Atlantic Records Group umbrella. The record has also seen the band further transform and develop their sound, to considerable plaudits.
Sonny John Moore, better known as Skrillex, is an American electronic dance music (EDM) producer and D.J. In a career spanning over a decade, electro aficionados have celebrated his pioneering contributions to dubstep and electro-house music. Skrillex first gained prominence in 2004 as the lead vocalist of post-hardcore band From First to Last. However, in 2007, he pursued a solo career and adopted the moniker Skrillex.
In 2010, Skrillex released ‘My Name Is Skrillex’, gaining significant attention and acclaim from fans and critics alike. He subsequently signed a deal with Atlantic Records and has since released several successful EPs. Several efforts, including ‘Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites’ and ‘Bangarang’, have earned him numerous awards and nominations.
Skrillex’s unique sound incorporates heavy basslines, aggressive synths, intricate rhythms, and signature high-energy drops. His innovative approach to music production has profoundly impacted the evolution of EDM, inspiring countless producers and DJs worldwide. Besides his solo work, Skrillex has also collaborated with a host of renowned artists. Over the years, he has worked with Diplo (forming the duo Jack Ü), Boys Noize, Fred Again, and Justin Bieber.
The Future of Atlantic Records
The impact of Atlantic Records on the music industry is undeniable. From its humble beginnings as a small, independent label to its current status as a global powerhouse, Atlantic Records has remained at the forefront of the music world for decades, nurturing and promoting some of history’s most iconic and influential artists.
With a diverse roster of artists on Atlantic Records, alongside a dedicated and talented A&R team and a storied history of success, the label is poised to continue shaping the sound and direction of popular music. And thanks to initiatives like the Atlantic Records internship programme, it’s well-positioned to continue its tradition of discovering and nurturing the best in music and the best and brightest staff to manage the label.
Its commitment to innovation and the development of new talent ensures that Atlantic Records will remain a leading force in the music industry, playing a vital role in shaping the sound and direction of popular music for future generations.