Various Motown Labels

Soulful Detroit Forum: Open Forum: Various Motown Labels
Top of pageBottom of page   By john c ( - on Monday, August 19, 2002 - 07:35 pm:

Motown had several labels ... Motown, Gordy, Tamla, Soul, VIP etc. Was there any logic as to which artists were released on which label? Were some labels reserved for artists of greater stature?

Top of pageBottom of page   By soulboy ( - on Monday, August 19, 2002 - 07:38 pm:


Good question!

Top of pageBottom of page   By John Lester ( - on Monday, August 19, 2002 - 11:30 pm:

Its quite easy really....

first there was tamla

marvelettes - tamla
the marvelettes made their name on tamla and had to stay, so the supes were the ones that had to go

supremes - motown
so the supes moved from tamla and went on the alternative label motown

vandellas were put on the newly set up gordy label

and the greatest stature went to the VIP's and so the VELVELETTES went on .........err, VIP


Seriously though... I asked Cal why the Velvelettes were switched from VIP to Soul. Cal said...oh, Mr Gordy told us they were switching us to Soul cos that label had Jr Walker and he was big. (How do you respond to that??) Prior to that, Soul was then the only label without a girl group

Top of pageBottom of page   By pgunn ( - on Tuesday, August 20, 2002 - 03:53 am:

You know,

Tamla had the artist/writers. The Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and as we found out later, the Isley Bros. Even the Marvelettes wrote some of their early stuff. Don't forget Eddie Kendricks, too.

Motown had the stars, the crossover acts. Mary Wells, the Supremes, the Four Tops, Diana Ross, David Ruffin, the Jackson Five, even Billy Eckstine and Barbara McNair.

Soul was the closest Motown got to deep soul music. Jr. Walker and the All Stars, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Shorty Long, the Originals, even Jimmy Ruffin.

Gordy had the dynamics, the driving sounds of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, the power of Edwin Starr, the frentic sounds of the Contours,
the new soul of the Undisputed Truth and of course, the temptin' Temptations.

VIP: Didn't they used to hide artists on VIP? :)

All of these views are, of course, simple and general.You still have to account for Elgins, Monitors, Velvelettes, Spinners as well as Chris Clark, Marv Johnson, Syreeta, etc...

Top of pageBottom of page   By acooolcat ( - on Tuesday, August 20, 2002 - 04:50 am:

I think Edwin Starr switched Motown labels a few times.

Top of pageBottom of page   By John Lester ( - on Tuesday, August 20, 2002 - 06:39 am:

Edwin gave new meaning to word "crossover"! LOL

Gordy, Soul and Motown....clearly somebody had problems deciding which category he fitted into

Top of pageBottom of page   By Andrew ( - on Wednesday, August 21, 2002 - 11:33 am:

Record companies had different labels for diversification. The old not putting all your eggs in one basket theory. The various Motown labels, for instance, were handled by different distributors. In one of Robert Prueter books' on Chicago soul music he tells of how the Motown labels were split between at least two different distributors that serviced the Chicago area.

Top of pageBottom of page   By soulboy ( - on Wednesday, August 21, 2002 - 12:12 pm:

In the US they had many more labels than those mentioned chisa,rare earth,melodyland,mowest,etc etc.
Only diehard record collectors and fans collectors knew of their existance in the UK.I think i am correct in saying ALL the UK output was put on the tamla-motown label (pre 1976),and then the blue Motown only label.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Ralph ( - on Wednesday, August 21, 2002 - 01:51 pm:

Thanks for that information. In the case of Motown, I have to wonder at the influence of Barney Ales regarding diverse labels. This forum has yet to go into much detail about this amazing man. Without him it's possible Motown would not have achieved success in the early days.

Top of pageBottom of page   By soulboy ( - on Wednesday, August 21, 2002 - 03:38 pm:

Ralph, i can't remember the name of book that i read, but it certainly credited barney ales as the very dynamic sales type person who would deal with the distributor, basicaly he was the type of guy that all sorts of businesses should have.
In that book remember someone making the comment
that motown really suffered after he left. Yes i agree with you on this forum we sometimes overlook these type of people in favour of those directly involved in the 'creative',but people like these deserve their own thread.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Bob Olhsson ( - on Wednesday, August 21, 2002 - 06:49 pm:

Motown was by far the most brilliantly managed independent label I'm aware of. More than one distributor was used in every market and great care was taken to ensure that each distributor and the stores they served were motivated to pay their bills by a steady stream of hits that they risked losing should they not pay.

Motown was carefully insulated from the kinds of credit crunches that forced many independent labels into bankruptcy. Berry Gordy understood the record business with an amazing level of sophistication. He knew how to maximize the amount of credit he had available while minimizing the amount he needed to provide to his customers. I assume his early experience running his own record store played a major role in this,

Top of pageBottom of page   By Andrew ( - on Wednesday, August 21, 2002 - 07:12 pm:


Do you have any idea how many different distributors a company had to contract with to have a record available across America?

And I'll bet that Esther Edwards had the accounts receivables staggered among the many distributors so that Motown was receiving payment for records sold every month from somebody. Unlike some companies, who eggs were all in one basket, and had to wait 90 days or six months for payment.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Bob Olhsson ( - on Wednesday, August 21, 2002 - 08:24 pm:

The record business pretty much runs on 90 day credit.

The problem before the CD came out was that most stores ran on a shoestring praying that Christmas sales would put them in the black for the year. They paid their bills in the order of which distributors' hits they currently needed. By spreading the labels out, Motown was less likely to get hurt when the "other" distributor happened to have a monster hit that month and the stores were slow in paying Motown's distributor. An ill-timed combination of slow payments and the need for a massive number of pressings to fill orders has been the most common reason for labels to go under.

Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your name or nickname into the "Username" box. Your e-mail address is optional.