Motown subsidiary label questions FORUM: Archive - After July 12, 2003: Motown subsidiary label questions
Top of pageBottom of page   By Thommygirl_70 ( on Tuesday, August 12, 2003 - 08:37 pm:

Hi everyone, I looked at the search engine for the forum and I have noticed that there have been topics about the Motown subsidiary labels but I have a few questions that I didn't find whilst searching. I've always been intrigued by the many different subsidiary labels that Berry Gordy had through Motown(ie Tamla,Gordy,Soul,etc,etc). I was wondering why that was? I guess, it can be more of a general question because I believe that a lot of record labels have done this before as well. I know that there are times when there are different genres of music on a label and there could possibly be a need to create subsidiary ones because of that (ie I think BG had a country music label etc.). But are there other reasons as well?
And also why did some Motown artists switch from different Motown subsidiary labels at times? Was there a monetary gain in this for Motown?

P.S. If this topic has been discussed before can someone please point me in the direction in which I can find out? Thanks a lot:)

Top of pageBottom of page   By Eli ( on Tuesday, August 12, 2003 - 10:48 pm:

Generally speaking, when a label had a sub company it usualy had to do with the amount of product issued on a particular imprint relative to its promotion at radio level.
Radio stations could only play so many releases on any given label , so the companies developed sub labels to lessen the load, so to speak.

I am not so sure if this philosophy applied to Motown though because of their batting average at the time.

Top of pageBottom of page   By TonyRussi ( on Wednesday, August 13, 2003 - 11:50 am:

Hey Eli, I think you are right about that from the radio promo perspective as it seems I did read somewhere from a Motown Exec. that was the prevailing reason.I do know that Mary Wells was originally "miffed" that her record was not being released on Tamla...instead on a new imprint named Motown.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Thommygirl_70 ( on Wednesday, August 13, 2003 - 12:53 pm:

Thank you very much for your answers. This does give me a better understanding as to why subsidary labels are created. I did not know this information.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Reese ( on Wednesday, August 13, 2003 - 12:56 pm:

I read (as others have said) that the use of the various Motown subsididaries came about because it looked better on a DJ's playlist if he had one Motown 45, two Tamlas, one Gordy, etc. instead of nine Motowns.

My question is: after a certain point, wouldn't most programmers know that Tamla, Gordy, and Soul were Motown subsidiaries? So in effect they were still playing multiple Motown records?

Top of pageBottom of page   By stephanie ( on Wednesday, August 13, 2003 - 01:02 pm:

I thought they did it for tax reasons to be different companies. Goes to show you what I know,

Top of pageBottom of page   By Bob Olhsson ( on Wednesday, August 13, 2003 - 03:04 pm:

I think the main reason was so we could use different distributors in the same markets.

At that time almost the entire retail record industry ran at a loss most of the year so stores would always pay the distributors in whatever order they NEEDED additional records. This meant the majors got paid first and whatever indi distributor had the biggest current hit got paid after that. The distributor having the least number of charting records in a month was lucky to get paid at all, much less in a timely fashion!

Spreading the risk of late payments from distributors was a brilliant way that Motown improved the company's cash flow.

Top of pageBottom of page   By BankHouseDave ( on Wednesday, August 13, 2003 - 05:36 pm:

If Weldon's out there somewhere, he's the man to give the difinitive answer on this.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Greg C. ( on Wednesday, August 13, 2003 - 09:16 pm:

Eli gave the right answer. Motown had various subsidiary labels to assure them a better chance of their product getting more airplay. And it worked.

They also had had different labels to market various types of music. Workshop Jazz and Chisa were jazz oriented. The Soul label spotlighted acts who had a harder R&B soul sound(i.e. Jr. Walker & The All-Stars, Gladys Knoght & The Pips, Shorty Long, The Originals, etc.) Melodyland and Hitsville were country labels. Morrocco and Rare Earth featured rock and white pop acts. Mowest was a California influenced extention of Motown. Black Forum was a spoken word label.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Thommygirl_70 ( on Wednesday, August 13, 2003 - 09:58 pm:

Thank you all for those answers, very much appreciated:) And Greg C, thanks for the insight into the reason why Motown artists were on different subsidiaries with the soul label, melodyland,mowest, etc. Does anyone know the difference between any of the other subsidaries like Tamla and Gordy and the Motown label itself? Why were particular acts put on say the Tamla label as opposed to the Gordy one or the Motown one? Thank you!

Top of pageBottom of page   By Eli ( on Thursday, August 14, 2003 - 12:34 am:

It seemed to me that the VIP label was used for their "secondary" acts, more or less, several of whom had major hits such as the Velvelettes, the spinners and the Elgins.
They also had a short lived imprint called Natural Rsources, kind of like an experimental, folksy kinda.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Thommygirl_70 ( on Thursday, August 14, 2003 - 12:51 am:

Ok, I had to come back online and say this. Last week I bought the book Calling Out Around The World:A Motown Reader. I have not started reading it yet cuz I have been on other stuff. A little while ago this evening, I started flipping through it and noticed that there looks to be a chapter about this very subject toward the end of the book. I didin't realize it was there. If i remember I think it was Chapter 30. I am gonna read this soon.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Keith Rylatt ( on Thursday, August 14, 2003 - 03:38 am:

Tommygirl, You won't go far wrong with that chapter, Martin Koppel, who assisted chapter author Nick Brown, knows his stuff. There are dozens of books out about Motown, in my opinion Don Waller's `The Motown Story` takes some beating. Incidentally, the Soul label name was originally owned by Carmen Murphy (HOB, Star Maker etc..) and Berry Gordy bought it from her, I always thought that it was an inspired name, well before its time, pretty cool Carmen! Also Thelma Records was very nearly Gordy Records, apparently Thelma Gordy, (nee Coleman) was on the brink of calling her new label Gordy, when Berry got wind and quickly registered it. Keith

Top of pageBottom of page   By Thommygirl_70 ( on Thursday, August 14, 2003 - 01:15 pm:

Thanks a lot for that keith! I can't wait to start reading it. Last week I bought a few books from the bookstore. I just finished up Frankie Gaye's book on his brother Marvin, which I thought was very interesting. I will start on this one soon, it looks like a really good, informative read:)

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