With the passing of record producer George Martin, a myriad of memories and accolades have appeared from all sectors of the music business.
Of course, Sir George will always be remembered as a major creative force with The Beatles, changing the way we listen to, and make, music forever; and also for his work with other superstar acts like America,
Jeff Beck, Little River Band, Kate Bush, and many more.
Here’s where the George Martin story takes a twist that most casual music fans would never think about. Martin also changed the finance structure of making a record.
Martin’s production career began in 1950 with EMI Records when he joined as an assistant to Oscar Preuss, the then head of EMI’s Parlophone Records.
With Preuss’ retirement in 1955, Martin took charge of the label that specialized in only classical and Baroque music, original cast recordings, and regional British music. In fact the label was in many ways a somewhat insignificant subsidiary of EMI.
With Martin’s vision, he turned Parlophone from an after thought into a bona fide moneymaker. He concentrated on comedy and novelty records, and signed the likes of Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Dudley Moore, and Peter Cook. Then Martin struck gold, he signed The Beatles and the rest is history.
The Beatles, with Martin’s guidance, went on to sell hundreds of millions of records. As for EMI, the label began to enjoy record-setting profits within a very short period.
Martin, at the time, was still only a salaried employee and was excluded from enjoying the huge profits he had such a big part in developing; this was quite commonplace for record producers during this time.
Upon being passed over for a small bonus in 1969 (even though The Beatles had made EMI another year of historic profits), Sir George decided enough was enough and used his leverage to secure a piece of the action by leaving his EMI staff position and setting up as an independent producer.
Martin’s move was the catalyst for many other successful producers to follow in his footsteps. Finally, producers could start to negotiate production deals that would ensure they could also enjoy the profits from the albums and artists they helped on the road to success.