This Week in Billboard History: Frank Sinatra's 'Mysterious' Record Label; Live Aid's Bootlegging Scourge
This Week in Billboard History: Frank Sinatra's 'Mysterious' Record Label; Live Aid's Bootlegging Scourge

Frank Sinatra at a recording studio with coffee and cigarette. (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty)

1960: Let's Call the Whole Thing...hmmm?
Billboard revealed that the debut of a new label founded by Frank Sinatra was just two months away, though there was no name for the new imprint as of yet, and the identities of the executives who would be running the new company couldn't be announced because they were still employed at other labels. "Artists currently are at work designing several labels using those names which are being considered," the article stated. "Final decision will be made after the labels have been completed with the choice going to the one which carries the greatest sales impact." The initial two releases on the unnamed label to be launched in mid-February 1961 would be by Sinatra himself, coming off of a long exclusive pact with Capitol, and fellow rat-packer Sammy Davis, Jr. Another fact about the upcoming imprint revealed in the story: the label would go through independent distributors. As students of the music industry know, the label was eventually christened Reprise, headed up by Mo Ostin, and was distributed by Warner Bros., which bought the label outright in 1963. Other artists joining Reprise included Frank's daughter, Nancy Sinatra, and another rat pack member, Dean Martin. Later, the roster expanded to include the Kinks, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young and Fleetwood Mac. Reprise effectively went dormant in 1976, with only Sinatra and Young continuing on the label while other acts were released under the Warner Bros. logo. Reprise was reactivated in 1987 and the list of active artists came to include Green Day, Barenaked Ladies, Enya, My Chemical Romance and the artist with the No. 1 album on this week's The Billboard 200, Michael Bublé (signed to 143/Reprise). Billboard, Dec. 5, 1960 [page 2]

About To Be Bootlegged: George Michael, Bono, Paul McCartney, Freddie Mercury and Bob Geldof take part in the Live Aid concert at London's Wembley Stadiumon July 13. 1985. (Photo: Georges DeKeerle/Getty)

1985: Do They Know It's Illegal?
The IFPI announced it would hold a press conference in London to discuss problems created by bootlegging of the "Live Aid" concerts and the organization's efforts to counter the piracy. The IFPI estimated that over one million illicit copies of the "Live Aid" concerts had been sold, many in eight-volume sets on cassette, resulting in profits for the pirates but no contributions to the charity established by Bob Geldof to ease the famine in Ethiopia, while the U.K.'s Mechanical Copyright Protection Society took action against clubs, stores and restaurants that were screening videos of the BBC telecast taped on home video recorders.

The bi-coastal event, which took place at Wembley Stadium in London and JFK Stadium in Philadelphia on July 13, 1985, was never meant to be released in any recorded medium, so if you didn't see MTV's wall-to-wall coverage or ABC-TV's three-hour special that evening, you didn't see "Live Aid" - or at least, you weren't supposed to be able to view the landmark event. It would be almost 20 years before consumers could purchase an official DVD release of "Live Aid." The four-disc set, with profits going to famine relief, was issued in November 2004. It included 10 hours of performances from the 16 hours of footage. Billboard, December 7, 1985 [page 13]

1970: They Said He'd Go Down in History (And He Did)

Tied in to the seventh annual broadcast of the animated "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer" special on NBC, Billboard reported that the famed holiday song, written by Johnny Marks, had sold 91 million copies worldwide, with 60 million of those sold in the U.S. Sheet music sales had reached five million and there were 400 versions of the song (first recorded in 1949 by Harry Brannon, though popularized by Gene Autry, who took it to No. 1 on Billboard's Best Sellers in Stores chart on Jan. 7, 1950). Of course, "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer" was only a 21-year-old tune in 1970. Now, at the ripe old age of 62, "Rudolph" has sold more than 150 million copies worldwide and the sheet music has sold in excess of eight million copies. The Gene Autry single has sold 12 million copies. The copyright continues to produce revenue in other ways, too, according to the head of music publisher St. Nicholas Music, Michael Marks, son of the composer. "Mechanical uses of the song continue to thrive, [especially in] plush toys and ornaments," he told Billboard, Dec. 5, 1970 [page 3]