Stiff Records is a record label created in London in 1976 by entrepreneurs Dave Robinson and Andrew Jakeman (aka Jake Riviera), and active until 1985. It was reactivated in 2007.
Established at the outset of the punk rock boom, Stiff Records signed pub rock acts and marketed them as punk and New Wave, including Nick Lowe, Wreckless Eric, Elvis Costello and Ian Dury. The label's marketing and advertising was often provocative and witty. Stiff billed itself as "The World's Most Flexible Record Label". Other slogans were "We came. We saw. We left.", "If It Ain't Stiff, It Ain't Worth a Fuck", and "When You Kill Time, You Murder Success" (printed on promotional wall clocks). On the label of Stiff's sampler compilation Heroes & Cowards was printed: "In '78 everyone born in '45 will be 33-1/3". A very early Stiff sampler album, A Bunch of Stiff Records, introduced the slogan, "If they're dead, we'll sign them" and "Undertakers to the Industry".
Stiff also produced eccentric but highly effective promotional campaigns, such as the three package tours in 1977 (Live Stiffs), 1978 (Be Stiff) and 1980 (Son Of Stiff), Elvis Costello's "busking outside CBS Records" arrest and the at least 29 different wallpaper sleeves printed for Ian Dury's second album, Do It Yourself, with associated unscheduled makeovers of unsuspecting record shops.
Barney Bubbles was responsible for much of the graphic art associated with the early Stiff releases.
Robinson and Riviera were well-known London music business characters. Robinson had briefly worked for Jimi Hendrix in the late 1960s and also managed pub rock combo Brinsley Schwarz in the early 1970s, and Jakeman had been an early manager for another pub rock band, Dr. Feelgood, from Essex. The label was started with a loan of £400 from Lee Brilleaux of Dr. Feelgood.
Stiff found quick success. While its first (14 August, 1976) release (BUY 1) "So It Goes" c/w "Heart Of The City" by Nick Lowe didn't do so well, the follow up "Between The Lines" by perennially popular hippie outfit the Pink Fairies brought in enough funds to finance the release of what is generally accepted as the UK's first punk single, "New Rose" by The Damned in November 1976, which was a veritable hit. Early in 1977 the label picked up speed, signing Wreckless Eric, Ian Dury, and Elvis Costello. Bigger sales followed, and a distribution deal with Island Records and EMI was set up. Each release was given individual attention, with inventive artwork, picture sleeves and a range of snappy slogans, often coupled with inventive marketing campaigns that achieved the label a great deal of publicity, if not always huge profit margins.
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