Geffen Records is an American record label, owned by Universal Music Group, and operated as one third of UMG's Interscope-Geffen-A&M label group.
Geffen Records was founded in 1980 by music industry businessman David Geffen who, in the early 1970s, had founded Asylum Records. Geffen stepped down from Asylum in 1975, when he crossed over to film and was named a vice-president of Warner Brothers Pictures. He was fired from Warner circa 1978, but remained locked in a 5-year contract, preventing him from working elsewhere. He returned to work in 1980 and struck a deal with Warner Bros. Records to create Geffen Records. Warner provided 100 percent of the funding for the label's operations and distributed the label's releases in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom - CBS/Epic Records handled distribution in the rest of the world until 1985, when Warner Bros. also took over those territories. However, in the United Kingdom the label switched distribution from Warner Bros. to CBS in 1981. Profits were split 50/50 between Geffen and the respective distributors.
Geffen Records' first signee was disco superstar Donna Summer, whose gold-selling album The Wanderer became the label's first release in 1980. The label followed it up with Double Fantasy by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. It was Lennon's first new album since 1975. Two weeks after it entered the charts, Lennon was murdered in New York City. Subsequently, the album went on to sell millions and gave Geffen its first number-one album and single (the rights to the album are now owned by EMI).
As the 1980s progressed, Geffen would go on to have success with such acts as Quarterflash, Oxo, Asia, Wang Chung, Kylie Minogue and Sammy Hagar. In the meantime, the label continued to sign a handful of established music icons, including: Elton John, Irene Cara, Cher, Don Henley, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Peter Gabriel, Jennifer Holliday and Sonic Youth. Toward the end of the decade, the company also began making a name for itself as an emerging rock label, thanks to the success of Whitesnake (US only), Guns N' Roses, Tesla, and the mainstream comeback of '70s era rockers Aerosmith. This prompted Geffen to create a subsidiary label, named DGC Records in 1990, which focused on more progressive sounds (along with some heavy metal acts) and would later embrace the emergence of alternative rock, Nirvana being an example. Geffen also distributed the first incarnation of Def American Recordings through Warner Bros. from 1988 to 1990.
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