Ken Bunt, President
The Walt Disney Company
Division of The Walt Disney Studios
Music, music publishing
Burbank, California, U.S.
Music albums, records, music videos
Disney Music Publishing
Disney Music Group (DMG) is the music production arm of Walt Disney Studios, a division of The Walt Disney Company. The division's subsidiaries consist of two owned record labels—Walt Disney Records, Hollywood Records—and Disney Music Publishing, the publishing entity that administers the company's music, as well as Buena Vista Concerts. The president of the group is Ken Bunt, who reports to Alan F. Horn, the chairman of The Walt Disney Studios. It is currently headquartered in the Frank G. Wells Building at The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank.
Music was key to the Disney Brother Studios' success. Either public domain or original music were used for their cartoons. With neither Walt Disney nor Roy O. Disney having any music industry experience, the studio had to rely on outside music publishers. In 1928, Walt Disney produced the third animated Mickey Mouse short, Steamboat Willie, which had a soundtrack while previous efforts were silent films. Thus soundtracks are added to the previously two produced Mickey Mouse short films. In 1929, Walt Disney and Carl Stalling wrote "Minnie's Yoo-Hoo", the first song from The Walt Disney Studios, for Mickey's Follies. On December 16, 1929, the Disney Film Recording Company, Limited was incorporated as a subsidiary of Walt Disney Productions.
Saul Bourne at Irving Berlin Music approached the studio after seeing Three Little Pigs with interest in the publishing rights for its theme song, "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?". With Disney partnering with Bourne and Berlin, this partnership led to the song being recorded twice by the Don Bestor Orchestra (released by Victor Records) and Bill Scotti Orchestra (released by Bluebird Records). The song was a hit and a Depression era anthem.
Walt Disney Productions then began licensing out its music with the record company either selecting its own or Disney's talent to record the music. Until 1936, no one had issued an actual song track recording on disc. RCA's HMV label released a selection of Disney short film music in England with the US release a year later. The Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs soundtrack album released by Victor was the first feature film soundtrack. Disney had sold its rights to the Snow White music to Bourne Co. Music as they needed more funds to complete the film.
In 1938, Fantasound—the first Surround sound system—was designed and tested by Walt Disney Productions for the release of Fantasia. In 1943, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated Walt Disney Productions for two Academy Award categories in recognition of Bambi; Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture and Music, Best Song for its song, "Love is a Song".
In addition to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney also sold the music publishing rights to Pinocchio and Dumbo to Bourne. To date, all attempts to reacquire the music rights to the three films have failed. After Bambi, the effects of World War II reduced the production of new feature length animation, with Disney either making feature length live films with some animation or themed short film into anthology films like Make Mine Music. The latter films contain the bulk of the more commercial music which was done by recording stars thus released by their record company.
In April 1947, the Walt Disney Music Company (WDMC) was incorporated, with Fred Raphael putting the company together in late 1949 to publish and license songs from Cinderella. Cinderella records appeared in stores along with other merchandise in 1949 before the 1950 release of the movie. The RCA multi-album release was number 1 on the Billboard magazine pop charts. Disney music was moving into the big business level. While WDMC did not produce the records, Raphael handled the selection, performance and recording.
James Alexander "Jimmy" Johnson, Jr., a fired Disney publicity staff member who wanted to stay at Disney, moved through a series of jobs there in the traffic department, and then accounting. After a stint in the military, he became assistant to the corporate secretary, then handled merchandising issues amongst other additional duties. With Roy Disney's split of the merchandising division from Walt Disney Productions, Johnson became head of the merchandising division's publication department in 1950 and took on managing business affairs for the Walt Disney Music Company. Raphael took the WDMC into creating original non-film music. Walt Disney Productions formed the Wonderland Music Company in 1951.
Disney's next push into music came from The Mickey Mouse Club as eight records for the show hit shelves the week it premiered on television. Walt Disney Music Company's partners, Golden Records and Am-Par Records, turned over production of the show's music after a year to Disney leading to the creation of the Disneyland Records label.
The Walt Disney Company traces the Disney Music Group back to the founding of Disneyland Records in 1956. In that year, the Walt Disney Music Company's Disneyland Records record company was founded on the strength of Fess Parker's 1954 hit recording of the "Ballad of Davy Crockett" using the Disneyland label which was licensed to Columbia Records. The Disneyland label issued its first album, A Child's Garden of Verses. Also, Disneyland Records issued a Parker's "Wringle Wrangle" single from the "Westward Ho the Wagons!" film within a year of starting operations; the single became a hit. This led the company to start recording music from outside the films. However, what ever was released by the company the industry categorized as children. Pricing was directed towards an adult audience, which was more than standard children fare. The only outside success was "Tutti's Trumpets". Thus in 1959, the Disneyland label became the children's label and Buena Vista the label for the occasional pop song record. The Lyric Street Records label was founded in July 1997 as a division of Hollywood Records. In August 1997 Mammoth Records was purchased for $25 million to act as an independent music label within Disney.
Buena Vista Music Group
The industry recognized founding of the group was in March 1998 with the reorganization in Disney that brought all Disney music labels into one unit, Buena Vista Music Group, in The Walt Disney Studios. The group consisted of Hollywood Records, Buena Vista Records, Lyric Street Records and Mammoth Records with Walt Disney Records and Disney Music Publishing transferred out of Disney Consumer Products.
In September 2005, BVMG signed with EMI for distribution of its album in United Kingdom, Europe, South Africa and the Middle East replacing Warner Music Group. In November 2006, Disney Music Publishing and Warner/Chappell Music Inc. agreed to a licensing agreement for Europe and South America major markets. In 2006, BVMG launched a concert production arm, Buena Vista Concerts starting with The Cheetah Girls: The Party’s Just Begun Tour and High School Musical: The Concert.
Disney Music Group
In April 2007, Disney decided to semi-retire the Buena Vista brand from the group's name. Lyric Street launched a subsidiary label, Carolwood Records, in October 2008 which was soon shuttered in November 2009. On April 14, 2010, Disney Music Group announced the closure of the Lyric Street label with some bands transferred to other branches of Disney Music Group and others dropped altogether.
Lucy Hale signed with Hollywood Records' Lyric Street sublabel in June 2012 indicated a return to country music changed to DMG Nashville with her single release "You Sound Good To Me" in the 2nd quarter of 2014.
In February 2016, Disney Music Group in collaboration with Philips Lighting launched LightVibes.
Divisions and labels
Originally, Disney Music Group did not have its own distribution network, either in its native market of the US or internationally. It had a licensing deal with Warner Music Group from 1995 to 2005. Furthermore, Sony Music Entertainment was also a distributor of Hollywood Records' releases in mainland Asia. After the agreement with Warner expired, Disney engaged in distribution negotiations with other third-party companies.
In 2005, Disney relied mainly on Universal Music Group and EMI Music, given the territory. UMG's Universal Music Distribution was responsible for distribution in the United States, Canada, India and other territories across North America, South America and Asia (excluding Japan, where avex music creative Inc. handled distribution since July 1, 2014). Meanwhile, EMI conducted distribution in the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and several other territories across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. In both agreements, Disney handled its own marketing and other similar functions.
In September 2012, Universal Music Group acquired EMI and initially pledged not to renew EMI's European distribution license with Disney. However, in March 2013, Disney Music Group renegotiated their agreement with Universal Music Group, in which distribution and marketing rights were expanded on a worldwide basis, as a method of incurring collaboration between Disney's record labels and artists with Universal's production department. This allows DMG access to Universal's large roster of award-winning music producers and songwriters. In return, UMG now will have access to Disney's extensive marketing entities (including ABC, Radio Disney, Disney Channel, ABC Radio etc.). Russian distribution, as of November 2013, was assumed by Warner Music.
Seoul Records, now LOEN Entertainment - South Korea's biggest music distributor - formerly handled the Disney music catalog in the 1990s. The catalog was later acquired by S.M. Entertainment. (Universal Music Korea currently handles the Disney music catalog in South Korea.)