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Warner Music buys musicals label First Night Records

By | Published on Monday 15 July 2019

Warner Music

Warner Music has bought First Night Records, the London-based independent label that specialises in West End and Broadway musical theatre cast recordings, and which is particularly known for its long-term partnership with theatre mogul Cameron Mackintosh. You know, the musicals man. You know, the musicals man behind ‘Les Misérables’. You know, that Susan Boyle jukebox musical. I think. I possibly got that wrong.

Anyway, following the takeover, First Night will sit under Warner’s Arts Music division. The indie label’s co-founder John Craig will then consult for Arts Music on a multi-year basis to identify and record new musical theatre productions here in the UK.

Maybe the actual Susan Boyle jukebox musical. Which you’ve think I’ve just made up. But no, that exists. There was even talk of a movie version at one point. Musical theatre really is shit, isn’t it? No, sorry, musicals are great. As my Spotify stats will testify, I love musicals. Stop dissing musicals.

Anyway, the boss of Arts Music, that’ll be that there Kevin Gore, has said of the First Night deal: “I’ve known John Craig for more than two decades and I’ve long admired him personally, the business he’s built and the fantastic reputation he’s developed over his 35 years running First Night Records. He’s recorded some of musical theatre’s most iconic shows, we’ve already collaborated on four new cast recordings over the last eighteen months, and I look forward to our continued partnership for years to come. To also have the support of Sir Cameron Mackintosh means the world to me”.

Hang on, what’s all this about Cameron Mackintosh and his “support”? Has Gore had a Cameron Mackintosh teddy bear made up complete with special sound-chip so that a Cameron Mackintosh sound-a-like shouts out “I support you Kev!” whenever you squeeze its tummy?

No. Not at all. “John Craig was the only record producer to see the potential of the ‘Les Misérables’ score when it first opened at the Barbican Theatre in London 34 years ago”, said the real Cameron Mackintosh this morning. “Every other label turned the show down, partly because, at the time, there was no guarantee the show would even transfer to the West End. The record he made, at considerable risk, became an instant classic and established First Night Records as a major player in recording cast albums”.

Which is a nice story, but we were promised firm support for this here deal. “John has served the musical theatre brilliantly and tirelessly promoting new talents through his association with the Brit School and many other charities”. Still no support Mac. “It is great news for both our industry and me personally that he has now sold his company to Warner Music, and will continue to contribute artistically to the running of that company alongside Kevin Gore”. Aha! There it is! Support! “We are already working on three new projects together, details of which will be announced shortly”.

That was all rather hard work wasn’t it? But we made it through people. And as a prize, First Night are going to record and send over a full unedited performance of ‘I Dreamed A Dream – The Susan Boyle Musical’. No, not really. Your prize is a quote from the much lauded John Craig. Here it is. Enjoy it while it lasts, because there’ll be no encore.

“First Night Records is not just a record company, it represents almost all of my working life. I am pleased that the catalogue is going to WMG, who in the last few years have shown they want to be in the cast recording business. It will be nice to see some of our iconic recordings given a new lease of life through WMG’s aggressive marketing. Kevin Gore is a real record man, someone who has come up through the ranks and embraced the new media and all its benefits. I think it will be a wonderful partnership”.

With the deal now done and all those monologues delivered, we can all sleep soundly fully assured that we’ll be able to hear the people sing for at least one day more. That’s a ‘Les Mis’ reference. You got that right? I’m not saying that this whole venture is going to collapse after just one day. There’ll be many days more, I’m sure.