The Beatles, Universal, and Calderstone

A different record label now manufactures and distributes Beatle product

Universal Music Group (UMG)
The Universal Music Group logo, now distributors of The Beatles official output. Universal Music Group (UMG)

For their entire recording career, and for all the many years since they disbanded, The Beatles official catalog has been exclusively manufactured and distributed by a former giant of the recording world, the British company EMI Music and its subsidiaries (like Capitol Records in the US, and Odeon in Europe).

That is, until late 2012.

In a nutshell, that year was when the once-great EMI entertainment empire was acquired by Universal Music Group (or UMG), while Sony Music/ATV purchased the company’s music publishing arm. UMG then proceeded to extensively restructure EMI, breaking up various parts of the company - including many of its recording labels and distribution deals around the world.

Some of the famous EMI labels went to the German BMG company, some went to Warner Music, while Universal Music itself retained others, including ownership of the Beatles catalogue - plus the 1970-1976 John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr solo recordings. Paul McCartney’s solo work wasn't included because he controls his own recorded legacy. His catalogue is owned by his company MPL Communications Ltd - and so it didn't become part of the Universal fold.

For those long used to seeing either an EMI or Capitol logo (alongside the Apple logos) on Beatle records and CDs it's been a big change to now see the Universal Music symbol appearing on their CD and LP artwork. And it’s been intriguing to read the small print on the back of each of the most recent releases. There is now a reference to an entirely new company called Calderstone Productions Limited.

You can see a references to Calderstone Productions on the 2013 Beatles’ sets Live at the BBC (which is a re-issue of the original 1994 release), and On Air – Live at the BBC Volume 2. At first it looked like Calderstone might have been a company specifically established to deal with copyright and publishing issues around the fact that these albums were compiled from recordings originally made by the BBC. However, Calderstone continued to be referenced in the small print on the bottom of the box containing The Beatles U.S. Albums (from 2014), and on the 2014 and the 2015 editions of The Beatles 1 and The Beatles 1+ compilations (the 2015 CD, DVD, BluRay and LPs are also different because they contain newly re-mastered and remixed versions of the songs).

A little bit more digging reveals that there are also a reference to Calderstone Productions Limited on iTunes for the digital download of Let It Be… Naked, making Let It Be…Naked the first official Beatles release since Universal got hold of EMI to bear the company’s name. The iTunes site says the digital remaster of the recording is copyrighted in 2013, and that …”copyright is owned by Apple Corps Limited/Calderstone Productions Limited (a division of Universal Music Group)”.

There are also references to Universal Music and Calderstone Productions on the 2015 John Lennon LP box set (and the separately released individual titles), and the 2014 George Harrison re-issue on CD of his solo work on the Apple label called The Apple Years 1968-1975.

Calderstone Productions Limited is registered in the UK and was previously known as Beatles Holdco Limited. This was changed to Calderstone on 29 November, 2012. Calderstone’s activities are listed as the “reproduction of sound recordings”, and it lists a share capital of just £1 English pound.

Calderstone’s Company Secretary is registered as a Mrs Abolanle Abioye (who is also Company Secretary to Universal Music Publishing), and the Directors are listed as Mr Adam Barker (45 years old and a company director on at least fifteen other companies), and Mr David Sharpe (a 46 year-old Irishman, also listed as a director of at least another 15 companies, also mostly music-related).

The address for the company is 364-366 Kensington High Street, London W14 8NS which not surprisingly is the same address as Universal Music UK. You can see the front of their building on Google maps.

Interestingly there are some very strong Liverpool links to the name Calderstone. There’s a park there called Calderstones Park. And Calderstones School is located just opposite the park on Harthill Road - in the Liverpool suburb of Allerton. The school was originally founded in 1922. Its name at that time was Quarry Bank High School, whose most famous student was one John Lennon. Coincidence?

Elements of this article were sourced from where you can also see some additional images.