Vanity, thy name is Apple. Also A&M, Pangaea, Paisley Park. These are some of the labels started by superstar musicians who, for reasons too scary to contemplate, became what they usually deplore: record executives. Prince’s new contract allows him to start a second label, but he’s still far behind the most successful artist-execs. Here are some of the biggest names in vanity labels, along with some of their A&R hits and misses:
*HERB ALPERT/A&M RECORDS
Artists: 219 Releases: 1,500 Biggest Discovery: Peter Frampton, whose Frampton Comes Alive! was No. 1 for 10 weeks in 1976 Major Setback: Janet Jackson, who left the label in 1991 after selling 16 million albums
Artists: 6 Releases: 33 Biggest Discovery: Mary Hopkin, whose ”Those Were the Days” hit No. 2 in 1968 Premature Delivery: James Taylor, whose 1968 debut sank without a splash
*BOB DYLAN/STRIKIN’ IT RICH RECORDS
Artist: 1 Release: 1 Biggest-and Only-Discovery: Christmas Party With Eddie G., a 1990 compilation that went nowhere
*PRINCE/PAISLEY PARK RECORDS
Artists: 7 Releases: More than 50 Biggest Discovery: The Family, whose single ”The Screams of Passion” went to No. 63 in 1985 One That Got Away: Bonnie Raitt, who recorded part of an album produced by Prince, but then signed with Capitol Records and released the multiplatinum Nick of Time in 1989.
*ROLLING STONES/ROLLING STONES RECORDS
Artists: 2 Releases: 2 Biggest Discovery: Peter Tosh, whose 1978 single ”Don’t Look Back” struggled to No. 81, despite vocal help from Mick Jagger Coolest Vanity Logo: Cherry-red lips and giant tongue, modeled after you-know-who
Artists: 7 Releases: 12 Biggest Discovery: Vinx, whose Rooms in My Fatha’s House (1991) has sold 50,000 copies Most Pretentious Label Name: Pangaea is the hypothetical land mass that millions of years ago split into the continents we know today.