Label imprint vs subsidiary

This is Argo (the first Argo, the UK one, founded 1951):

See the following article for a potted history:

My understanding is that it was originally an independent label, then purchased by its distributor Decca in 1957. It continued to operate as an independent label under the direction of its founder Harley Usill.

Currently, the label has the following relationships:
Parent label: Polygram (1980-1988); Decca (1990-1998)
Imprint of: Decca (1957-1980)

I don’t think this is correct. The Decca relationship was constant throughout, e.g., here’s a CD from 1986, Decca colours and “The Decca Record Company Ltd” prominently stated: Haydn - Barbara Bonney • Anne Howells • Anthony Rolfe Johnson • Stephen Roberts • London Symphony Chorus • City Of London Sinfonia • Richard Hickox – Nelson Mass / Nelson-Messe (1985, CD) - Discogs. Note this does not represent a change from the LPs of the 1960s and 70s, as those LPs also had the same language

The Polygram relation seems tenuous, apart from Polygram’s ownership of Decca. Any Decca releases at this time, by this definition, could be considered Polygram, but it’s not the primary label. (More here from around that time:

Here’s an example of the relaunched Argo, same language relating it to Decca: John Harle – Michael Nyman: Where The Bee Dances / Gavin Bryars: The Green Ray / Mike Westbrook: Bean Rows And Blues Shots (CD) - Discogs

The relationship doesn’t really stop in 1998. There are a number of examples of reissues. A good example is this massive 2016 100-disc box set: Shakespeare - Decca. Another example is this 2010 compilation: We Will Remember Them (2010, CD) - Discogs. There are other examples of reissues in Japan of Argo material post-1998 under Decca auspices (Garrick Sextet – Promises (2003, Paper Sleeve, CD) - Discogs;

At minimum it seems to me that Argo should be a subsidiary, not an imprint as it was operated as an independent label up to the end of the 1970s. It is then used for reissues thereafter, with select new releasaes, largely analogous to what happened to labels like Verve.

I’m not sure how to express the 1990-1998 relaunched Argo, or if we should, but it seems that an imprint would be much more appropriate here as Argo was no longer autonomous within Decca by this point. I haven’t seen other examples of labels’ relaunched operations e.g. Verve or Impulse expressed as relations.

The Polygram relation does not seem to be tenable, as I can’t find any examples of releases of Argo without the Decca link. Polygram may have directed some of these issues but the label is clearly Argo.

I was going to enter this as edits but the difference between an imprint and a subsidiary is not clear to me, so I’ve written what I would have written as an edit note her.


Here’s my understanding of the two…

A subsidiary is a company controlled by a holding company. So label A owns 100% or a majority share of label B.

An imprint is like a “brand” used by a company. So in MusicBrainz terms: Label A (record label company) can own one or many imprints (label B, C, D, etc. but those are not registered companies in the legal sense. just other names used by the parent company)

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Thanks - that broadly relates to my understanding.
I’d say the independent operation within Decca is key to its identity, so I’d set it as a subsidiary, not a mere imprint. To my mind, there is strong evidenc that they were significantly distinct under the direction of Mr Usill.

I’m thinking on this again. While to my mind it’s clear that the label was autonomous, to what extent do we have to prove it’s a separate company to set it as a subsidiary?

We have no access to companies data that far back, and all distribution was by Decca, so it’s indistinguishable from a simple brand, despite it being at arm’s length.

I was thinking that it’s analogous to Deram, and that’s correctly set as a subsidiary: