Merging two labels, seeking feedback

Hi folks,

So, on Musicbrainz we have the “Leader” and “Trailer” labels: Leader Records - MusicBrainz Trailer Records - MusicBrainz

OK, so a bit of history. These were started by Bill Leader who recorded many UK folk, for Topic records in the 50s and then labels like Transatlantic.

“Leader” was for traditional performers, field recordings etc. There are recordings of Eddie Butcher and the Copper Family (an astonishing, comprehensive 4-LP box set to go with a book written by Bob Copper) etc. “Trailer” was for non-traditional performers i.e. “folk revival” performers, people like Dick Gaughan and Rosie Hardman and the Watersons.

Basic info to be found as follows. It is a potted history but not too authoritative: Leader Records (UK) - Wikipedia

I believe that there is a strong argument to merge these.

Firstly, they share catalogue numbers. LEA 4001 was on Leader but LER 2007 was on Trailer. There were no conflicts between these; they are using the same scheme and there is no LEA 2007 on Leader and no LER 2001 Trailer. (The first digit was a price code.)

Secondly, there was no company behind them which was different. Earlier issues have “Leader Sound Ltd.”, later issues have marketed/distributed by Transatlantic. (Even later issues have a Highway sticker or labels of items they distributed/reissued after they bought the label.) There is a strong argument that Leader/Trailer was part of the catalogue number. On the sleeve spines, it is always “Trailer LER 2007” or “Leader LEA 404B” on the spine and rear of the sleeves, never LER 2007 etc separately. At some point, there is a stylised Leader or Trailer logo which appears at the bottom of the sleeve rear. Here is an example: The Copper Family – A Song For Every Season (Orange Labels , Vinyl) - Discogs for Leader and here is an example Dick Gaughan – Kist O' Gold (1977, Vinyl) - Discogs for Trailer. Notice how similar the logos are to each other. Furthermore, on the sleeves, the catalogue number is always prefixed with “Leader” or “Trailer” even after this stylised logo was introduced.

The most authoritative discographies as it stand group the two together. Here is the MainlyNorfolk site: Illustrated Leader/Trailer Records Discography. Here is the Mustrad discography: Traditional Records Discography - file 3. I think this corroborates the catalogue number situation.

It has been argued elsewhere that certain titles could plausibly have appeared on the other label. E.g. The Rakes were a revival group. Jack Birtley was also part of the revival and he sang his own material like “In the Bar-room”: The Rakes - The Rakes | Releases | Discogs. (Regrettably I cannot find a record of that discussion because I recall it was on usenet.)

There isn’t a relationship that really captures the link between these two labels. I believe that it is a much stronger link than the two labels being “sibling” or “sister” labels, and anyway we don’t have a relationship expressing such a link.

Lastly, the CD reissues of Trailer titles all ended up on the “Leader” label: Leader Records - MusicBrainz. This may be a bit contentious though, as these were issued long after the label was bought by the Celtic Music operation. (Note that the Sid Kipper CDs have no relation to the historical catalogue.) However, it is further evidence that they were the exact same operation, and in this sense, there is no evidence that they were ever spun out separately or have been since.

I believe that on account of sharing catalogue numbers, and the fact that there is no separate operation behind them, is a good argument to group them together as a single label, as there is no evidence whatsoever that they ever existed as a separate operation.

I was wondering what some opinions on this would be. It might be difficult to join them together, and they would probably have to merged into one or the other, likely Leader based on the final point, and the fact that it was in operation first, with the oldest titles - LEA 4001 Jack Elliott of Birtley appeared on Leader. We would then have to prefix each catalogue number “Leader” or “Trailer” as per the records proper. Most of them are without this prefix, but we ought to do it consistently, whether they get merged or not.

I would also comment that I can find no evidence of “Leader Records” or “Trailer Records” and I entered edits to fix this so that the labels are just “Leader” and “Trailer”. This was what prompted me thinking about this. These edits are as follows: Edit #88360061 - MusicBrainz

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I don’t see why those should get merged. The release label is quite literally about the label that gets put on the releases. And looking at the releases they feature prominently either Leader or Trailer as the label.

That a single company has more than one label under which it releases music is not uncommon.


I would also not merge these. It seems like a common case were a parent label has to two separate imprints (“Leader” and “Trailer”). Based on the info you posted it seems like the owner/creator of these imprints were “Leader Sound Ltd.” but they were then sold to “Celtic Music” (only old recordings/masters) and “Transatlantic Records”, when the company shut down in the 70’s.

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