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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Playboy Records

Playboy Records was one of the most promising new record labels of the '70s. With the nudge-nudge, wink-wink, backing of Hugh Hefner's empire and finances, what could possibly go wrong?

Well first, everything.

What Playboy knew in what guys want in everything else didn't translate quite so well for it's record company. Playboy albums usually flopped on the charts, most never even appeared. The company did very little to promote it's artists, thinking the Playboy name would sell itself. It sold magazines and a softcore porn cable TV channel, but not records.

Another problem was much of Playboy's roster had only a few recognizable names and the rest were unknowns. Add to the little promotion of their albums and it was a recipe for disaster.

There was also the fact that some independent record stores (namely in the Bible belt) refused to stock Playboy Records - possibly out fear of being accused of smut peddling by clueless church ladies. In reality, Playboy Records had an artist catalog so clean and genteel, it made Mike Curb's uber-conservative management of MGM Records in the early '70s look downright sleazy by comparison and that was the biggest problem of all.

For example, Playboy Records' biggest selling artists were Mickey Gilley and Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds. There was no punk, heavy metal or hard funk on Playboy Records (Even MGM had Elf, Ronnie James Dio's pre-Rainbow band.)

This was the biggest hit on Playboy Records:

With a name like Playboy Records, people were naturally EXPECTING something a little more provocative than soft rock ballads and urban-cowboy country. Perhaps Playboy Records was making the BIG mistake in trying so hard to be a respected major independent label, they had completely forgotten the value of it's own name (a lesson that was not lost on Virgin Records, which - ironically - released albums that were far edgier than anything Playboy Records offered.)

But one #1 hit just doesn't keep a record company going and soon, even Hefner lost interest. The label was soon distributed by Epic Records and was quickly folded into Epic by 1978......

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