Jive Records

Jive Records was an American record label formed in 1981 and is owned by Sony Music Entertainment. Formerly headquartered in New York City, Jive was best known for its string of successes with hip hop artists in the 1980s and 1990s, and also in teen pop and boy bands during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Since 2011, the label has been in hibernation with its previous operations having been absorbed by RCA Records.


1970s: Beginnings

In 1971, South African musicians Clive Calder and Ralph Simon began a publishing and management company. It was named Zomba Records and relocated to London, England, four years later; their first client was a young Robert "Mutt" Lange. Zomba originally wanted to avoid record labels, choosing instead to focus on their songwriters and producers while allowing other established labels to release the material. Later that decade, the company opened offices in the US, where Calder began a business relationship with Clive Davis, whose Arista Records began releasing material by Zomba artists.

1980s: Formation and early distribution at Arista and RCA

In 1981, Zomba formed Jive Records, whose operations began with the release of British dance and pop music such as Q-Feel, A Flock of Seagulls, and Tight Fit. Its name was inspired by township Jive, a type of music that originated in South Africa. Davis had hoped that Zomba's connection with Mutt Lange would help alleviate the difficulties Arista was having finding potentially successful rock acts.
By 1982, Calder was introduced to Barry Weiss, a young college graduate who took Calder out to hip-hop clubs in New York City for his job interview with Zomba. He was immediately impressed: Together, they began grooming musicians for what would eventually become Whodini. After two days, the group created and recorded its hit single "Magic's Wand." While the group would eventually leave Jive, the early success allowed the label to focus on hip-hop artists throughout the 1980s. In 1987, Jive cut distribution ties with Arista, effectively separating them from Davis's authority, who eschewed Hip Hop. As the 1980s drew to a close, the label entered a distribution deal with Arista's sister label RCA Records, and it continued to sign Hip hop acts including DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Too $hort, Schoolly D and even Kid Rock.

1990s: Hip Hop and Teen Pop

In 1991, Jive's distribution deal with RCA expired. At this time, Bertelsmann Music Group acquired a minority share of the label and began to distribute its records directly. By the early 1990s, Jive had opened offices in Chicago as well and had also become a premiere label in the genres of Hip Hop and R&B with the success of D-Nice, E-40, A Tribe Called Quest, Hi-Five, KRS-One/Boogie Down Productions, R. Kelly and Aaliyah. By the late 1990s, Jive began signing pop acts Backstreet Boys, NSYNC and Britney Spears. All three achieved massive success as the 2000s dawned, becoming the three best-selling acts in the label's history.
Weiss became CEO and president of Jive Records in 1991. After two decades, he left Jive in March 2011 for Universal Music Group.

2000s: Acquisition by BMG and Sony

In 2003, BMG acquired the remainder of Jive's parent company Zomba for US$2.74 billion, which at the time was the largest-ever acquisition of an independent label with major-label distribution. The following year, BMG merged with Sony Music Entertainment to form Sony BMG. During this time, Jive's management and distribution were briefly configured under the newly formed Zomba Label Group. Zomba Label Group, along with Jive, would later be absorbed into the RCA Music Group. In 2008, Sony and BMG dissolved its merger, with the former buying out shares of the latter. As a result of Sony's buyout, Jive became a wholly owned unit of a refreshed Sony Music Entertainment. The label was later reorganized with some artists moving to a restructured Epic Records, while others remained with Jive at RCA Music Group.

2010s: Dormancy

On October 7, 2011, it was announced that Jive, along with Arista and J Records, would be retired to refresh and re-brand RCA Records by not confusing or diluting it with other labels. All retained artists on those labels were moved to RCA Records. The label is currently in hibernation, with the distribution of its back catalog handled by Sony Music's Legacy Recordings. Previously, the Jive brand is being exclusively used under the Sony Music France division under the name Jive Epic in France until 2019, when it was absorbed into RCA Records France.