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Musical theatre label First Night Records acquired by Warner Music Group

First Night Records released the Original London Cast Recording of Les Miserables, and has recorded all of Cameron Mackintosh's productions ever since. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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First Night Records, an independent label which specialises in West End and Broadway cast recordings, has been acquired by Warner Music Group.

As part of the deal – the value of which has not been disclosed – First Night will be overseen by WMG’s Arts Music division, led by its president Kevin Gore.

First Night was founded by John Craig and Tony Edwards in 1984, with their recording of Singin’ in the Rain. It has since recorded more than 150 productions. These comprise all of Cameron Mackintosh’s shows, including Mary Poppins, Miss Saigon, and the original and all subsequent cast albums of Les Misérables.

Craig will join the Arts Music team under a multi-year agreement “to identify and record musical theatre productions in the UK”.

He said: “First Night Records is not just a record company, it represents almost all of my working life. I am pleased that the catalogue is going to WMG, who in the last few years have shown they want to be in the cast recording business. 

“It will be nice to see some of our iconic recordings given a new lease of life through WMG’s aggressive marketing…I think it will be a wonderful partnership.”

Mackintosh, who cites Craig as “the only record producer to see the potential of the Les Misérables score when it first opened at the Barbican Theatre in London 34 years ago”, said of the acquisition: “It is great news for both our industry and me personally that he has now sold his company to Warner Music, and will continue to contribute artistically to the running of that company alongside Kevin Gore. We are already working on three new projects together, details of which will be announced shortly.”

Warner Music Group is owned by Leonard Blavatnik’s Access Industries. Last year, Blavatnik moved into theatre ownership with a £45 million purchase of the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

Leonard Blavatnik completes £45m purchase of Theatre Royal Haymarket

WMG created its Arts Music division in 2017 to focus on genres including classical, jazz and musical theatre, and launched the operation with a partnership of the US musical theatre label Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight Records.

Arts Music president Gore said: “I’ve known John Craig for more than two decades, and I’ve long admired him personally, the business he’s built and the fantastic reputation he’s developed over his 35 years running First Night Records.  

“He’s recorded some of musical theatre’s most iconic shows, we’ve already collaborated on four new cast recordings over the last 18 months, and I look forward to our continued partnership for years to come.” 

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