Yesterday, August 23, Aerosmith announced that it will be bringing its entire recorded music catalogue to Universal Music Group ahead of the 50th anniversary of the band’s debut album next year. As UMG already controlled Aerosmith’s Geffen Records discography, the deal will unite those 1985-1993 recordings under one roof with the material from their two stints at Columbia Records (1972-1984 and 1997-2006, roughly).
Going forward, Universal will spearhead Aerosmith’s music and video releases, merchandise, and new audiovisual projects (such as documentaries and concert films) addressing the band’s history and cultural impact over the past 50 years. The agreement gives Universal access to their “Vindaloo Vaults” and the personal archives of founding members Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Tom Hamilton, and Joey Kramer, with the promise that the band members will help curate potential releases drawn from the previously unreleased archival material.
Lead guitarist Joe Perry remarked in the press release, “It’s been a long road but I’m extremely happy and proud to say on behalf of Aerosmith we have been able to bring our 50 years of music under one roof by partnering with UMG. This will allow us to bring our music to our fans in ways we never were able to before. It’s something we’ve dreamed about happening for a long time. It’s a win for Aerosmith, UMG, and ultimately our fans. Needless to say, we are very excited. It’s an incredible way to celebrate 50 years and the many more years to come.”
Sir Lucian Grainge, Chairman & CEO of UMG, added, “Aerosmith’s global success places them in rarefied air among the all-time greatest rock icons. On the band’s 50th anniversary, Aerosmith continues to influence the course of music not only through their iconic catalogue but also through film, television and video games, and their inimitable style. On a personal note, I couldn’t be prouder that they have chosen UMG as their global partner. We look forward to building upon their incredible legacy and ensuring their music continues to inspire fans around the world.”
After a phenomenal first decade at Columbia that saw the release of such timeless songs as “Dream On,” “Sweet Emotion,” and the original “Walk This Way,” Aerosmith first pacted with Geffen Records for 1985’s Done with Mirrors. The LP reunited the hard rockers after the absence of both Perry and Whitford on 1982’s Rock in a Hard Place (the latter did play rhythm guitar on the single “Lightning Strikes”). While Mirrors wasn’t the commercial triumph Geffen had anticipated, it set the stage for 1987’s Permanent Vacation. With that LP, Aerosmith was back. It yielded three hit singles – “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” “Angel,” and “Rag Doll” – and became the group’s highest-charting album in a decade, eventually going 5x Platinum in the U.S. and Canada, and Gold in the United Kingdom. In 1991, Columbia outbid Geffen, to whom Aerosmith still hadn’t fulfilled its first contract, to return the Boston band to the label on which they began. Read our Back Tracks overviews of Aerosmith’s Columbia Years and Geffen Years and Beyond.
With the new announcement, fans can look forward to new projects – hopefully in both the physical and digital realms – and a 50th anniversary celebration worthy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers’ legacy. What projects would you most like to see? We’ll start the ball rolling: back in a 2011 Reissue Theory column, Mike imagined Box of Fire II, a sequel to Columbia’s 14-CD box set from 1994 which presented remasters of Aerosmith’s first era plus bonus material. Sound off below on your hopes for Aerosmith 50!