WINDHAM HILL RECORDS

HISTORY

Windham Hill Records was founded by William Ackerman in 1976. The label was a division of Windham Hill Productions that offered full-service management, booking and public relations. Its word mark was first used commercially in 1976. It was filed with the U.S. Patent Office on June 24, 1982 and registered on May 17, 1983. The original Windham Hill logo (line art) was also put into commercial use in 1976. Its trademark filing date was October 12, 1984 and it was registered on April 2, 1985. After Windham Hill was sold to BMG, the line art logo was updated into solid color fills and remains in use.

Windham Hill Records and A&M Records reached a distribution agreement in 1982. Windham Hill would remain with A&M until A&M was bought by PolyGram in 1989. "I went with A&M," comment[ed] Ackerman, "because it was the only label that showed any intelligence. They didn't want to usurp us, but to facilitate us. I kept telling them what they couldn't do--till finally Jerry Moss yelled at me, "Look, Will, we really don't understand this! We just want you to shut up and go do it!" Ackerman told Cashbox, "A&M has given me the option to create as many labels as I want, release as many or as few records as I want."

Descriptions of the music in the Windham Hill catalog were debated. Its earliest recordings were solo guitar and then other acoustic instruments and the label was quickly slotted as a "folk music." Even Billboard had a difficult time categorizing Windham Hill Music. In 1983, they called it "soft jazz" and in 1986 it was "new age." The label continued to confound by adding music groups to its roster of solo artists, and electronic instrumentation to a catalog of acoustic recordings. William Ackerman wrote that Windham Hill was "a viable alternative to the dictates of large record labels" and would "continue to offer new directions and new alternatives in music."

USA Today reported that from its founding in 1976 until mid-June 1984, Windham Hill Records grew at least 181% annually. President Anne Robinson was quoted, "We really did start with $300 in capital which has been reinvested and we've never borrowed a cent." ("The Lilting Landscape of Windham Hill" by Neil Tesser, June 14, 1984.)

Windham Hill created a number of subsidiary labels. Lost Lake Arts reissued albums licensed from former owners. It entered a manufacturing and distribution deal with Andy Narell's Hip Pocket Records. Magenta Records would be Windham Hill's first jazz label.

By 1987, Windham Hill had taken the long way to establish itself. When the label began, there was almost no radio support for instrumental music. When radio did accept instrumental music as a format, it failed to identify the artist. Windham Hill artists toured extensively and Windham Hill staff promoted the artists and products, finally creating the dedicated product bins still found in retail today.

Windham Hill actively sought find its audience. It established an exclusive mailing list by including a flyer in the record jacket. Consumers opted onto the list to receive Windham Hill Occasionals. These were direct mail catalogs featuring recordings, videos, tee shirts, tour itineraries. Produced four times a year (one for each season), the first was issued around May 15, 1985. Windham Hill maintained a private mailing list that consumers could opt to join. The Occasionals were released throughout Windham Hill's association with A&M Records.

Windham Hill also surveyed its consumers and found that it had a very active adult market that was interested in information about the artists. The listeners were flooding radio stations with requests for songs and for artist and title information.

Windham Hill Records Billboard Pop chart success was with only with its albums. George Winston was the first Windham Hill artist to have success on the Billboard Pop Album chart. In 1982, he had a Top 100 and Top 200 album. In both 1983 and 1984, Shadowfax placed an album in the Top 200. Winston was back again in 1985 with a Top 200 album.

Ironically, the Windham Hill sampler series by various artists were regulars on the Billboard Pop Album chart. The samplers were made from demo tapes sent to Windham Hill. They started out as in-store and radio promotional pieces but became standard releases. In 1985, they were in the Top 100 and Top 200; in 1986, two samplers were in the Top 200, and again in 1988 two samplers were in the Top 200.

While Windham Hill was not often on the Billboard Pop chart, it dominated the Billboard New Age chart and its successor, the Contemporary Jazz chart throughout the 1980s. Windham Hill artists were recognized by music industry associations. Among the awards, three gold and three platinum RIAA certifications for George Winston; Cash Box awards for Best Soloist--Jazz (George Winston) and New Group of the Year--Jazz (Shadowfax).

Windham Hill records were known for their distinctive cover graphics. Inside the jacket, Windham Hill used a high-quality vinyl for its discs and heavy plastic liner sleeves. Windham Hill also insisted that only Bernie Grundman at A&M be the one to master their records. To complete its emphasis on quality, Windham Hill enclosed an insert or a pamphlet explaining its policy on defective records "correct the problem in the shortest time possible." Finally, Windham Hill used an outer platic bag that was perforated on one edge that the album could be stored in and preserved the album cover.

Windham Hill, while it said it did not want to enter the home taping debate of the mid-1980s, took the unusual step of including a statement from founder William Ackerman with its records. "Windham Hill is a community of artists who depend upon the income from the sale of their records and concert appearances for their livelihood. I ask only that everyone weigh the possible economic impact on Windham Hill and the artists represented by the label in the taping of our records. This record label, though wishing to be profitable and thereby viable, was not born of greed, but rather to produce music of the highest quality. In all respects we count on you people to support our efforts, and for your help we are all sincerely grateful."

In 1982, Windham Hill entered a distribution agreement with A&M Records. Through this arrangement, Windham Hill was able to begin international distribution in 1984.

BILLBOARD TALENT ALMANAC 1984

CATEGORYARTISTTITLE
Top Pop Album Artist 48. George Winston
Top Pop Album 65. George Winston December
Top Pop Album Artist Male 16. George Winston December
Top Jazz Album 4. George Winston
5. George Winston
13. George Winston
20. Shadowfax
37. Windham Hill Artists
Will Ackerman
December
Autumn
Winter Into Spring
Shadowdance
An Evening With Windham Hill Live
Past Light
Top Jazz Album Artists 1. George Winston (3)
18. Shadowfax (2)
Top Jazz Label 3. Windham Hill (10)

In 1985, Windham Hill entered the CD market. It stated that its CDs would have more music on them than vinyl albums to justify the higher price of the CDs. Likewise, Windham Hill cassettes could add additional music to balance both sides of the tape.

BILLBOARD NUMBER ONE AWARDS 1985

CATEGORYARTISTTITLE
Top Jazz Label 4. Windham Hill (8)
Top Jazz Album Artist 2. George Winston (3)

In the Fall of 1985, Windham Hill, Paramount Home Video and Pioneer Laserdisc released four one-hour videos. Each sold for $30 and was available in VHS and Beta formats. The titles were Water's Path, Western Light, Winter and Autumn Portrait. The advertising insert included with Windham Hill's albums stated that the videos "explored geographical and seasonal themes in nature" that "created an artistic and quality alternative in video."

In 1986, Will Ackerman elected to leave the chief executive position at the label. Anne Robinson replaced Ackerman as he focused on Windham Hill's creative direction. The label created a sampler and tour and conducted a marketing push in Australia.

In 1986, Windham Hill entered the children's record market in association with Rabbit Ears Storybook Classics, a division of Random House Publishers. The idea belonged to Mark Sottnick, a film producer. He believed that there could be better books and music made for children. Rabbit Ears teamed top actors like Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Cher and Robin Williams with musicians to retell classic children's stories. Released on both vinyl and CD, the CDs contained extra music. Animation was added to the recordings and these appeared on Showtime television and on Sony Home Video. The first record, The Velveteen Rabbit, by Meryl Streep and George Winston (originally on affiliate Dancing Cat Records) was the best selling children's record of the year. The series won the Best Children's Recording Grammys in 1988 and 1989, plus awards from Parents' Choice, the American Library Association, and the New York Times Best Illustrated Music Book.

Finally, during the summer of 1986, Living Music joined Windham Hill in a distribution agreement.

BILLBOARD NUMBER ONE AWARDS 1986

CATEGORYARTISTTITLE
Top Jazz Label 8. Windham Hill (9)
Top Jazz Album Artist 12. George Winston (2)
Top Jazz Album 19. George Winston
44. George Winston
47. Andy Narell (Hip Pocket)
50. Various Artists
December
Autumn
Slow Motion
A Winter's Solstice

In 1987, Windham Hill replaced its jazz imprints Hip Pocket and Magenta (started by Steve Backer) with Windham Hill Jazz. The catalogs from both labels were reissued with the Windham Hill Jazz logo. Andy Narell's The Hammer was the first album to carry the new logo. A total of eight albums were planned for release in 1988. As Windham Hill stated, "Windham Hill Jazz has acted on a simple premise: We are building a small family of new and developing artists whose personal styles may be diverse but who, in common, draw significantly from the jazz art form."

For the Christmas season in 1987, Windham Hill offered a 6% discount on 13 of its titles. Windham Hill promoted the discounts with 30-second commercials on CNN that tagged eight major retailers. A new promotional sampler cassette, New from Windham Hill, (21,500 copies) was created for radio use and giveaways.

The Windham Hill Jazz line art logo was first used commercially on June 16, 1987. Its patent history included filing on January 23, 1989 and registration on August 29, 1989. For the adult market, they offered discounts and promotions to gain sales and market growth for its catalog.

In 1988, Will Ackerman was quoted in Billboard, "I want the label to become far more aggressive in A&R. If we want to be in this business for the long term, we can't allow ourselves to become trapped in a corner with a limited musical perspective. We don't want to get caught up in a cycle of self-imitation...we no longer will eschew things that are assumed to be outside the parameters of our image. There is a decree written in blood at Windham Hill that we are not accepting any more solo piano demos from anyone." Windham Hill was going to enter the pop and rock markets.

In April 1988, again with Paramount Home Video, Windham Hill released three more videos in Beta and VHS for $30 each. These were China, In Concert and Seasons. Windham Hill also packaged the first four videos into a gift set that it offered for $99.00.

Prior to the sale to PolyGram in 1989, A&M Records and its affiliates product were distributed by BMG. Upon the sale, Windham Hill arranged to have BMG continue distributing its products. In 1992, BMG bought Windham Hill.

SOURCES:
1. www.windham.com (defunct Windham Hill Records web site)
2. Windham Pushes Sales, Label Uses Discounts, Promos. Chris Morris. Billboard,
    November 21, 1987.
3. Policy statements from Windham Hill Records album inserts.
4. Windham Hill Catalog and Occasional, Holiday 1989.
5. Soft Music: What a Grind. N. R. Kleinfield. The New York Times, November 8, 1992.
6. Will & Anne Ackerman, New Age Music Execs. Jeffrey Ressner. Cashbox, January 28, 1984.

WINDHAM HILL ARTIST ROSTER

A - H I - P Q - Z
Philip Aaberg
William Ackerman
Darol Anger & Barbara Higbie
Darol Anger & Mike Marshall
Richard Beirach
Cher/Phil Ball
Robbie Basho
Billy Childs
Glenn Close/Mark Isham
Glenn Close/Tim Story
Scott Cossu
Scott Cossu & Eugene Friesen
Malcolm Dalglish
Alex DeGrassi
Cliff Eberhardt
Mark Egan
Mitchel Forman
Don Grolnick
Gyuto Monks
Daniel Hecht
Michael Hedges
Barbara Higbie
Holly Hunter/Art Lande
Interior
Jeremy Irons/Mark Isham
Mark Isham
Michael Manring
Ian Matthews
W. A. Matthieu
Mike Marshall
Paul McCandless
Kelly McGillis/Mark Isham
Kelly McGillis/Michael Hedges
Wim Mertens
Metamora
Steven Miller
Montreux
Andy Narell
Jack Nicholson/Bobby McFerrin
Nightnoise
Nylons
Ray Obiedo
Billy Oskay & Micheal O Domhnaill
Pierce Pettis
Prof. Longhair
David Qualey
Bill Quist
Rubaja & Hernandez
Phillippe Saisse
Schoenerz & Scott
Theresa Schroeder-Sheker
Shadowfax
Ben Sidran
Fred Simon
Ira Stein & Russell Walder
Liz Story
Tim Story
Meryl Streep/Chieftans
Meryl Streep/Lyle Mays
Tuck & Patti
Turtle Island String Quartet
Kit Walker
Shad Weathersby
Robin Williams/Ry Cooder
Windham Hill Records
George Winston
George Winston/Darol Anger/Mike Marshall
Denny Zeitlin

WINDHAM HILL RECORDS STAFF

Thank you to all of the very talented members of the Windham Records and associated labels family.

If your name does not appear on the list, please send an e-mail and let us include you in the credits. When you write, please include the years you worked at Windham Hill and your job title or the name of the department where you worked. This information is also used to validate your registration for our Employee Discussion areas--a forum available exclusively for A&M artists and staff.

A - I J - R S - Z
Will Ackerman
Dawn Atkinson
Steve Backer (Magenta)
Pat Barry
Elliot Cahn
Jim Cahalan
Mike Carlson
Bob Duskis
Roy Gattinella
Tony Gnazzo
Susan Graham
Larry Hamby
Larry Hayes
Jeff Heiman
Ned Hearn
Jeff Heiman
Paula Jeffries
Howard Johnston
Fritz Kasten
Judy Klein
Grey Larsen
Samuel Lehmer
Steve Lowy
Cookie Marenco
Anne Marie Martins
Steven Miller
Corin Nelson
Suzi Peterson
Anne Robinson
Joe Saah
Susan Skaggs
Tom Size
Pete Sutherland
Sam Sutherland
Roger Voudouris

TOP ARTISTS ON BILLBOARD POP CHARTS BY YEAR

YEAR ALBUMS SINGLES
1980 George Winston (1 Top 200)  
1981    
1982 George Winston (1 Top 100; 1 Top 200)  
1983 Shadowfax (1 Top 200)  
1984 Shadowfax (1 Top 200)  
1985 Various Artists (1 Top 100; 1 Top 200)
George Winston (1 Top 200)
 
1986 Shadowfax (1 Top 200)
Various Artists (2 Top 200)
 
1987    
1988 Various Artists (2 Top 200)  
1989 Mark Isham (1 Top 200)  

SOURCES:
1. Whitburn, Joel. Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Albums 1955 - 1996. Menomonee Falls, WI: Record
    Research, Inc., 1996.
2. Whitburn, Joel. Top Pop Singles 1955 - 1999. Menomonee Falls, WI: Record Research, Inc.,
    2000.

WINDHAM HILL RECORDS MUSIC TRADE ADS

WINDHAM HILL RECORDS FORMATS AND PRICES

YEAR SERIES ALBUM CASSETTE CD
1984 Windham Hill 1000 $9.98 $9.98 No set price
1985 Windham Hill 1000
Windham Hill WS 0000
Windham Hill WW 12000
$9.98
$1.98
$4.98
$9.98
NA
NA
No set price
NA
NA
1988 Windham Hill 1000
Windham Hill 2000
Windham Hill Jazz 0100
Windham Hill Jaxx 0200
Windham Hill WS 0000
Windham Hill WW 12000
Rabbit Ears 0700
$9.98
$10.98
$9.98
$9.98
$1.98
$4.98
$9.98
$9.98
$10.98
$9.98
$9.98
NA
NA
$9.98
No set price
No set price
No set price
No set price
NA
NA
No set price
1989 Windham Hill 1000
Windham Hill 2000
Windham Hill Jazz 0100
Windham Hill Jaxx 0200
Rabbit Ears 0700
$9.98
$10.98
$9.98
$9.98
$9.98
$9.98
$10.98
$9.98
$9.98
$9.98
No set price
No set price
No set price
No set price
No set price

HIP POCKET RECORDS FORMATS AND PRICES

YEAR SERIES ALBUM CASSETTE CD
1984 Hip Pocket 0100 $9.98 $9.98 NA
1985 Hip Pocket 0100 $9.98 $9.98 NA
1988 Hip Pocket 0100 Replaced by Windham Hill Jazz
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