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Universal Music snaps up UK record labels ZTT and Stiff Records

British labels are behind hits of the 70s and 80s by acts including Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Grace Jones and Madness.

Universal Music has acquired the British record labels behind some of the biggest hits of the 1970s and 1980s by acts including Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Grace Jones, Madness and The Pogues.

The worlds largest music company has sealed a deal to buy indie label ZTT; Stiff Records, one of the prime movers in promoting punk and new wave; and music publisher Perfect Songs.

Trevor Horn, the producer behind novelty hit Video Killed the Radio Star, set up ZTT in 1983 with businesswoman Jill Sinclair and former NME journalist Paul Morley. The label dominated the UK singles chart the following year with Frankie Goes to Hollywoods Relax, Two Tribes and The Power of Love, followed by the bands album Welcome to the Pleasuredome.

Other ZTT acts included Grace Jones, Art of Noise, 808 State, Seal and Adamski.

Universal Music has acquired the rights to the entire ZTT catalogue and selected rights to music owned by Stiff Records, which was responsible for hits by acts including Madness, The Pogues, Kirsty MacColl, Elvis Costello and Ian Dury. It put out what is generally regarded as the first ever UK punk rock single, New Rose by The Damned.

The music giant, which five years ago acquired most of EMI in a £1.2bn takeover, has also bought music publisher Perfect Songs which counts tracks recorded by Seal, Little Mix, Michael Jackson and Eminem among its library.

“Stiff and ZTT are truly unique and iconic labels that captured the zeitgeist of their generation and experienced great commercial success, whilst influencing contemporary music entirely on their own terms,” said Lucian Grainge, chief executive of Universal Music. “With Perfect Songs, we are adding an award-winning publishing catalogue, rich with hits, acclaim and global success.”

Horn revived Stiff, which was spawned from Londons burgeoning pub rock scene of the 1970s, in 2007.

For Horn, the sell-off represents a step back from running music labels after more than three decades in the music industry.

Earlier this month, Horns state-of-the-art recording facilities in the hills above Bel Air, Los Angeles, were burnt down as wildfires tore through California. He still owns a music studio in London.

Mark Sweney