It was reported on October 13th 1974, Creed and his team had been convinced either through challenges with their own distribution, or by promises of greater sales, to form a distribution deal with Motown Records. What turned to be a short term deal, lasting only a couple of years had long term ramifications for both companies.
As noted when CTI signed their distribution deals outside the US, with Canada, and King Records in Japan, distribution was everything with the medium was vinyl. It also accounted for a large part of the cost, and profit.
Before the Motown deal in the US, Taylor had setup a US CTI Distribution network, in 1972. Doug Payne, as always has the backstory to this. While a positive spin was put on the Motown announcement, it was out of necessity for Taylor.(*1)
In the press release picture, Creed doesn’t look happy. It’s not clear that Motown actually understood the future demand for CTI distribution, and thus the potential profit. By the time the deal was signed, Taylor and CTI were already losing many of their big names, Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine and George Benson, were already leaving the label.
While the CTI labels still had some big hit’s to come, especially in pop and disco, where Motown distribution would help, they would never repeat the success of their biggest Jazz recordings, such as Deodato’s Top 10, Grammy-winning “Also Sprach Zarathustra” and “Prelude” album.
A Deal With The Devil
This would become a “deal with the devil” for CTI, and the last big distribution deal Motown did before Motown themselves became target for acquisition. By January 1976, the now west coast based Motown Records, filed what would become an increasingly bitter and all encompassing lawsuit against Creed, CTI and even unnamed “Joe Doe” distributors to lock down CTI and KUDU records.
One of the key parts of the announcement of the partnership is “CTI will also retain its key distributors in addition to the Motown distributors, giving it nation coverage.” – I’ll cover the lawsuit in much more detail in a later post. However, it seems Motown didn’t want a piece of the pie, they wanted the whole pie, and they didn’t get it.
The partnership was difficult and expensive to get out of, eventually Creed would do a deal with Columbia, and the final stages of the Motown lawsuit were not over until 1979. Musically, one of the big costs to CTI was the loss of Grover Washington, Jr. Washington would later, in turn, sue both CTI and Motown.
Indeed, it was Washington’s popularity that helped Creed Taylor end the distribution relationship he formed with Motown Records in 1974. When Taylor sought independence from Motown in 1977, he had to sacrifice Grover Washington, Jr. and the saxophonist’s entire Kudu catalog to the Detroit-based soul label (even though Washington made only two records for Motown before departing for even bigger success at Elektra records in 1980).http://www.dougpayne.com/kudut.htm – Circa 2010
Was My Record Distributed By Motown?
There were a number of changes that happened over the period that Motown was distributing CTI records.
First, small labels were applied to existing stock and editions; then the covers and records, when re-reprinted had “Distributed by Motown Records Corporation” with the 6464 Sunset Boulevard address; and finally re-issues and new issues would include S1 in the catalog number.
An example of this can be seen in my copy of “The Baddest Hubbard” it was CTI catalog number 6047, as distributed by Motown it became CTI 6047 S1.
Details on CTI Distribution [dougpayne.com 6000 Series]