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DreamWorks Records (often referred in copyright notices as SKG Music, LLC) was an American record label. Founded in 1996 by David Geffen, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg as a subsidiary of DreamWorks SKG, the label operated until 2003 when it was sold to Universal Music Group. The label itself also featured a Nashville, Tennessee-based subsidiary, DreamWorks Nashville, which specialized in country music and was shut down in 2005. The company’s logo was designed by Roy Lichtenstein and was his last commission before his death in 1997.
In 1996, six years after Geffen sold Geffen Records to MCA Music Entertainment, he joined Spielberg and Katzenberg to form DreamWorks SKG, which included the subsidiary DreamWorks Records. The label’s logo was the last project completed by artist Roy Lichtenstein. The distinctive design, incorporating musical notes in the artist’s trademark “dream balloon,” debuted on the packaging for “Beautiful Freak,” the first album from Los Angeles-based Eels and the second release from the record company.
Geffen Records distributed DreamWorks until 1999, when Interscope Records took over distribution duties (meanwhile, as Interscope and Geffen switched international distribution to Polydor Records, DreamWorks followed suit). Rufus Wainwright was the first to be signed to the new label in early 1996. Henry Rollins (both as a spoken-word artist and with Rollins Band), George Michael, Randy Newman, Morphine, Eels, comedian/actor Chris Rock, and others were also signed to the label. The label was presided over by Lenny Waronker and Mo Ostin, who had run Warner Bros. Records until the mid-1990s.
It was announced on November 11, 2003 that Universal Music Group (the former MCA Music Entertainment, and parent of Interscope, Geffen, and Polydor) reached an agreement to acquire DreamWorks Records from DreamWorks SKG for “about $100 million”. The purchase came at a time when the music business was “going through major changes” as it struggled to “counter falling sales and the impact of unofficial online music sales”. Mo Ostin, the principal executive at DreamWorks Records, said: “Despite the challenges of the music business today, Universal is acquiring a wonderful asset and the sale will assure the strongest possible future for our artists”.Under the deal new, DreamWorks Records was placed within the Interscope Geffen A&M label, under the direction of Jimmy Iovine. DreamWorks was folded into Geffen Records in 2004.
Its country music division, meanwhile, remained operational until January 29, 2006, when it was shut down by Universal Music Group Nashville.
Between 1998 and 2005, DreamWorks also operated a division in Nashville, Tennessee for country music acts. Among the artists signed to the DreamWorks Nashville division were Jessica Andrews, Emerson Drive, Toby Keith, Randy Travis, Jimmy Wayne, and Darryl Worley. After DreamWorks Records’ dissolution, former executive Scott Borchetta formed Big Machine Records in late 2005, signing several country music acts to the label. Borchetta also signed Show Dog Records in partnership with Toby Keith, although Keith dropped his association with the latter label in 2006. Meanwhile, Borchetta signed Taylor Swift to DreamWorks Records. The latter label merged with Universal South Records to became Show Dog-Universal Music.