PIR finds soul mate in Sony BMG

Sony licenses label's full catalog

NEW YORK -- Sony BMG Music Entertainment has licensed the complete catalog of music from Philadelphia International Records, the label founded by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff in 1971, Billboard has learned. This marks the first time that the entire PIR catalog -- which includes hits by Patti LaBelle, the O'Jays, MFSB, Billy Paul and others -- is under one roof.

Under the terms of the multiyear arrangement, Sony BMG Music Entertainment's Commercial Music Group and Legacy Recordings will issue physical and digital recordings of PIR material. The deal also extends to ringtones (another PIR first), PDA applications, synch licenses and branded entertainment.

The partnership launches in October with two double-disc compilations: "The Essential Lou Rawls" and "The Essential Teddy Pendergrass." Additionally, 50 digital releases (original albums and collections) will be ready for download by year's end.

Some previously unreleased recordings, including a live set from LaBelle and a Phyllis Hyman album, also will make their commercial debuts.

"The sounds of PIR are a vital and indispensable part of American pop music history," Sony BMG Music Entertainment president John Ingrassia said.

In past years, the PIR repertoire was split between Epic/CBS and EMI. Now that it's "back together again, we can promote and market it on a global level," Huff said.

Between synch licenses, sampling and reissues, the catalog has received a tremendous amount of exposure over the years, Gamble said. "Now it's time to build upon that and grow the PIR brand."

In Sony BMG, PIR appears to have found the right partner to do that.

"The scope of the PIR catalog becomes our entire platform," Legacy Recordings GM Adam Block said. "We can conceive of, with Kenny and Leon, virtually anything. There are no restrictions, as we have access to all the pieces."