After fifteen years with MCA Records, the Who have switched labels, signing a multi-album deal with Warner Bros. Records for a reported $12 million. Warners would neither confirm nor deny the $12 million figure, which only includes rights to U.S. and Canadian releases, but a spokesman for the label did call it a “big money deal.”
The group’s contract with MCA ran out after 1978’s Who are You LP. Last year’s The Kids Are Alright soundtrack was released by MCA under a one-album deal, and the Quadrophenia soundtrack came out on Polydor. It had been widely speculated that the Who would sign with Polydor, their label everywhere except the U.S. and Canada, but the band’s asking price (which reportedly included a $5 million unrecoupable bonus) may have been too high. According to one source at Polydor, “It would have been nice to have them, but no one around here is crying. It just wasn’t worth putting the whole company in financial jeopardy for one group.”
Apparently Mo Ostin, chairman of the board of Warners, was a big reason the group signed with that label. “Mo’s been a Who fanatic for years,” said one source. “He’s always been keenly aware of them, and he’s friends with Pete Townshend and their manager. When the group became available, he went after them.” The Warners contract only includes rights to group albums; Townshend is signed as a solo artist to Atco, Roger Daltrey still owes one album to MCA, and John Entwistle is without a solo contract.
This story is from the March 6th, 1980 issue of Rolling Stone.