Windham Hill Records is a subsidiary of Sony Music Entertainment specializing in Acoustic, new age and folk music. Originally founded in 1976 as an Independent record label by guitarist and carpenter William Ackerman and his then-wife Anne Robinson, Windham Hill was a successful and well-respected music label during its height in the 1980s and 90s. The label was purchased by BMG through a series of buyouts from 1992 through 1996 and is currently a subsidiary of Sony Music Entertainment after BMG's subsequent merger in 2008. Private Music, also a subsidiary of BMG, has issued some back-catalog releases under the Windham Hill Records imprint. Since the Sony merger, Windham Hill currently releases no new material but recycles albums and compilations as part of Sony's Legacy Recordings brand.
Windham Hill was originally an instrumental music label, releasing Ackerman's own work, as well as that of other guitarists. It then expanded to include electronic and world music ensembles. While the artists of Windham Hill may not have used the term, the label eventually became known in the industry mainly as a new age music label, with its Billboard-charting albums appearing primarily on the New Age genre charts. The label is best known for its high sound quality, groundbreaking music, unique flagship collections and tasteful album art within the form of an identifiable label brand identity.
The label's records were distributed by A&M Records until PolyGram purchased A&M in 1989. From 1989-2008 it was distributed by BMG, which had distributed A&M from 1979 until the sale. Will Ackerman sold his half of the company to BMG in 1992 and Anne Ackerman sold her half in 1996. BMG began distributing Windham Hill through RCA Records and merged other music labels that they purchased (such as Peter Baumann's Private Music) into Windham Hill, forming the Windham Hill Group. In doing so, artists such as Yanni, Ray Lynch, and Vangelis joined the label, though they were not original Windham Hill artists.
Jim Brickman was the last artist signed to the label pre-buyout and he was the last artist to leave Windham Hill in 2006, joining Savoy Records.
Today a majority of Windham's releases are distributed through Legacy Recordings, formerly a division of Sony BMG. In 2008 Sony absorbed all of the BMG assets and wrapped Windham Hill into their conglomerate. Sony has no A&R department in Windham Hill and records no new music at this time. It is uncertain whether or not Windham Hill will ever release any new material, though, as part of the Legacy Recordings branch, Windham Hill consistently recycles tunes previously released.
For Windham Hill's 30th Anniversary, Sony BMG released a special collection kit, with an article from Will Ackerman.
For the first time in over 15 years, many of the early Windham Hill artists who recorded under Ackerman performed together on August 27, 2006 at the Villa Montalvo in Saratoga, California near San Jose. Artists included: Barbara Higbie, Jim Brickman, Tuck & Patti, Alex de Grassi, Liz Story, Philip Aaberg, Michael Manring, Samite, David Cullen, Tracy Silverman, Lisa Lynne, George Tortorelli, Sean Harkness (who also planned and invited the musicians), and, of course, Will Ackerman.
Starting in 2009, Valley Entertainment began reissuing titles from the Windham Hill catalog. As of January 2011 they have released 16 of the albums in CD format.
Acoustic Jazz group Montreux,
Bassist Michael Manring,
Group Angels Of Venice Carol Tatum,
Celtic Harpist and Composer Lisa Lynne,
Celtic jazz group Nightnoise,
Composer Mark Isham,
Composer Ray Lynch,
Composer David Arkenstone,
Composer Wim Mertens,
Folk Musician John Gorka,
Folk/Celtic trio Metamora,
Fusion Classical group Turtle Island String Quartet,
Guitarist (and founder) William Ackerman,
Guitarist Robbie Basho,
Guitarist Alex de Grassi,
Guitarist David Cullen,
Guitarist Michael Hedges,
Guitarist Daniel Hecht,
Guitarist Sean Harkness,
Guitarist Andrew York,
Guitarist David Qualey,
Guitarist David Torn,
Hammered dulcimer player Malcolm Dalglish,
Harp Guitarist John Doan,
Indie Rock Group Dots Will Echo,
Jazz Duo Tuck & Patti,
Jazz Guitarist Ray Obiedo,
Jazz Keyboardist and Composer Philip Aaberg,
Jazz Keyboardist and Composer Philippe Saisse,
Jazz Pianist Fred Simon,
Jazz Woodwind player and Composer Paul McCandless,
Keyboardist Tim Story,
Mandolin player Mike Marshall,
New age and electronic composer Vangelis,
New Age duo Ira Stein and Russel Walder,
New Age duo Schönherz & Scott,
Pianist George Winston,
Pianist Jim Brickman,
Pianist Liz Story,
Pianist Scott Cossu,
Pianist Pat Gorman,
Pianist Bill Quist,
Pianist and Composer W. A. Mathieu,
Pianist and Composer Øystein Sevåg,
Pianist and singer Barbara Higbie,
Rock, R&B/Soul group Kidd Afrika,
Singer-songwriter Iain Matthews,
Singer-songwriter Linda Waterfall,
Singer-songwriter Cliff Eberhardt,
Trumpeter Jeff Oster,
Violinist & Composer Tracy Silverman,
Violinist Darol Anger,
Vocal Ensemble The Nylons,
World Musician Samite,
World fusion ensemble Shadowfax,
Dancing Cat Records, a music label founded by artist George Winston which began with Winston's albums and migrated to being a Hawaiian Music label (preserving Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar heritage), received distribution through Windham Hill. Dancing Cat remains an independent label under Sony's RCA Victor banner.,
High Street Records was a Windham Hill subsidiary that mostly recorded singer-songwriters.,
Hip Pocket was a jazz-oriented label (started by Andy Narell) which was folded into the Windham Hill Jazz label (along with Magenta) in 1987.,
Magenta was a jazz oriented label (started by Steve Backer in 1985) which was folded into the Windham Hill Jazz label (along with Hip Pocket) in 1987.,
Living Music was a new-age label (started by Paul Winter in 1980), was distributed by Windham Hill from 1986 to 1988.,
Lost Lake Arts reissued out-of-print albums. A total of 13 albums were released on the label between 1981 and 1988.,
Open Air was a vocal label, which released seven albums between 1985 and 1989.,
Rabbit Ears was a children's music and audiobook imprint actively distributed through Windham Hill from 1984 to 1990.
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