In the UK, it would be EMI. But that's the parent company – so I would say Parlophone, purely because they had the biggest act that there ever was and that there ever will be. Indirectly, by having that act, they were responsible for changing so many things in the business and were influential in that way.
"Parlophone were responsible for changing so many things in the business and were influential in that way"
Outside of versed interests, Motown was a massively influential label. It took what was previously seen as niche music – which was called "race music" at the time – and absolutely made it mainstream and created some of the biggest superstars there have ever been. Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye and so on. Motown was a massively revolutionary label and really influential because it was so commercially successful. You can look at really cool labels, but they just didn't have that kind of success.
"If you heard one of their records you knew it was a Motown record"
The other thing about Motown was that if you heard one of their records you knew it was a Motown record. Atlantic was slightly different – and it was a lot more diverse. There were a lot more influences going into it, whereas at Motown it was Berry Gordy's show. When they veered away from that style, that's when things probably started going wrong.
Going back into the UK, in terms of marketing, Stiff was massively influential in the way it communicated. It was very good at that irreverent communication. But that really followed on from Warner Bros and Stan Cornryn, their copywriter. From a marketing point of view, he was massively influential because he brought humour into marketing. Before that, marketing was very sober and informative.
"Stiff was very good at that irreverent communication"
Labels are right for their time: the Okeh label was influential in the 1920s; Sun would have been the most influential in 1955-1956; Columbia was probably the most influential [rock] label in the 1960s. It's different labels at different times. Also, labels mean different things at different times. Parlophone was a comedy label in the 1950s and then was the label with the biggest band in the world in the 1960s. Then, in the 1990s, it was the label of Britpop.