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Title: ESP-Disk  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: The Holy Modal Rounders, Les Fradkin, Henry Grimes, Patty Waters, Tom Rapp
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Founded 1964
Founder Bernard Stollman
Genre Free jazz, Underground rock, Folk rock, Free improvisational music
Country of origin  USA
Location Brooklyn, New York
Official website

ESP-Disk is a New York-based record label, founded in 1964[1] by lawyer Bernard Stollman.

From the beginning, the label's goal has been to provide its recording artists with complete artistic freedom, unimpeded by any record company interference or commercial expectations—a philosophy summed-up by the ESP motto, printed on every release: "The artists alone decide what you will hear on their ESP-Disk".

Though it originally existed to release Esperanto-based music, starting with its second release (Albert Ayler's Spiritual Unity), ESP became the most important exponent of what is commonly referred to as free jazz.[2] ESP also released recordings by uncommercial underground rock acts including the Fugs, The Godz and Pearls Before Swine. Though it suspended releasing records in the 1970s, several new releases by iconic and cutting edge artists have been released by the label, and it still exists with nearly its entire catalog available.

Bernard Stollman has faced allegations of not paying royalties to the artists that were signed to ESP-Disk.[3] Tom Rapp of the band Pearls Before Swine claimed that "We never got any money from ESP. Never, not even like a hundred dollars or something. My real sense is that he [Stollman] was abducted by aliens, and when he was probed it erased his memory of where all the money was".[4] Peter Stampfel of the band Holy Modal Rounders and The Fugs claimed that Stollman told him that "the contract says that all rights belong to me. You have no royalties ever, ever, ever. The publishing is mine. You don't own the songs anymore. We don't owe you anything".[5] Members of The Fugs have also stated claims that they received an unfavourable record contract. Ed Sanders said that "our royalty rate was less than 3%, one of the lower percentages in the history of western civilization".[6] 801 Magazine, which featured an interview with Stollman in 2008, said that Stollman claimed that "he paid all the recording costs and gave the musicians small advances", and that "he never made any money from the music".[7]

Other artists who have recorded for this label include Ornette Coleman (the "Town Hall Concert"), Pharoah Sanders (who made his recording debut on ESP), Sun Ra, Ronnie Boykins, Marion Brown, Sonny Simmons, Paul Bley, Ran Blake, and Perry Robinson.

The label's catalog has been licensed frequently over the years, but Stollman has resumed direct responsibility for reissues and for emerging artists.


  • Discography 1
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


See also


  1. ^ Space Is The Place, Szwed, Mojo 2000, p207
  2. ^  
  3. ^ Kelley, Frannie. "Legendary Record Label Loses Staff In Split". NPR. Retrieved 29 November 2013. 
  4. ^ Weiss, Jason (2012). Always in Trouble: An Oral History of ESP-Disk', the Most Outrageous Record Label in America. Wesleyan.  
  5. ^ Weiss, Jason (2012). Always in Trouble: An Oral History of ESP-Disk', the Most Outrageous Record Label in America. Wesleyan.  
  6. ^ Fugs, The. "History of the Fugs". Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  7. ^ "Bernard Stollman feature in 801 Magazine, 17 April 2008". Retrieved 29 November 2013. 

External links

  • Official site
  • Official Myspace
  • Collectors' discography
  • The Old New Thing is Newer Than Ever. Liner notes for an ESP-Disk mash-up by Wu Ming 1
  • an esp-disk' discography at Wesleyan University
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