The label was founded in 1966 as Sire Productions by
Seymour Stein and
Richard Gottehrer, each investing ten thousand dollars into the new company.
 Its early releases, in 1968, were distributed by
London Records. From the beginning, Sire introduced underground, progressive
British bands to the American market. Early releases included the
Climax Blues Band,
Barclay James Harvest,
Matthews Southern Comfort and
The Deviants. The label was distributed by
Polydor Records in 1970 and 1971, during which time the famous logo was introduced, and then by
Famous Music from 1972 to 1974, during which the progressive rock band
Focus charted with their 1972 hit "
Hocus Pocus". In the 70s, Sire released a number of compilation albums, including the 3 volume "History Of British Rock" series, and diverse artists such as
Duane Eddy, the
Small Faces and
ABC Records inherited Sire's distribution contract when it acquired Famous Music in 1974. The UK signing policy was vindicated when Climax Blues Band scored a Top 40 hit in 1977 with "
Couldn't Get It Right". Also in 1977, Stein, who had worked with the group in the 1960s, convinced the
Shangri-Las to reform and return to the studio. But the trio was unhappy with the quality of material it recorded, and opted out of its contract; the tracks have yet to be released.
Acquisition by Warner
In the mid-1970s, Sire transformed itself into a successful
independent record label and went on to sign artists from the burgeoning
punk rock and
new wave scenes, including the
the Dead Boys,
the Undertones and
Talking Heads. Sire returned to major-label distribution in 1977 with a new arrangement with Warner Bros. Records, and the next year, Warner acquired Sire outright. Over the next four years, Sire achieved mainstream status after launching the careers of
the Pretenders and
Madonna (its biggest act), and introduced such acts as
The Smiths, and
Echo & the Bunnymen to
North America. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the label had continued success with a wide-ranging roster that included
Tommy Page, and were early champions of
In 1994, Sire switched distribution from Warner Bros. Records to sister label
Elektra Records (also part of parent company
Warner Music). Stein had been appointed president of Elektra Records under Elektra's newly appointed CEO
Sylvia Rhone. Sire later left Elektra in 1997, becoming a stand-alone label, and, in 2000, Sire and the US division of
London Records (not
London Classics USA) were merged to become
London-Sire Records. This partnership dissolved in April 2003, at which point the company went back to being called Sire Records, and it returned to distribution with Warner Bros. Records again. Currently, it signs newcomers like
the Ready Set and
In 2009, official music videos displayed on the Sire Records website
 were taken down
 because of a copyright claim by parent Warner Music Group, after
royalty negotiations between WMG and YouTube (which Sire had been using to host the videos) broke down in December 2008. Although an agreement was made in September 2009 and the videos returned, users have to view the WMG videos within YouTube itself, as embedding codes for them have been disabled.
Reprise Records, Sire does not have its own website and operates under WBR as an imprint.