Naxos - Nimbus World Music
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Nimbus World Music

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Nimbus Records was founded in the early 1970s with a mission to record the performances of classical musicians.  The Company's founder, Numa Labinsky, himself a singer and wanted particularly to recreate a similar sense of presence and involvement to that experienced through live performance on recordings.  He quite simply disliked records and thought they could, and should, be better.  Achieving this simple goal required repeated innovation across three decades and has, step-by-step, led Nimbus on a long journey.

Beginning in 1977, the first LPs produced by Nimbus became renowned for their exceptional quality: the standard was set and a custom pressing business evolved. By 1982/83 the emphasis was changing to compact discs, a bold step considering the youth of the technology and the prohibitive new equipment costs involved in setting up a manufacturing plant.  Nimbus decided to develop its own core technology, and within only 10 months the first Nimbus Halliday Laser Mastering System was operational.

Other vendors were not so quick and it was not until August 1984 that a fully integrated CD production plant was opened in Monmouth.  Despite the delays it was still the first in the UK, and only the second in Europe after Philips (the inventor of the format).  Expansion was rapid, with additional CD manufacturing plants in Cwmbran and Virginia, USA in 1986 and 1987.  In three years Nimbus had become one of the largest independent manufacturers in the world, and had created a powerful research and development centre in the process.  The approach of designing and manufacturing equipment 'in-house' was firmly established.  In 1987 the Company's efforts on the Laser Mastering System were rewarded with the Queen's Award for Technological Achievement.

In 1987 a very badly timed exit by a major investor forced a very hasty equity sale - enter Robert Maxwell and The Mirror Group. Their involvemet came at a time of over supply and falling prices in CD manufacturing, they continued funding but fully exploited their opportunity to acquire a majority share.  Major restructuring was being planned when Maxwell "fell of his boat" and the Mirror Group business empire collapsed in 1992. The founding directors took their opportunity to sell all interests in the CD replication factories but taking the record label, their patents and equipment designs to establish a new company.

Nimbus 'Manufacturing', as the original company was renamed, has continued to be a major force in the industry.  After the sale it was taken to the NASDAQ by the merchant bank who acquired it and tow years ago it was resold to Carlton Communications to become part of the Technicolor Group. 

In 1993, under the name Nimbus Communications International, the classical music label was re-launched and Nimbus Technology & Engineering (NTE) established.  The Laser Mastering Equipment, first developed in 1983 was now regarded as a core technology for the optical disc industry and NTE immediately attracted large multi-national and small independent manufacturers as customers. Over the next eight years NTE went on to capture the largest market share becoming a Technology partner for CD and DVD with companies such as Toshiba, Time Warner, EMI, Panasonic and Technicolor.

In April 2002 the founding directors left Nimbus Technology & Engineering (NTE) having sold it to the Swiss technology group Unaxis in June 2001. They decided to stay together and return to their record company roots so formed a new company, Wyastone Estate Limited and took back day to day management of the Nimbus label. The commercial buildings which previously housed the CD factory and assembly lines for mastering Systems were also brought under the new companies umbrella and redeveloped into the Wyastone Business Park on the 72 acre estate with the majority of the grounds being maintained in their natural woodland state.

Nimbus, the original classical, jazz and world music record label forms the heart of the new company and is once again distributed throughout the UK, internationally and also sold worldwide to mail-order customers via the internet and downloads. Having formed the new company the directors decided that the business model for the classical label needed a drastic change as the previous management had placed it in a death spiral. In May 2002 only 350 titles out of more than 900 recordings were available to purchase, the rest having been deleted, deemed no longer commercially viable. An entirely new approach was required to take advantage of the shift in sales to on-line retailers such as Amazon so the company invested in a revolutionary system that would eliminate the need to hold excess stock and allow for discs to be manufactured 'on demand'. A wholesale re-releasing programme was started and now the Nimbus catalogue is more complete than it has ever been with almost 1000 titles available. Having proved the effectiveness of this new business model Nimbus began breathing new life into other record labels who found themselves in similar situations and the company now manages the manufacturing, and distribution for a range of partner labels including Lyrita, Saydisc, Hallé, Retrospective, Red Priest, Cameo Classics and IntegRarecords. The new division, Nimbus Disc and Print Services now manufactures in excess of 350,000 CDs, DVDs, booklets and inlays a year for more than 600 record labels, artists, and software companies. 

The Nimbus Foundation, which was established in 1988 to support the Arts, is also now managed by the Wyastone team and uses the Concert Hall to drive its objectives. The Foundation supports a number of concerts and radio broadcasts whilst promoting the careers of young musicians wherever possible. The Wyastone Concert Hall is also used as a recording venue, sound stage and studio by all of the major and independent classical record companies along with film, television production companies and advertising agencies.

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