Founded 1964 (1964)
Founder Bernard Stollman
Genre Free jazz, free improvisation, folk rock, underground rock
Country of origin U.S.
Location Brooklyn, New York
Official website

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

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 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 to other record labels since the 1970s. Stollman later resumed direct responsibility for reissues and for recruiting new emerging artists.


Main article: ESP-Disk discography

See also


  1. Space Is The Place, Szwed, Mojo 2000, p.207
  2. Wilmer, Valerie (1977). As Serious As Your Life: The Story of the New Jazz. Quartet. pp. 231–233. ISBN 1852427019.
  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. ISBN 9780819571595.
  5. Weiss, Jason (2012). Always in Trouble: An Oral History of ESP-Disk', the Most Outrageous Record Label in America. Wesleyan. ISBN 9780819571595.
  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

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