1986 1988 The commercial years

Growing out from experimental and sometimes home made music, Italo Disco became mainstream from 1985 - 1988, especially in the European and Japanese charts. Due to the success of chart topping productions like Spagna, Koto, Eddy Huntington, Den Harrow and many more, Italian musicians and producers started to smell success and earnings. You could now see a wave of initiatives from new record labels, discotheques that sponsored records and DJ's and the birth of TV and radio promotion. In Italy the Italian artists got a boost because of the TV program Discoring on Rete Uno (now RAI Television), broadcasted daily in the afternoon . Go to www.youtube.com and search for discoring plus the year 1985 or 1986 and you'll find a lot of clips from Italo disco artists. Furthermore a radiostation (Radio Deejay) founded by Claudio Cecchetto in 1982 promoted the Italo Disco style. By that time it was "in fashion" and it got promoted next to the "regular" worldwide 80s artists like Madonna, Duran Duran or Michael Jackson. The fact that Claudio Cecchetto also created Ibiza Records helped to promote the style. The Ibiza label artists like Via Verdi, Tracy Spencer, Sandy Marton, Taffy and Sabrina were very popular in that time. Still very popular in the summer in Italy are the open air festivals in large piazza's all around Italy. In the glory days we can see a lot of performances, e.g. Festivalbar finale in the Verona Arena (30.000 spectators) with performances of Tom Hooker, Albert One, Gaznevada, Carrara, Raf, Taffy and many more. Check www.youtube.com and you certainly will find features of those performances.

But the Italians not only made music for the Italian market, they were also very good in exporting music worldwide. Due to the success of the music style we can see licensing deals around the world. A big market was (West) Germany with Austria and Switserland, the German label ZYX published around 80% Italo made records of all their releases in those years. In Sweden there was the Beat Box label that did a lot of Italian tracks, also with remixes or new version. In France the major companies licensed Italo tracks, big success came for Ken Laszlo, Scotch and Finzy Kontini. Japan was a big market with good sales figures. America, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina were also good export markets. In Spain Italo disco was very popular in the discotheques and people from northern Europe often took home the summer hits after their vacation in Spain (or Italy).

Also the UK and USA got their share of Italo Disco records, but they didn't reach the mainstream because of some factors. The lyrics and vocal qualities (Italian accents) were not appreciated by the native English speaking countries.

Tracks sung by American, English or good English speaking Italians like Den Harrow (Tom Hooker), Orlando Johnson, Glenn White, Baltimora, Spagna or Raf had quite some success in the UK and USA. But they never topped the sales charts though. Another factor is that the more professional labels made deals with the major companies, Baby Records had a deal with Polygram and Ivana Spagna was signed by CBS/Sony. Being part of the distribution of a major record company increased the possibility to score success. But companies like Discomagic or il Discotto didn't had such lucrative deals and therefore no promotion so not so many Italian projects made it across the ocean. A company like Baby Records produced also a lot of gadgets to promote their records. In the mid 80s you could buy a school agenda, pencils and stickers from Baby Records. Also posters announcing the performance of an artist like Den Harrow in some Italian city were no exception. A label like Memory Records didn't have such promotional budgets, so their success dependent on their musical promotion and airplay. 

Unfortunately most Italian record companies were too small to gain worldwide success. In the 80s you had to sell at least 5.000 copies of a record to get into the Billboard chart list and the export numbers to the USA didn't reach that number by far. But in cities with an open mind to disco music and with a large population of European immigrants there was a small scene. Italo disco gained some popularity in Chicago (because of a large number of Polish people), Miami and Los Angeles (the Spanish speaking people loved that sound), New York (a lot of people with Italian roots) and San Franciso (the gay scene loved the synth style similar to Patrick Cowley and Bobby Orlando). In Canada it gained some popularity in big cities like Toronto and Montreal.

Unfortunately the commercial period didn't last that long, a new musical genre was coming on the scene in 1987: Chicago House Music. This new phenomena changed the dance music industry in the next few years and became mainstream in a short period.

The labels that were the most important and influential during the commercial years are: Memory Records, Baby Records, Discomagic and sublabels, Time Records and sublabels and BMS Records.