Motown is an American record company founded by Berry Gordy, Jr. in 1959 in Detroit,Michigan in the United States. The name, a portmanteau of motor and town, is also a nickname for Detroit. Motown played an important role in the racial integration of popular music by achieving a crossover success. In the 1960s, Motown and its soul-based subsidiaries were the most successful proponents of what came to be known as "The Motown Sound", a style of soul music with a distinct pop influence. An early precursor for the Motown sound is the 1954 song 'Daddy Rollin Stone' by Derek Martin.
Gordy originally set up two nominally-separate labels (Tamla Records and Motown Records) in 1959, in order to avoid accusations of payola should DJs play too many records from one label. The two labels featured the same writers, producers and artists, and they were both formally incorporated together as Motown Record Corporation(commonly referred to simply as "Motown") on April 14, 1960.
Many more subsidiary labels were established later under the umbrella of the Motown parent company, including Gordy Records, Soul Records and VIP Records; in reality the Motown Record Corporation controlled all of these labels. Most of the distinctions between Motown labels were largely arbitrary, with the same writers, producers and musicians working on all the major subsidiaries, and artists were often shuffled between labels for internal marketing reasons. All of these records are usually considered to be "Motown", regardless of whether they actually appeared on the Motown Records label itself.
Gordy relocated Motown to Los Angeles in 1972, and there it remained an independent company until June 28, 1988, when Gordy sold the company to MCA and Boston Ventures (which took over full ownership of Motown in 1991), then to PolyGram in 1994, before being sold again to MCA Records' successor Universal Music Group, when it acquired The PolyGram Label Group. As of summer of 2011, Motown has been reactivated under The Island Def Jam Music Group division of Universal Music Group. Motown is headquartered in New York City.