A&M Records was formed in 1962 by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss. Their first choice for a name was Carnival Records, under which they released two singles before discovering another label had taken the Carnival name first. The company was subsequently renamed A&M, after Alpert's and Moss's initials.
The new label was financially successful right from the start, thanks to Alpert's Tijuana Brass outfit that quickly turned into one of the best-selling acts of the mid-1960s. Nearly all of A&M's output was middle-of-the-road pop and folk until the late 1960s when, through direct signing and licensing agreements, the label added several British artists to its roster, including Cat Stevens, Procol Harum, Humble Pie, Fairport Convention, Free, The Move, and Spooky Tooth.
Within a decade of its inception, A&M became the world's largest independent record company. A&M releases were initially issued in the United Kingdom by EMI's Stateside Records label, and then under its own name by Pye Records until 1967. In 1979, A&M entered a distribution agreement with RCA Records (which later became BMG) in the USA, and with CBS Records (whose successor Sony Music Entertainment later absorbed BMG) in many other countries.
A&M Records was bought by PolyGram in 1989, and Alpert and Moss continued to manage the label until 1993. In 1998, PolyGram was bought by Seagram and merged into Universal Music Group, which was formed in 1996 as the successor to MCA Music Entertainment Group, of which MCA Records had been the flagship. A&M was subsequently merged into Universal Music Group's then newly formed Interscope Geffen A&M label group.