PolyGram was established in 1972. The company oversaw Phonogram International B.V. and Polydor International GmbH. It was formed following a reorganization of the "Grammophon-Philips Group". GPG was a joint venture between Philips Phonografische Industrie (PPI) and the Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, existing since 1962.

The Polygram name was not new though. It had been used by Philips' Belgian affiliate Polygram SA since 1962. The New Zealand Philips company too was named PolyGram Records Ltd from June 1970 until November 1972 (when it was renamed Phonogram Ltd.).

From 1978 onwards the Polygram name became more common as most of the Phonogram companies worldwide were renamed to Polygram.
The local Polygram companies handled all PolyGram labels, most notably Philips, Verve Records Mercury and Deutsche Grammophon. Over the years some of the companies also started using the Polygram brand as a label.

In 1985 Siemens reduced its stake in PolyGram to 10%. Two years later it sold its remaining stake to Philips' Gloeilampenfabrieken B.V. In 1989, Polygram completed a worldwide public stock offering, reducing Philips' ownership to 75%.

PolyGram acquired the recorded music and publishing arm of Island International Limited in July 1989 and the recorded music business of A&M Records, Inc. in January 1990. This was followed by Motown Records in 1993, part of Def Jam Recordings in 1994, and Rodven Discos in 1995.
In December 1998, Philips sold PolyGram to Seagram, which already owned the Universal Music Group. Seagram combined PolyGram with the Universal Music Group, forming the largest recorded music business in the world.

Starting in the mid-1970s and continuing into the late 1980's, the center labels of US PolyGram sublabels began showing two-digit number ID codes signifying from which pressing plant the record originated. A partial list of confirmed plants and their corresponding numbers are as follows.
6 = All Disc Records, Inc.
16 = Sonic Recording Products, Inc. (pre-ca. 1975), Goldisc Recording Products, Inc. (1975 to ca. 1983), Electrosound Group Midwest, Inc. (post-ca. 1983)
18 = Presswell
19 = Bestway Products Inc.
22 = Allied Record Company
24 = Monarch Record Mfg. Co.
25 = Columbia Records Pressing Plant, Santa Maria
26 = PRC Recording Company, Compton, CA
49 = Specialty Records Corporation
53 = Keel Mfg. Corp. (pre-1981), Hauppauge Record Manufacturing Ltd. (post-1981)
54 = Shelley Products
56 = Columbia Records Pressing Plant, Pitman
57 = Columbia Records Pressing Plant, Carrollton, GA (post-1981)
60 = Sound Makers
70 = RCA Records Pressing Plant, Indianapolis
72 = PRC Recording Company, Richmond, IN (post-Dec. 1972)
73 = Columbia Records Pressing Plant, Terre Haute
75 = GRT Record Pressing
76 = Hub-Servall Record Mfg. Corp. (post-1970)
There are some numeral codes which have so far been unconfirmed as to their corresponding pressing plants, including 30 (either Plastic Products or Peter Pan Industries); plus other manufacturing codes (i.e. for cassettes) including 12, 15 and 35.

Parent Label:Universal Music Group
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