From its earliest planning stages, Sesame Street was designed to be a show that would use music and singing as a part of the material being taught. So it was only natural to release the musical content on records, not only to reinforce the curriculum lessons for children when they weren't watching the show, but also so that Sesame Street music could be enjoyed just for its own sake.
The Early Albums
The first six albums were released by Columbia Records and Warner Bros. Records, both well-established major labels. These were deluxe albums, issued in colorful gatefold covers, usually with bonus material such as posters, lyric booklets, and photos and drawings of the show's characters. This arrangement lasted for the first five years of the show.
Other 1970s Albums
During the summer of 1970, as The Sesame Street Book & Record became a best seller, Bob McGrath and Loretta Long also released their own children's albums. While not part of the Sesame Street canon (even though they both mention Sesame Street on their covers), they also became well-known albums because of the show's huge popularity.
In 1975, K-Tel Records, known for their mail-order records of hits by various artists, became the first outside label to release an LP of songs from Sesame Street, drawn from previous albums.
Sesame Street Records
In 1974, Sesame Street created its own series of records, on an independent label that was called Sesame Street Records, with a custom record label logo of the Sesame Street sign. These albums were manufactured by Children's Records of America from 1974 to 1976, and by Distinguished Productions from 1977 to 1984. Over 70 titles were produced over the ten-year run of the label. The catalog included reissues of all of the previous Columbia and Warner Bros. albums, although in less lavish packages than their original editions. At first, titles were only issued on vinyl, but over the years, they were also produced on cassettes and 8-track tapes. The Sesame Street Records label was shut down around 1984.
Other 1980s albums
Sight & Sound
Sometime after the Sesame Street Records label closed, many Sesame Street titles began to be reissued on cassettes by an educational company called Sight & Sound. While some tapes used the original cover pictures, others had new cover pictures. An important historical footnote during this period is that in 1987, the very first Sesame Street CD was produced, called The Best of Sesame Street, and it would be the only CD produced until the early 1990s.
In 1990, titles began to appear on Golden Music, which was the music division of Golden Books. A mix of new titles appeared, beginning with tributes to Jim Henson and Joe Raposo, along with reissues of older titles. Golden's license lasted until 1994.
Other 1990s albums
In 1995, Sony Wonder began issuing a new series of titles. This was looked on with interest by some Sesame collectors, since Sony owns the back catalog of Columbia Records, who put out the very first Sesame Street LP in 1970. While that album was not reissued on CD by Sony Wonder, the third Columbia album, The Muppet Alphabet Album, was reissued as Sing the Alphabet. However, one section of dialogue was cut which referred to turning the record over, which wouldn't make any sense to CD listeners.
The Sony Wonder years culminated with Songs from the Street, an elaborate 3-CD boxed set produced in association with Sony Music's Legacy Recordings. This set was full of classic and rare tracks both from records and from live performances on the show. It also contained a detailed booklet about the history of the show, written by Christopher Cerf. It was the first time Sesame Street had received the boxed-set treatment from a major label, although several multi-LP boxed sets had been released over the years on Sesame Street Records.
Sony Wonder continued to release new titles until 2004.
Other 2000s albums
In 2007, Koch Records announced that it would begin distributing Sesame Street titles. The first titles began to appear in 2008, with reissues of albums that had previously been released on Sony Wonder. In 2010, Koch Records, now renamed E1 Music, finally reissued The Sesame Street Book & Record as part of Old School: Volume 1, a collection of long-out-of-print early Sesame Street albums.
In 2018, Sesame Workshop announced that Arts Music, a division of Warner Music (the company that also owns Warner Bros. Records), would begin to release new Sesame albums. The initial announcement stated they would be released on vinyl, CDs, and streaming services. Some of the initial compilations put out in fall 2018 were released as CDs but the majority of these compilations are only available via digital downloads and streaming, those are noted as such below. In 2019, Arts Music released What's The Number?, the first time newly-released music from Sesame in album form has been put out since 2004.
Other 2010s albums
In addition to the main library of Sesame Street music, over the years, original cast albums have been sold at the Sesame Street Live shows. See Sesame Street Live Discography for a chronological list of titles.