Miles Copeland III, the son of CIA agent Miles Copeland Jr., played many roles in the U.K. punk rock and new wave music industry of the middle to late 1970s: agent, manager, producer, magazine publisher, record company and label owner. His brother Ian was the head of a talent agency, Frontier Booking International (F.B.I.), while his brother Stewart played drums for The Police, a band that Copeland managed. The Police's first album was released on A&M Records in 1978 with a hit single, "Roxanne", that Copeland called a turning point in his life.
I.R.S. releases were distributed by A&M until 1985, by MCA Records until 1990, and by EMI until the label folded in 1996. In 2011, EMI revived the label; as of 2012, the new label has Chiddy Bang and Foxy Shazam on its roster. In October 2013, shortly after the integration of EMI into its successor, Universal Music Group, the label was revived again as I.R.S. Nashville, with Striking Matches, Marc Scibilia and Cowboy Jack Clement on its roster before being shut down once again in 2015.
In 1985, Copeland brokered a deal to switch the label's distributor to MCA Records. Under the agreement, A&M continued to release the label's pre-1985 catalog, much of which still can be found under the A&M banner. The last I.R.S release was All Set (1996) by the Buzzcocks. Shortly after, Copeland formed Ark 21 Records.
From 1983 to 1987, I.R.S. Records sponsored a monthly MTV show called I.R.S. Records Presents The Cutting Edge, hosted by Peter Zaremba of The Fleshtones. The series concentrated on bands that recorded for the label.
Faulty Products was the UK holding company for I.R.S. Records of the UK record labels set up by Copeland. It included Illegal Records, Deptford Fun City Records and others. Faulty Products was also an American independent record label and distribution company for other indie labels between 1980 and 1982. Faulty handled artists that didn't go through I.R.S.'s distribution deal with A&M.
Illegal Records was set up by Miles Copeland with his younger brother Stewart and the manager of The Police, Paul Mulligan. The label released The Police's debut single, "Fall Out". Deptford Fun City Records was set up by Miles Copeland in the late 1970s as an outlet for Deptford, England bands such as Alternative TV and Squeeze.
Tribal America was a label run by Rob DiStefano that was distributed by I.R.S from 1991 until IRS folded in 1996. It concentrated on house music, a type of electronic dance music. The most prominent releases on its roster were by the production team Murk and also the song "So Get Up" an iconic vocal poem by Californian rapper Ithaka, backed by the Progressive house sounds of USL from Lisbon, Portugal. DiStefano went on to found Twisted America Records.
I.R.S.'s roster of musicians included The Alarm, The Bangles, Berlin, Black Sabbath, Buzzcocks, J. J. Cale, Stewart Copeland, The Cramps, The Damned, Dead Kennedys, The English Beat, The Fall, The Fleshtones, General Public, The Go-Go's, Jools Holland, Klark Kent, Let's Active, The Lords of the New Church, Magazine, Gary Numan, Oingo Boingo, R.E.M., Renaissance, Scott Merritt, Stan Ridgway, Skafish, The Stranglers, Fine Young Cannibals, YEN and Wall of Voodoo.
On the Charts was a 1994 compilation album that chronicled I.R.S. Records from 1979–1994.