Labels: Big Three

Three big “Major Labels” exist who have the biggest market share of the music industry. These three are:

  • Sony BMG
  • Universal Music Group
  • Warner Music Group

Major Labels are limited companies. Limited companies have shareholders (investors) and boards they answer to. Their funds come from investors.

Mini majors are smaller labels owned by larger Major ones. They have more creative freedom on who they sign and what they do but still in the end answer to the bigger labels if need be. They are funded by Majors.

Independent labels are sole traders independent from shareholders or boards restricting creative decisions. But they do everything themselves including funding and distribution.

There are now three big major labels however there used to be a fourth, EMI Group Limited. This label was eventually acquired by Universal Music Group and Sony/ATV it ran for a good 80 years and at it’s breakup was the fourth largest asset in the music industry.


Sony Music’s blurb:

“In 1887, Columbia was formed – which, to this day, remains the oldest label in the history of the recording industry. 

From there, Sony Music evolved, amassing the best in the business to create a world class record label and industry leader. In the UK, labels such as Columbia, Epic, RCA, Syco, Commercial Group, Red Essential, Relentless, Black Butter and Insanity all make up the Sony Music family.

Sony Music is the home to the world’s greatest artists past and present such as Beyonce, Foo Fighters, One Direction, Britney Spears, Usher, Justin Timberlake, John Legend, Meghan Trainor, Mark Ronson, Miley Cyrus, Calvin Harris, Pharrell Williams, George Ezra, Olly Murs, Paloma Faith, Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Luther Vandross, Dolly Parton, AC/DC, Manic Street Preachers and The Clash. 

Sony Music Entertainment is a global recorded music company with a current roster that includes a broad array of both local artists and international superstars. The company boasts a vast catalogue that comprises some of the most important recordings in history. Sony Music Entertainment is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America. 

The Chairman and CEO of Sony Music UK is Jason Iley.”

Sony Music has had a long and complicated history of merging and acquisition and the roots of the company go back to the American Record Corporation which was founded in 1929 and the beginnings of Sony. The most important legal action was the joint venture which was the founding of the company described here:

“In 2004, Sony and Bertelsmann established a 50-50 joint venture called Sony BMG Music Entertainment and transferred businesses of Sony Music Entertainment (former CBS Records) and Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG; Ariola, Arista, RCA Records, etc.) into the joint venture, although later in 2008, Sony acquired Bertelsmann’s stake and the company reverted to the SME name. The buyout led to the dissolution of BMG, which relaunched as BMG Rights Management.”


Universal Music Group


“We are UMG, the Universal Music Group.

We are the world’s leading music company.

In everything we do, we are committed to artistry, innovation and entrepreneurship.

We own and operate a broad array of businesses engaged in recorded music, music publishing, merchandising, and audiovisual content in more than 60 countries.

We identify and develop recording artists and songwriters, and we produce, distribute and promote the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful music to delight and entertain fans around the world.

Our vast catalog of recordings and songs stretches back over a century and comprises the largest, most diverse and culturally rich collection of music ever assembled.

As digital technology refashions the world, our unmatched commitment to lead in developing new services, platforms and business models for the delivery of music and related content empowers innovators and allows new commercial and artistic opportunities to flourish.

Knowing that music, a powerful force for good in the world, is unique in its ability to inspire people and bring them together, we work with our artists and employees to serve our communities.

We are the home for music’s greatest artists, innovators and entrepreneurs.

Together, we are UMG, the Universal Music Group.”

Universal Music Group is a subsidiary company owned by Vivendi.


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