Top 10 major Record Labels

May 19, 2017 · 5 min read

A record label is a brand in the music industry that works in the publishing and marketing of music videos and recordings. It goes through a long list of processes including scouting talents from various platforms and parts of the world, develop sound recordings and music videos, take complete care of the marketing of their artists and maintain contracts with the respective managers and artists.

One must also know that the term “Record Label” was derived from the circular label that can be seen in the center of a vinyl record displaying various details including the manufacturer’s name. Undoubtedly, there are several functions an industry requires to work on to maintain its reputation and functionality in the market.

For record labels, the major function is to take care of the copyright of sound and video recordings by:

1. Produce

2. Manufacture

3. Distribute

4. Market

5. Promote

6. Enforce

Now, you may have heard about the names of a couple of record labels while watching television or surfing the internet. Let us help you get more details about the same and help you learn about the world’s top 10 record labels:


1. Sony Music Entertainment:

Widely popular by the name “Sony Music”, this American music company was founded in 1929 by the name American Record Corporation. By 1938, it was renamed as Columbia Recording Corporation while it got its current name by the year 1991. Headquartered in New York City, Sony also formed a joint venture with Michael Jackson in 1995 merging the former’s music publishing operations with the latter’s ATV Music to give birth to Sony/ATV Music Publishing.


2. Universal Music Publishing Group:

The world’s second largest music publishing company after Sony/ATV Music Publishing, UMPG has produced some of the popular hits of all times including “Gangnam Style” by Psy, “Born to Be Wild” by Mars Bonfire, “That Don’t Impress Me Much” by Shania Twain, “Here Without You” by 3 Doors Down and “The Way You Look Tonight” by Kern/Fields.


3. Warner Music Group:

Headquartered in New York City, this American multinational entertainment conglomerate stands third in the music industry. Though the record label was in news for its controversy with YouTube and for CD price fixing, the company still rules the industry and has given birth to a couple of flagship labels including Warner Bros. Records and Atlantic Records.


4. Island Records:

Founded in 1959, Island Records is a division of the Universal Music Group that has been a platform for several of the world’s most favorite artists like Amy Winehouse, Florence + The Machine, Ariana Grande, Hozier, AlunaGeorge, Keane and more. Also, there are currently three Island labels namely; Island US, Island UK and Island Australia.


5. BMG Rights Management:

Established in 2008 between Bertelsmann and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) as a joint venture, BMG may be the youngest international music company, but it has its operations going on full swing in cities like Berlin, Sydney, Stockholm, Madrid, Sao Paulo, Paris, London, Los Angeles and more. Its clients include a number of the world’s favorite including Afrojack, DJ Snake, Avril Lavigne, John Legend, The Black Eyed Peas, Frank Ocean, DJ Khaled, will.i.am and MGMT.


6. ABC-Paramount Records:

Known for producing music in a number of genres such as country, jazz, pop, soundtrack and pop, ABC Records happened to be the most talked about music label operated by Am-Par Record Corporation. Signing artists such as Jimmy Rushing, John Coltrane, Otis Spann, Eddie Vinson and Barry Mann, ABC was later sold to MCA Records during the presidency of Steve Diener due to financial problems in the company.


7. Virgin Records:

Virgin Records was founded in 1972 by entrepreneurs Richard Branson, Nik Powell, Tom Newman and Simon Draper. Branson had mentioned in his autobiography that the name “Virgin” was suggested by his colleague who believed that the name perfectly suited the company as all the entrepreneurs were new to the business as ‘Virgins’. The company had signed a number of popular artists including Spice Girls, Janet Jackson, Simple Minds, the Human League, Mike Oldfield and Genesis.


8. Red Hill Records:

Red Hill Records is a segment of the independent Christian record label, Pamplin Music, which was founded Robert B. Pamplin, Jr. in 1995. The segment was formed in 2000 with primary focus being on electronic and pop music. It has signed artists such as Katy Perry, Ash Mundae, Kindrid Three, Aurora and The Echoing Green.


9. Atlantic Records:

Earning a reputation to have specialized in R&B, jazz and soul recordings, Atlantic Records was founded in 1947. The American record label has signed some of the world’s top earning artists such as James Blunt, David Guetta, Bruno Mars, Kelly Clarkson, Wiz Khalifa, Charlie Puth, Skrillex, Marina and the Diamonds, Ed Sheeran, Paramore, Flo Rida and many more.


10. Def Jam Recordings:

Owned by the Universal Music Group, the record label primarily focuses on urban and hip-hop music. Rick Rubin founded the record label in his dormitory at the New York University where he also managed to release a single by his group names Hose. Today, some of the notable artists for the record label include Afrojack, Iggy Azalea, Rihanna, Ludacris, BTS, Pusha T, Desiigner, Kanye West, Jeezy, Jeremih and Mother Mother among the many.


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