Top Five Major Record Labels

If you have bought a CD any time in the last ten years, chance are that it came from one of the top five major record labels in the world. These labels combine to control nearly eighty percent of the market share for the entire music industry. The other twenty percent is accounted for by independent labels, some as small a self-producing band. Recently, the Big Five has become the Big Four, but the lion’s share of the profits still go to these behemoth houses of the top five major record labels.

The largest of the top five major record labels is currently Universal Music Group. It was originally affiliated with Universal Pictures, but split off from their parent company in the sixties. Today, there are many other sub-labels under its umbrella including Interscope Records, Geffen Records, A&M Records, Island Records, Def Jam Records, Mercury Records, Universal Motown Republic Group, and Universal Music Group Nashville, among others.

Warner Music Group also has its roots in the motion picture industry, this time Warner Brothers. It broke away from its parent in the late fifties and now captures a third of the market share with such sub-labels as Atlantic, Warner Bros., Rhino Entertainment, Independent Label Group, and WEA International.

EMI, or Electrical and Music Industries Ltd., is the only one of the big five to be entirely under British ownership. It has been around since the thirties and has signed both Frank Sinatra and Pink Floyd in their day. It now has Angel Music Group, Capitol Music Group (including Virgin Records), Blue Note Label Group, Caroline Distribution, EMI Christian Music Group, and EMI Arabia as direct subsidiaries.

Sony Music and BMG recently went through a merger that yielded Sony Music Entertainment. This label is now most famously associated with RCA and Columbia records. Because of this merger the top five major record labels have now become the top four.