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The really big record labels are often owned by bigger companies that have a lot of different businesses. Sometimes they do well and focus on the music aspect and other times they decide to let go of the music end of their business and sell off a label and all that goes with it. Because of this, there has been a lot of change and names have come and gone. There are three big record labels. That’s right, just three of them. This is the least there’s even been, but it involves a whole lot of mergers over the years.












Image from Groove Africa


Universal Music Group, sometimes called UMG Recordings, Inc. is an American company. While they are an American company, their majority owner is a French media conglomerate called Vivendi, and a Chinese tech company, Tencent, owns a minority share. They have a gigantic group of labels and brands that work under this umbrella company. Their catalog includes companies all across the globe, from Argentina to the United States and 40 countries in-between.


Their holdings in the United States are some of the best-known record labels from the past and include:


Capitol Music Group, Def Jam Recordings, Fame House, Interscope Geffen AM, Island Records, Polygram Entertainment, Republic Records, Spinefarm Records, Universal Music Enterprises, Universal Music Group Nashville, Universal Music Latin Entertainment,Universal Music Publishing Group and Verve Label Group.


Universal Music Group is the world’s leading music company and their website states that they exist to shape culture through the power of artistry. With their massive collection of artists, it’s sure that their goal is within their reach. The company’s history goes back to the formation of the American office of Decca Records in 1934 and then that company branched out on its own in 1939. It wasn’t until 1962 that American Decca merged with MCA.


In 1990 Japanese Matsushita Electric purchased MCA, but five years later 80% of MCA was purchased by Seagram and the next year it was renamed Universal Studios, Inc. and the music section was named Universal Music Group, and that’s just the beginning of the mergers and sales. You can see that it’s quite a convoluted family tree for this record label.

WARNER MUSIC GROUP:$5,706 billion












Image from Crunchbase


The second of the big three is Warner Music Group. Don’t feel bad for them, they’re still an incredible business and own some of the most successful labels in the world. Their well-known labels include:


Elektra Records, Warner Records and Atlantic Records


With headquarters located in New York City, Warner Music is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. They were traded there from 2005 until 2011 and then sold to Access Industries but in 2020 they once again became a public company. The start of Warner Music is fairly interesting as the label began in the Warner Brothers film studio. One of their actors, Tab Hunter, had a number one song but even though he was contracted to Warner Bros. for acting, his record label was with Dot Records, which was owned by the rival film studio, Paramount Pictures.


Warner wanted to own all of Tab’s talent and that of their other actors, too. So, they went out and purchased Frank Sinatra’s Reprise Records so they could own their label. And then, like all of the other labels, numerous sales and trades and different ownership groups followed.












Image from Musicweek


Sony Music Entertainment is an American music company that is part of Sony Music Group and has a global reach. This company is a giant in the field, but then again, so are all of the Big 3. Their labels include:


Columbia, RCA, Epic, Arista, Arista Nashville,RCA Records Label Nashville


Sony Music Group is owned by Sony Corporation of America, which falls under a partnership of Sony Music Holdings, Inc. and Sony Entertainment, and all of those companies come down to ownership by one giant, the Japanese company Sony.


Originally founded in 1929 as American Record Corporation, the company changed names in 1938 and became Columbia Recording Corporation after it was acquired by the Columbia Broadcasting System. A reorganization in 1968 led to the name being changed to CBS Records. Then, 20 years later, the company was purchased by Sony but held onto its name until 1991 when it was named Sony BMG. Eventually, Sony bought out Bertelsmann Music Group, the BMG arm, and became Sony Music.

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