Record Labels

From Wikipedia.

In the music industry, a record label can be a brand and a trademark associated with the marketing of music recordings and music videos. Most commonly, a record label is the company that manages such brands and trademarks, coordinates the production, manufacture, distribution, marketing and promotion, and enforcement of copyright protection of sound recordings and music videos; conducts A&R; and maintains contracts with recording artists and their managers.

The music industry

Within the music industry, recording artists have been increasingly reliant upon record labels to broaden their audience, market their albums, and be both promoted and heard on radio, televison, with publicists that assist performers in positive media reports to market their merchandise, and make it available via stores and other media outlets. The internet has increasingly been a way that some artists avoid costs and gain new audiences, as well as the use of videos in some cases, to sell their products.

Major vs. Independent record labels

Record labels may be small, localized, and "independent" ("indie"), or they may be part of a large international media group, or somewhere in between. The largest 4 record labels are called major labels.[1] A sublabel is a label that is part of, but trades under a different name from, a larger record company.


The term "record label" originally referred to the circular label in the center of a vinyl record that prominently displayed the manufacturer's name, along with other information.

Imprint

When a label is strictly a trademark or brand, not a company, then it is usually called an imprint, a term used for the same concept in the publishing industry. An imprint is sometimes marketed as being a project, unit, or division of a record label company, even though there is no legal business structure associated with the imprint.

Major labels today (Big Four)

  1. Warner Music Group
  2. EMI
  3. Sony Music (BMG absorbed into Sony)
  4. Universal Music Group

Major labels before 1998 (Big Six)

  1. Warner Music Group
  2. EMI
  3. Sony Music
  4. BMG Music
  5. Universal Music Group
  6. Polygram

Record labels are often under the control of a corporate umbrella organization called a music group. A music group is typically owned by an international conglomerate holding company, which often has non-music divisions as well. A music group controls and consists of music publishing companies, record (sound recording) manufacturers, record distributors, and record labels. As of 2005, the "big four" music groups control about 70% of the world music market, and about 80% of the United States music market. Record companies (manufacturers, distributors, and labels) may also comprise a record group which is, in turn, controlled by a music group. The constituent companies in a music group or record group are sometimes marketed as being divisions of the group.

Independent

Record companies and music publishers that are not under the control of the big four are generally considered to be independent (indie), even if they are large corporations with complex structures. Some prefer to use the term indie label to refer to only those independent labels that adhere to an arbitrary, ill-defined criteria of corporate structure and size, and some consider an indie label to be almost any label that releases non-mainstream music, regardless of its corporate structure.

Relationship with artists

A label typically enters into an exclusive recording contract with an artist to market the artist's recordings in return for royalties on the selling price of the recordings. Contracts may extend over short or long durations, and may or may not refer to specific recordings. Established, successful artists tend to be able to renegotiate their contracts to get terms more favorable to them, but Prince's much-publicized 1994–1996 feud with Warner Bros. provides a strong counterexample, as does Roger McGuinn's claim, made in July 2000 before a U.S. Senate committee, that The Byrds never received any of the royalties they had been promised for their biggest hits, "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Turn, Turn, Turn".[2]

A contract either provides for the artist to deliver completed recordings to the label, or for the label to undertake the recording with the artist. For artists without a recording history, the label is often involved in selecting producers, recording studios, additional musicians, and songs to be recorded, and may supervise the output of recording sessions. For established artists, a label is usually less involved in the recording process.

Although both parties allegedly need each other to survive, the relationship between record labels and artists can be a difficult one. Many artists have had albums altered or censored in some way by the labels before they are released—songs being edited, artwork or titles being changed, etc. Record labels generally do this because they believe that the album will sell better if the changes are made. Often the record label's decisions are prudent ones from a commercial perspective, but this typically frustrates the artist who feels that their artwork is being diminished or misrepresented by such actions.

In the early days of the recording industry, record labels were absolutely necessary for the success of any artist. The first goal of any new artist or band was to get signed to a contract as soon as possible. In the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, many artists were so desperate to sign a contract with a record company that they usually ended up signing a bad contract, sometimes giving away the rights to their music in the process. Entertainment lawyers are used by some to look over any contract before it is signed.