There was a time when music came in the form of vinyl records. Then we transitioned into audio cassettes. Floppy disks arrived in the computer era only to be overtaken by CD-ROMs and later USB drives.
But one thing that has remained constant is that the world of music has been dominated by record labels or music companies. They have shown great adaptability when it comes to dealing with changes and a few of them continue to dominate the market.
In the last few decades, three companies have emerged as the market leaders in terms of a global presence and despite all the changes in technology, these three labels have continued to dominate the industry.
The whole music business in US, and to some extent globally, has been divided between these three big brands with only local companies restricted to one nation or region able to challenge their supremacy in that particular country only.
Listed below are the three biggest record labels in the world.
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Universal Music Group
Universal Music Group or UMG is one of the ‘big three’ record labels in the world of music along with Sony Music and Warner Music Group. A subsidiary of French multinational conglomerate, Vivendi, Universal has been in existence since 1934 under various names. It first emerged as the record label connected to the film producers Universal pictures.
The headquarters of the company are located in Santa Monica, California while it has its offices in many major cities of the world.
The company currently hires nearly 7,000 employees and has revenues of over 1 billion. The group has under its wings many subsidiaries and other labels. It also has a big presence in countries like Australia, Japan and Sweden.
Some of the biggest names in the world of international music are currently working with UMG. These include Taylor Swift, Enrique Iglesias, Mariah Carey, Kanye West, Lady Gaga and others.
Sony Music Entertainment
Another member of the ‘big three’ Sony Music Entertainment began as American Record Corporation in 1929 before being taken over by Columbia Broadcasting System. It passed through many hands and many names to take its present shape.
The company’s headquarters are located in New York with offices and subsidiaries spread all over the globe. With revenue close to 5 billion dollars, the company is a behemoth in the world of entertainment but it is in music that its business has always been grounded.
The company’s regional divisions in countries like Australia, UK and India are also market leaders in their respective domain and have made Sony a household name all over the world.
The big names of music industry that are currently with Sony Music are Beyonce, Shakira, Alicia Keys. In the past, legends like Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and Barbara Streisand have also worked with the brand.
Warner Music Group
Warner Music Group (WMG) also has its headquarters in New York. The roots of the company go back to 1958 when the film production company Warner Brothers set up a unit called Warner Brothers Records.
The Warner Music Group has more than one record label under its umbrella. It owns, apart from Warner Bros Records, Parlophone, Atlantic Records and Warner/Chappell Music.
The company has revenues of over 2 billion and has nearly 3-and-a-half thousand employess. Apart from this, the company has a global presence and is present in various guises in around 50 countries across the globe.
In 2010, WMG entered into a partnership with MTV Networks. This turned out to be beneficial for both the companies.
Some years ago, WMG acquired Universal Music Group’s former subsidiary EMI’s music records. With this, the company aims to be able to match its other two rivals.