Record label

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A record label, or record company, is a brand or trademark of music recordings and music videos, or the company that owns it. Record label_sentence_0

Sometimes, a record label is also a publishing company that manages such brands and trademarks, coordinates the production, manufacture, distribution, marketing, promotion, and enforcement of copyright for sound recordings and music videos, while also conducting talent scouting and development of new artists ("artists and repertoire" or "A&R"), and maintaining contracts with recording artists and their managers. Record label_sentence_1

The term "record label" derives from the circular label in the center of a vinyl record which prominently displays the manufacturer's name, along with other information. Record label_sentence_2

Within the mainstream music industry, recording artists have traditionally been reliant upon record labels to broaden their consumer base, market their albums, and promote their singles on streaming services, radio, and television. Record label_sentence_3

Record labels also provide publicists, who assist performers in gaining positive media coverage, and arrange for their merchandise to be available via stores and other media outlets. Record label_sentence_4

Major versus independent record labels Record label_section_0

Record labels may be small, localized and "independent" ("indie"), or they may be part of a large international media group, or somewhere in between. Record label_sentence_5

The Association of Independent Music (AIM) defines a 'major' as "a multinational company which (together with the companies in its group) has more than 5% of the world market(s) for the sale of records or music videos." Record label_sentence_6

As of 2012, there are only three labels that can be referred to as "major labels" (Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group). Record label_sentence_7

In 2014, AIM estimated that the majors had a collective global market share of some 65–70%. Record label_sentence_8

Major labels Record label_section_1

Record labels are often under the control of a corporate umbrella organization called a "music group". Record label_sentence_9

A music group is usually owned by an international conglomerate "holding company", which often has non-music divisions as well. Record label_sentence_10

A music group controls and consists of music-publishing companies, record (sound recording) manufacturers, record distributors, and record labels. Record label_sentence_11

Record companies (manufacturers, distributors, and labels) may also constitute a "record group" which is, in turn, controlled by a music group. Record label_sentence_12

The constituent companies in a music group or record group are sometimes marketed as being "divisions" of the group. Record label_sentence_13

From 1988 to 1999, there were six major record labels, known as the Big Six: Record label_sentence_14

Record label_ordered_list_0

  1. Warner Music GroupRecord label_item_0_0
  2. EMIRecord label_item_0_1
  3. Sony Music (Known as CBS Records until January 1991)Record label_item_0_2
  4. BMG (Formed in 1984 as RCA/Ariola International)Record label_item_0_3
  5. Universal Music Group (Known as MCA Music until 1996)Record label_item_0_4
  6. PolyGramRecord label_item_0_5

PolyGram was merged into Universal Music Group in 1999, leaving the rest to be known as the Big Five. Record label_sentence_15

In 2004, Sony and BMG agreed to a joint venture to create the Sony BMG label (which would be renamed Sony Music Entertainment after a 2008 merger). Record label_sentence_16

In 2007, the four remaining companies—known as the Big Four—controlled about 70% of the world music market, and about 80% of the United States music market. Record label_sentence_17

In 2012, the major divisions of EMI were sold off separately by owner Citigroup: most of EMI's recorded music division was absorbed into UMG; EMI Music Publishing was absorbed into Sony/ATV Music Publishing; finally, EMI's Parlophone and Virgin Classics labels were absorbed into Warner Music Group in July 2013. Record label_sentence_18

This left the so-called Big Three labels: Record label_sentence_19

Record label_ordered_list_1

  1. Universal Music GroupRecord label_item_1_6
  2. Sony Music EntertainmentRecord label_item_1_7
  3. Warner Music GroupRecord label_item_1_8

Independent Record label_section_2

Main article: Independent record label Record label_sentence_20

Record labels and music publishers that are not under the control of the big three are generally considered to be independent (indie), even if they are large corporations with complex structures. Record label_sentence_21

The term indie label is sometimes used to refer to only those independent labels that adhere to independent 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. Record label_sentence_22

Independent labels are often considered more artist-friendly. Record label_sentence_23

Though they may have less financial clout, indie labels typically offer larger artist royalty with a 50% profit-share agreement, aka 50-50 deal, not uncommon. Record label_sentence_24

In addition, independent labels are often artist-owned (although not always), with a stated intent often being to control the quality of the artist's output. Record label_sentence_25

Independent labels usually do not enjoy the resources available to the "big three" and as such will often lag behind them in market shares. Record label_sentence_26

However, frequently independent artists manage a return by recording for a much smaller production cost of a typical big label release. Record label_sentence_27

Sometimes they are able to recoup their initial advance even with much lower sales numbers. Record label_sentence_28

On occasion, established artists, once their record contract has finished, move to an independent label. Record label_sentence_29

This often gives the combined advantage of name recognition and more control over one's music along with a larger portion of royalty profits. Record label_sentence_30

Artists such as Dolly Parton, Aimee Mann, Prince, Public Enemy, BKBravo (Kua and Rafi), among others, have done this. Record label_sentence_31

Historically, companies started in this manner have been re-absorbed into the major labels (two examples are American singer Frank Sinatra's Reprise Records, which has been owned by Warner Music Group for some time now, and musician Herb Alpert's A&M Records, now owned by Universal Music Group). Record label_sentence_32

Similarly, Madonna's Maverick Records (started by Madonna with her manager and another partner) was to come under control of Warner Music when Madonna divested herself of controlling shares in the company. Record label_sentence_33

Some independent labels become successful enough that major record companies negotiate contracts to either distribute music for the label or in some cases, purchase the label completely. Record label_sentence_34

Imprint Record label_section_3

A label used as a trademark or brand and not a company is called an imprint, a term used for the same concept in publishing. Record label_sentence_35

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. Record label_sentence_36

Sublabel Record label_section_4

Music collectors often use the term sublabel to refer to either an imprint or a subordinate label company (such as those within a group). Record label_sentence_37

For example, in the 1980s and 1990s, "4th & B'way" was a trademarked brand owned by Island Records Ltd. in the UK and by a subordinate branch, Island Records, Inc., in the United States. Record label_sentence_38

The center label on a 4th & Broadway record marketed in the United States would typically bear a 4th & B'way logo and would state in the fine print, "4th & B'way™, an Island Records, Inc. company". Record label_sentence_39

Collectors discussing labels as brands would say that 4th & B'way is a sublabel or imprint of just "Island" or "Island Records". Record label_sentence_40

Similarly, collectors who choose to treat corporations and trademarks as equivalent might say 4th & B'way is an imprint and/or sublabel of both Island Records, Ltd. and that company's sublabel, Island Records, Inc. Record label_sentence_41

However, such definitions are complicated by the corporate mergers that occurred in 1989 (when Island was sold to PolyGram) and 1998 (when PolyGram merged with Universal). Record label_sentence_42

Island remained registered as corporations in both the United States and UK, but control of its brands changed hands multiple times as new companies were formed, diminishing the corporation's distinction as the "parent" of any sublabels. Record label_sentence_43

My Ami is the early imprint of Columbia records. Record label_sentence_44

Vanity labels Record label_section_5

Main article: Vanity label Record label_sentence_45

Vanity labels are labels that bear an imprint that gives the impression of an artist's ownership or control, but in fact represent a standard artist/label relationship. Record label_sentence_46

In such an arrangement, the artist will control nothing more than the usage of the name on the label, but may enjoy a greater say in the packaging of his or her work. Record label_sentence_47

An example of such a label is the Neutron label owned by ABC while at Phonogram Inc. in the UK. Record label_sentence_48

At one point artist Lizzie Tear (under contract with ABC themselves) appeared on the imprint, but it was devoted almost entirely to ABC's offerings and is still used for their re-releases (though Phonogram owns the masters of all the work issued on the label). Record label_sentence_49

However, not all labels dedicated to particular artists are completely superficial in origin. Record label_sentence_50

Many artists, early in their careers, create their own labels which are later bought out by a bigger company. Record label_sentence_51

If this is the case it can sometimes give the artist greater freedom than if they were signed directly to the big label. Record label_sentence_52

There are many examples of this kind of label, such as Nothing Records, owned by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails; and Morning Records, owned by the Cooper Temple Clause, who were releasing EPs for years before the company was bought by RCA. Record label_sentence_53

Relationship with artists Record label_section_6

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. Record label_sentence_54

Contracts may extend over short or long durations, and may or may not refer to specific recordings. Record label_sentence_55

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. Records provides a strong counterexample, as does Roger McGuinn's claim, made in July 2000 before a US Senate committee, that the Byrds never received any of the royalties they had been promised for their biggest hits, "Mr. Record label_sentence_56 Tambourine Man" and "Turn! Record label_sentence_57 Turn!, Turn! Record label_sentence_58 ". Record label_sentence_59

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. Record label_sentence_60

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. Record label_sentence_61

For established artists, a label is usually less involved in the recording process. Record label_sentence_62

The relationship between record labels and artists can be a difficult one. Record label_sentence_63

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. Record label_sentence_64

Often the record label's decisions are prudent ones from a commercial perspective, but these decisions may frustrate artists who feel that their art is being diminished or misrepresented by such actions. Record label_sentence_65

In the early days of the recording industry, recording labels were absolutely necessary for the success of any artist. Record label_sentence_66

The first goal of any new artist or band was to get signed to a contract as soon as possible. Record label_sentence_67

In the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, many artists were so desperate to sign a contract with a record company that they sometimes ended up signing agreements in which they sold the rights to their recordings to the record label in perpetuity. Record label_sentence_68

Entertainment lawyers are usually employed by artists to discuss contract terms. Record label_sentence_69

Through the advances of the Internet the role of labels is becoming increasingly changed, as artists are able to freely distribute their own material through web radio, peer to peer file sharing such as BitTorrent, and other services, for little or no cost but with little financial return. Record label_sentence_70

Established artists, such as Nine Inch Nails, whose career was developed with major label backing, announced an end to their major label contracts, citing that the uncooperative nature of the recording industry with these new trends is hurting musicians, fans and the industry as a whole. Record label_sentence_71

However, Nine Inch Nails later returned to working with a major label, admitting that they needed the international marketing and promotional reach that a major label can provide. Record label_sentence_72

Radiohead also cited similar motives with the end of their contract with EMI when their album In Rainbows was released as a "pay what you want" sales model as an online download, but they also returned to a label for a conventional release. Record label_sentence_73

Research shows that record labels still control most access to distribution. Record label_sentence_74

New label strategies Record label_section_7

Computers and internet technology led to an increase in file sharing and direct-to-fan digital distribution, causing music sales to plummet in recent years. Record label_sentence_75

Labels and organizations have had to change their strategies and the way they work with artists. Record label_sentence_76

New types of deals are being made with artists called "multiple rights" or "360" deals with artists. Record label_sentence_77

These types of pacts give labels rights and percentages to artist's touring, merchandising, and endorsements. Record label_sentence_78

In exchange for these rights, labels usually give higher advance payments to artists, have more patience with artist development, and pay higher percentages of CD sales. Record label_sentence_79

These 360 deals are most effective when the artist is established and has a loyal fan base. Record label_sentence_80

For that reason, labels now have to be more relaxed with the development of artists because longevity is the key to these types of pacts. Record label_sentence_81

Several artists such as Paramore, Maino, and even Madonna have signed such types of deals. Record label_sentence_82

A look at an actual 360 deal offered by Atlantic Records to an artist shows a variation of the structure. Record label_sentence_83

Atlantic's document offers a conventional cash advance to sign the artist, who would receive a royalty for sales after expenses were recouped. Record label_sentence_84

With the release of the artist's first album, however, the label has an option to pay an additional $200,000 in exchange for 30 percent of the net income from all touring, merchandise, endorsements, and fan-club fees. Record label_sentence_85

Atlantic would also have the right to approve the act's tour schedule, and the salaries of certain tour and merchandise sales employees hired by the artist. Record label_sentence_86

In addition, the label also offers the artist a 30 percent cut of the label's album profits—if any—which represents an improvement from the typical industry royalty of 15 percent. Record label_sentence_87

Internet and digital labels Record label_section_8

Main article: Netlabel Record label_sentence_88

With the Internet now being a viable source for obtaining music, netlabels have emerged. Record label_sentence_89

Depending on the ideals of the net label, music files from the artists may be downloaded free of charge or for a fee that is paid via PayPal or other online payment system. Record label_sentence_90

Some of these labels also offer hard copy CDs in addition to direct download. Record label_sentence_91

Digital Labels are the latest version of a 'net' label. Record label_sentence_92

Whereas 'net' labels were started as a free site, digital labels represent more competition for the major record labels. Record label_sentence_93

Open-source labels Record label_section_9

Main article: Open-source record label Record label_sentence_94

The new century brought the phenomenon of open-source or open-content record labels. Record label_sentence_95

These are inspired by the free software and open source movements and the success of Linux. Record label_sentence_96

Publishers as labels Record label_section_10

In the mid-2000s, some music publishing companies began undertaking the work traditionally done by labels. Record label_sentence_97

The publisher Sony/ATV Music, for example, leveraged its connections within the Sony family to produce, record, distribute, and promote Elliott Yamin's debut album under a dormant Sony-owned imprint, rather than waiting for a deal with a proper label. Record label_sentence_98

See also Record label_section_11

Record label_unordered_list_2


Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Record label.