Learn About the Top Major Record Labels


A record label works in publishing and marketing music recordings and videos. It takes care of scouting talents, developing sound recordings and music videos, marketing your favorite artists, and maintaining contracts with prospective artists and managers. However, its major function is to take care of the copyright of the sound and video recordings.

These are the top ten major record labels in the world:

1. Universal Music Publishing Group 

Universal Music Publishing Group is the largest record label company in the world as of 2018. A subsidiary of Vivendi, Universal Music Group managed to expand to the point of dominating 98% of the music market in the world, operating in 68 countries. It boasts a catalog of songs and recordings that stretches back for over a century.

2. Sony Music Entertainment

Known by the name “Sony Music,” this American record label has offices in more than 40 different countries and a dozen labels under its company umbrella. It’s one of the “Big Three” major record labels in the United States and in the world. It was founded in 1929 by the name American Record Corporation. It formed a joint venture in 1995 with Michael Jackson, merging their music publishing operations with Michael Jackson’s ATV Music to give birth to Sony/ATV Music Publishing.

3. Warner Music Group 

Headquartered in New York City, Warner music group is the first of the “Big Three” record label conglomerates to sit at the peak of the industry. It operates in more than 50 countries in the world. When it struggled to adapt to the changes in the music industry, the label entered into publishing and music deals with YouTube to keep up with profits. It gave birth to a couple of flagship labels, including Atlantic Records and Warner Bros. Records.

4. Columbia Records 

Columbia Records is the oldest name in the music industry, going all the way back since it was established in the 19th century. Established in the late 1880s under the name Columbia Graphophone Company, Columbia Records is a pioneer in both content and technology and still operates until today under Sony Music Entertainment. This American record label evolved from the oldest surviving brand name in the sound recording biz – the American Graphophone Company.

5. Republic Records 

Republic Records is one of the biggest flagship record labels under Universal Music Group. It started out as a subsidiary of MCA’s Geffen Records before changing hands to Universal Records. The label was established as an independent record label in 1995 until it became home to the world’s biggest stars.

6. Atlantic Records 

One of the greatest independent labels established in the forties, Atlantic Records, challenged the primary record labels of its time. The company became one of the greatest soul labels of the ‘60s and is known for its strong focus on genres like jazz, rock and roll, and rhythm and blues. Now-famous jazz artists helped them recover from the financially devastating strike in the late ‘40s.

7. Island Records 

Island Records, a division of the Universal Music Group, was established in Jamaica in 1959. It was based on the United Kingdom for many years before it was owned by Universal Music Group. It’s one of the largest independent record labels in history, and it was the label that introduced the concept of reggae music into the world.

8. Virgin Records 

Founded in 1972, Virgin Records is owned by the Universal Music Group through its purchase of EMI Records. In 1986, Virgin Records of America was established, and in 1988, Virgin Classics was founded as a part of the label. Virgin Records is a major record label founded in the United Kingdom, which is now also active in the United States.

9. RCA Records 

RCA Records is one of the oldest and most successful record companies in the world. In 1929, the company bought the Victor Talking Machine Company, manufacturer of phonographs like the Victrola. This helped RCA secure its place in the history of the entertainment and sound industry. RCA Records is one of the only two Canadian record labels that survived the Great Depression. It is now owned by the Sony Corporation of America, and one of Sony Music’s four flagship labels.

10. Def Jam Recordings 

Operating under Universal Music Group, Def Jam Recordings focuses on urban, pop, and hip-hop music. It was founded in 1984 in a New York University dormitory but grew to become one of the biggest record labels in the world. It started as an indie label inspired by the street culture of New York.

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