Record labels

Record labels can be major or independents. Major labels are usually owned by multinational media conglomerates that also produce other media content.

The major labels are generally known as 'the big four':

  • EMI
  • Sony BMG
  • Universal Music Group
  • Warner Music Group

All other record labels are considered as independents.

Although independents are often seen as more fashionable or edgy, some major companies create subsidiary labels that appear to be independents but are actually owned by large conglomerates.

Some independent labels include:

  • Domino
  • XL
  • Rough Trade
  • Fierce Panda

Recently many artists or bands have been discovered via TV shows like The X Factor.

The artists that are successful on these types of talent shows have a prime time media presence that helps develop a fan base before they even release a record.

Often record companies manufacture bands through TV talent shows and private auditions.

Record companies will own copyright in the music a band or artist produce and they, in turn, will pay the band or artist royalties which is a percentage of the profits from music sold to fans.

A finished work, like a song or an album, is like an onion, made up of several layers of copyright coming together to make the final product.

For an album, the performer, the songwriter, the record label and the artist who created the front cover may all have rights in the final product.

The music itself is known as the intellectual property of the band or the artist.

Record company roles

Within a record company there are very specific roles:

  • A and R (Artists and Repertoire) Manager – responsible for scouting talent and signing bands
  • Marketing Manager – responsible for the marketing of bands and artists
  • Promotions Manager – responsible for the promotional material for the bands and artists, works closely with the marketing manager
  • Press Officer – responsible for band or artist press releases and responding to press enquiries about new releases from the record label
  • Video Commissioner – responsible for commissioning directors to shoot music videos for bands and artists

Large independent record labels and major labels will have a distribution team who manage company sales to record stores and online music retailers, such as iTunes. Smaller independent labels will use separate distribution companies to do this work for them.