music labels

music labels
   In the music industry, record labels fall into two categories, major and minor. The majors are those labels which are comprised of, or attached to, the main six record companies in the world (Sony, WEA, Polygram, CEMA, BMG and UNI). The minors are also known as indie labels, because they are independent from the major record companies, both in terms of artistry and finance. However, the independents often rely on the assistance of the majors for the distribution of their products, and adopt similar business practices in order to expand their market and establish the necessary industry contacts. Despite this, the independents consider themselves to be more flexible and innovative in their choice of signings. The main independent labels are Mute, 4AD and One Little Indian. The most successful British label is EMI (now a part of the Sony corporation), formed in March 1931. One of its subsidiaries was Parlophone, bought from Holland’s Transoceanic Trading Company, and in the 1960s it also had a red label for novelty and comic acts. George Martin persuaded his bosses to release the Beatles’s first two singles on this label, and with their success, Parlophone became an outlet for popular music. In 1979, EMI were in financial difficulties and were taken over by Thorn Electrical Industries becoming Thorn/EMI. Despite the takeover, EMI still maintained relative freedom, and went on to buy up Liberty, United Artists Records and the jazz label Blue Note. Columbia is the oldest label still in existence, formed on 1 January 1889 by Edward Easton in the USA to sell musical recordings. By 1891 it was the biggest recording company in the world. In 1959, due to the success of rock ’n’ roll, the independents were able to establish a niche for themselves, aiming to pioneer new sounds and style. The majors often overshadowed their attempts by buying up the smaller labels wholesale, artists included, so the process would begin all over again. Thus the majors had a decisive advantage over the independents, with a huge number of artists on their books covering each particular genre and able to satisfy every section of consumer trends. With the rising popularity of the Internet, labels specializing in genres like house, ambient music trip-hop and techno music take advantage of its ability for faster distribution. Instead of depending on sought-after airplay, the Internet can sell directly, one track at a time, to fans who visit the websites.
   See also: record labels
   Further reading
    Burnett, R. (1996) The Global Jukebox: The International Music Industry, London: Routledge.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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