10 Largest Record Labels in the World

Music is a huge aspect of human culture, allowing artists to express themselves and share their messages with people all around the world. While an increasing number of artists have chosen to sign with independent labels during the past few years, many still hope to make it big by getting in with major record labels that are universally respected and highly profitable.

So, just how large can some of these record labels get? Today we’ll be looking at 10 of the largest record labels in the world, including a few world-famous conglomerates known as the “Big Three,” and learning some fun facts about each one.

  1. RCA Records

Revenue: $385 million
Year Founded: 1929
Headquarters Location: New York, USA
Major Artists: Food, Drink & Tobacco

RCA Records  Source: wikimedia.org

In 1929, RCA bought the Victor Talking Machine Company, manufacturer of phonographs such as the “Victrola,” thus securing its place in the history of the sound and entertainment industry. RCA’s merger with Victor included Canada’s establishment of the Talking Machine Company, and the resulting company wound up being one of only two Canadian record label survivors of the Great Depression.

Did You Know?

RCA Records has faced some controversy for continuing to keep artist R. Kelly signed, despite a laundry list of allegations of sexually aggressive and exploitative behavior.

  1. Warner Records

Revenue: $410 million
Year Founded: 1958
Headquarters Location: California, USA
Major Artists: Blake Shelton, Kimbra

Warner Records  Source: wikimedia.org

Warner Records traces its roots back to the recorded music division of the famous American Warner Bros. film studio, which forayed into recording for the purpose of having access to low-cost music for its films. Warner Bros. acquired several other companies and experienced notable growth until the Great Depression caused serious setbacks. The popularity of broadcast radio also hurt record sales, but Warner Bros. recovered by founding Warner Records.

Did You Know?

The Warner Music UK division started a sub-label called “Artist to Watch Records” which focuses heavily on streaming.

  1. Columbia Label Group

Revenue: $500 million
Year Founded: 1887
Headquarters Location: New York, USA
Major Artists: Aerosmith, Adele

Columbia Label Group  Source: wikimedia.org

Columbia Records is the oldest name in the music industry, going all the way back to the onset of the sound recording industry as Connecticut’s Columbia Graphophone Company. The original company was based around the works of Alexander Graham Bell and his cousin, Chichester A. Bell. Columbia Records joined Sony in order to gain quicker access to industry markets in Asia.

Did You Know?

Columbia Records took a long time to start appealing to the youth market, but picked up the pace by signing folk rock artists such as Bob Dylan and the Byrds in the 1960s.

  1. Capitol Music Group

Revenue: $530 million
Year Founded: 2007
Headquarters Location: California, USA
Major Artists: Amy Grant, Passion Band

Capitol Music Group   Source: wikimedia.org

This record label was formed by the merger of Capitol Records and Virgin Records America, with the former having been founded back in 1942 by Buddy DeSylva, Johnny Mercer, and Glenn E. Wallichs. They went on to set themselves up for success during the remainder of the 1940s by signing several notable artists such as Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, and Billie Holiday alongside putting out educational records that taught children about music.

Did You Know?

Capitol Music Group is now comprised of several smaller labels such as Blue Note Records, Virgin Records, Astralwerks, and Motown Records.

  1. Interscope Records

Revenue: $600 million
Year Founded: 1990
Headquarters Location: California, USA
Major Artists: Eminem, Nine Inch Nails

Interscope Records  Source: wikimedia.org

Interscope Records is a highly successful record label that reaped the rewards of its first hit in under a year after it was first founded. It went on to become even more successful in 1992 with the release of Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic,” and was lucky enough to achieve profitability by 1993.

Did You Know?

Interscope Records ran into a rough patch with South African rave-rappers Die Antwoord over creative differences involving their album “TEN$ION,” with Die Antwoord leaving the label as a result.

  1. Republic Records

Revenue: $625 million
Year Founded: 1995
Headquarters Location: New York, USA
Major Artists: Nav, Amy Winehouse

Republic Records  Source: wikimedia.org

Temporarily referred to as Universal Republic Records, Republic Records originally started out as a subsidiary of MCA’s Geffen Records before changing hands to Universal Records. The label has made a massive name for itself as a division of Universal Music Group, working with stars such as Florence + the Machine and Seth MacFarlane. Republic Records also encompasses other businesses such as Casablanca Records and American Recordings

Did You Know?

Towards the end of 2018, artist Taylor Swift left behind her long-term label of 13 years, Big Machine, to join Republic Records instead.

  1. Atlantic Records

Revenue: $680 million
Year Founded: 1947
Headquarters Location: New York, USA
Major Artists: Aretha Franklin, Ruth Brown

Atlantic Records  Source: wikimedia.org

The Atlantic Records label is best known for its strong focus on the genres of rock and roll, rhythm & blues, and jazz. It was founded by the Turkish-American songwriter and businessman  Ahmet Ertegün along with record producer Herb Abramson. They signed with now-famous jazz artists such as Big Joe Turner and Ray Charles, which helped them recover from the financially-devastating strike of 1948.

Did You Know?

Atlantic Records was known as one of the greatest soul labels of the 1960s.

  1. Warner Music Group

Revenue: $1.13 billion
Year Founded: 2003
Headquarters Location: New York, USA
Major Artists: Josh Groban, Coco Lee

Warner Music Group  Source: wikimedia.org

The first of the “Big Three” record label conglomerates that sit at the peak of the industry, Warner Music Group was formerly part of Time Warner and wasn’t privatized until 2011. WMG employs over 3,500 people and operates in over 50 different countries around the world. After some struggles to adapt to the changing music industry, the label entered into publishing and recorded music deals with YouTube in order to keep up their profits.

Did You Know?

WMG boasts 29 of the top 100 best-selling U.S. albums of all time.

  1. Sony Music Entertainment

Revenue: $1.7 billion
Year Founded: 1929
Headquarters Location: New York, USA
Major Artists: Ozzy Osbourne, Electric Light Orchestra

Sony Music Entertainment  Source: wikimedia.org

With offices in more than 40 different countries around the globe and a dozen labels under its company umbrella, Sony Music Entertainment tends to organize its music into genre-specific labels for the sake of marketing. The company has been involved in multiple scandals, including the infamous payola scandal.

Did You Know?

The documentary “Leaving Neverland” resulted in a great deal of controversy and uncertainty over how profitable Michael Jackson’s legacy will be in the future, potentially causing financial problems for Sony.

  1. Universal Music Publishing Group

Revenue: $2.53 billion
Year Founded: 1972
Headquarters Location: New York, USA
Major Artists: ABBA, Adam Ant

Universal Music Publishing Group  Source: flickr.com

Universal Music Publishing Group is the largest record label company in the world by 2018 revenue. It has managed to expand to the point of dominating a whopping 98% of the world’s music market, operating in 68 countries and claiming the title of market leader in most of its international markets. UMG also boasts a catalog of songs and other recordings that stretches back for over a century.

Did You Know?

As of the year 2004, Universal Music Publishing Group separated itself from the similarly-named film studio Universal Studios.

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