Music label

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A music label , record label or label [ 'lɛibəl ] for short is a brand name for the distribution of musical works . In the case of larger recording companies whose sales repertoire includes different acoustic content ( music industry ), this is often a department within the company.


Each label can be registered with the Society for the Utilization of Ancillary Rights (GVL) and receives an individual label code to identify the records . Music labels are mostly managed as a separate legal form from the recording company and form a group with the recording company through majority participation . Publishers outside the music market also speak of labels - for example when it comes to audio books.

Numerically sorted catalogs are kept in order to sort the large number of records released by a music label every year and to give the trade, buyers, collectors and discographers a better overview . Using the catalog numbers, the sound carriers of a music label can then be identified more easily.

Major labels and independent labels

Record labels are thus the sales area of ​​a recording company that markets its repertoire on the basis of a label catalog. The remaining three world's largest recording companies Universal , Sony Music and Warner , which together have between 75 and 80% market share, are not themselves music labels , but are called major labels or the "Big Three" in technical terms .

A record label that is subordinate to a larger music label as a subsidiary is referred to as a sub-label or sub-label , in rare cases also as a division (English for department ) or subsidiary (English for subsidiary ). The sub-labels of a record label usually specialize in a certain genre of music, namely classical music , jazz , folk music , pop , rap , rock etc.

In addition, there are numerous smaller independent labels (short: indie labels ; from English independent : "independent") that exist independently of the major record companies on the music market. In terms of sales, they are significantly smaller than the major labels and often specialize in one style. The indie labels also include net labels that distribute their music over the Internet. Important indie labels include Chandos Records ( world's largest independent classical label ) and Epitaph Records ( world's largest independent label ). Their greatest disadvantage is usually that they cannot afford their own sales network for cost reasons and therefore often work with the major labels in sales.

Origin of the term and history

The term “label”, which is also common in German, is originally derived from the labels (English: “label”) that are affixed to the middle of the records and contain the logo of the music label and usually the music titles, performers and composers. Even today, these labels - which, however, no longer exist on compact discs in their earlier form - are referred to as “labels”. The designation in the sense of brand represents a generalization from the label to the brand that uses this label. A similar relationship can be found with fashion labels .

Until the early 1950s, the music market in the USA was dominated by seven record companies (= "record companies"): Capitol Records , Columbia Records , Decca Records , London Records , Mercury Records , MGM Records and RCA Victor . They were called major record companies because they combined the largest share of sales, had their own plate pressing plants and had their own sales network. Independent labels (with the exception of King Records and Modern / RPM Records ) did not have this production depth and were therefore dependent on independent or label-owned pressing plants and sales partners of the major labels. From 1955 onwards, the rock & roll style of music contributed to a general expansion of sales in the record industry, which also benefited independent labels and contributed to the establishment of further independent record labels. Since rock music began around 1970, it has been possible for every independent label to advance to a major label at short notice, regardless of the depth of production. So RSO Records became a major label from 1975 onwards due to the phenomenal success of the Bee Gees . The sharpness of distinction between the two segments has therefore largely been lost.

See also


  • Bernd Meyer-Rähnitz: Label logos for the magnifying glass: brands, stamps, prints, advertising stickers. Albis International, Dresden / Ústí 2011, ISBN 978-80-8671-81-0 .
  • Arnold Shaw: Dictionary of American Pop / Rock. Rock, Pop, Rhythm & Blues, Folk, Country, Blues, Gospel, Jazz, Films, Musical Theater, Recording & Music Business. Schirmer et al. a., New York NY 1982, ISBN 0-02-872350-3 .
  • Frank Wonneberg : Label customer vinyl: record companies, label trees, matrix keys, quality parameters. Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-89602-371-1 .

Web links

Commons : Record label  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Record label  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Examples of audio book labels are NDR Audio (, Westfire Entertainment ( Memento of the original from March 27, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (, Osterwoldaudio ( etc. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. a b Shaw: Dictionary of American Pop / Rock. 1982, p. 222.