Are there various types of record companies?
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As with music publishers, record companies vary in size and structure. There are “majors”, “mini-majors”, and “independents.” For example, there are large record companies called “major” labels because their product is distributed by one of the “big four” music distribution companies. These enormous distribution networks get your records moved from the manufacturing plants and into the record stores where they are sold. The big four are: BMG, UNI, SONY, and WEA. Examples of major labels include RCA Records (BMG), MCA Records (UNI), Columbia Records (SONY), and Atlantic Records (WEA).
Under the majors are the medium-sized companies called “mini-majors,” which are affiliated with and distributed through one of the big four, and which are generally co-owned by one of the majors. They include such labels as La Face Records (Arista/BMG), Maverick Records (Warner Bros/WEA), and Interscope Records (MCA/UNI).
Then there are the so-called “major-distributed independent” labels. These are created by independent production agreements with established recording artists who are unique in positions to find talent and steer them to major labels. These include such “vanity labels” like Flip/Interscope (UNI), Big Boy Entertainment/Arista (BMG), Ruffhouse/Columbia (SONY), etc.
Last but not least, there are small, true independent (“inde”) record companies that are either self-distributed or distributed through an independent distributor. They have little or no staff, no affiliations with any majors or mini-majors, and are often financed on limited or shoe-string budgets by their owners and/or investors.
(Reprinted with permission of Ruben Salazar, Esq.)