We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Record Label?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Musical Expert is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Musical Expert, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The term record label may be difficult to define since it can actually refer to several different things. Furthermore, record label has to be viewed as an outdated term, since typically, recording artists no longer make records. They make CDS or recordings of their music that are downloaded. Initially, when records were the main means by which people listened to music or heard it played on the radio, the term record label made more sense, and in the most straightforward term, it referred to the label pasted on the center of the record that identified the company producing the record, the artists, and the title of the particular record.

When records were first recorded, they were often made by small and independent companies each with a name. Each company then represented a specific “brand” or trademark, and the label usually referenced a contractual relationship between certain artists, and a company. “Labels” worked hard to get their contracted artists airplay, which might in turn lead to people purchasing records. Labels profited, and so occasionally did artists, but they might instead be paid a flat fee for their recording.

Today there are still small independent companies that work with either one artist, and are generated by the artist, or that work with just a few artists. These independent labels frequently encounter difficulty when it comes to promotion and distribution of music, because they have nowhere near the presence or advertising budget of major music production companies. This is changing somewhat with the ability for any band to record their own music or videos and release them on the Internet either for free or for small fees. In some cases, band or artist self-promotion is seeing a rebirth because of this ability. Bands like OK Go have become famous worldwide without distribution or advertising by a major recording studio.

Typically, a record label tends to mean a brand of a specific recording studio. Some of these major studios include: Warner Music Group, EMI, and Sony. These studios and a few others control about 70% of all record labels. Each of these large studios may have small subdivided studios that work with certain kinds of artists. These may sometimes be called sublabels.

Sublabels work for the larger studios, but the actual larger studio still works to promote and advertise any record label it owns. Sometimes larger studios will also snap up an independent label that is constantly finding hit performers or producing terrific records. At other times, the larger recording company forms a contractual relationship with an independent label to aid in distribution and production for part of the profit.

The Warner Music Group, for instance, has about 50 record labels, either completely owned by the group or that have a contractual relationship with Warner. Each record label may have its own unique brand or type of music to record, and the amount of control Warner can exert over a single label largely depends on the terms of the contract.

Musical Expert is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Musical Expert contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By Wisedly33 — On Sep 15, 2014

There's a reason country bands who wanted to produce their own sound and play their own kind of music have started their own labels, or gone to small, indie labels.

What we called "country" when I was young is now "Americana" or "roots music." Consequently, it has no place in the mega publishing houses. I was shocked beyond belief when the Alabama Shakes did so well. They're innovative and don't sound like anything else on the market. How in the world did they manage to get a contract and any kind of promotion? They're home folks, so I'm thrilled. But it's still amazing that it happened.

By Scrbblchick — On Sep 15, 2014

Yeah, the label was always primarily responsible for promotion and distribution. I remember seeing the records in my mom's collection, and in my own -- there were so many labels, each with a different history and background.

It's sad now that there are no more labels, per se. It's a real illustration of the homogenous nature of popular music. All pop sounds alike, all country sounds alike and all R&B sounds alike. And they all sound like each other. The proliferation of the labels helped keep music diverse. When the labels started merging and buying each other out, the music really suffered. It's all about the bottom line, now. Half of the garbage out now would never have made it when labels ruled the world of music. No one would have picked it up.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Musical Expert contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
Musical Expert, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Musical Expert, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.