Record labels in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts

The role of the record company is to nurture, promote, and distribute music around the world, but with global music industry revenues slowing to 17.3 billion U.S. dollars in 2017, a dramatic fall from the 24.4 billion U.S. dollars accumulated in 2001, is this a sign that the record labels are losing their touch? Streaming has quickly become the dominant form of music consumption, with major music labels generating around 4.3 billion U.S. dollars in revenue from streaming in 2017 alone. Around 38 percent of all recorded music industry revenues come from streaming as of 2017, a percentage that is only expected to increase in the coming years. Record companies are faced with the challenge of promoting their artists and finding ways to ensure that they are getting paid for their work in an increasingly digital industry.

The music industry’s ‘Big 3’ of Universal Music Group, Sony Music, and Warner Music Group, account for over 80 percent of streaming music revenues as of 2017, and UMG alone accounts for around 37 percent of all music album consumption. These three companies exert control over nearly every aspect of the music industry by serving as music distributors, owning record labels, and coordinating artists’ performance rights. The most successful record labels in the U.S., Interscope, RCA, and Atlantic are owned by Universal Music Group, Sony Music, and Warner Music Group respectively. In fact, each of the top 10 most successful record labels is owned by one of the Big 3. Many of these labels account for tens of millions of units of total music consumption, and have major control over which artists are pushed to the forefront of the music industry.

As a result of easy-to-access recording technology, combined with the global reach of the internet, independent labels and record production have become more popular as an alternative to the larger corporations. As of 2017, the streaming revenues of independent label music in the U.S. eclipsed 3 billion U.S. dollars, and independent labels account for around 38 percent of total recorded music revenues. Independent record labels often grant their artists with more freedom, but some artists have chosen to abandon the mainstream record industry altogether and go it alone, meaning that they don’t have to give a portion of their earnings to record labels and distributors.

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