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 the global revenue of the music industry amounting to 16.1 billion U.S. dollars in 2016, a dramatic fall from the 25.1 billion U.S. dollars in 2002, is this a sign that the record labels are losing their touch?

In 2014, the three largest markets in the music industry, measured by revenue were the U.S., Japan and Germany. It is therefore no surprise that the ‘big three’ record labels who dominate the music industry all have their headquarters in North America.

Firstly, there is the Warner Music Group, with headquarters in New York City and artists such as Madonna, David Guetta, and Coldplay signed to their books. On the other hand, Beyonce, Britney, and the biggest DJ in the world today, Calvin Harris, are signed to Sony Music Entertainment who are also based in New York. The third big name in the music industry today is the Universal Music Group with their headquarters in Santa Monica, California and who represent the likes of Kanye West, Justin Bieber, and Maroon 5.

Of the three, Universal leads the way with 26.7 percent of the U.S. market share in 2015 based on label ownership. However, a larger combined share is enjoyed by independent labels, who have 34.4 percent of the U.S. market according to the source.

In the recent past, 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. In 2016, the streaming revenue of independent label music in the U.S. reached 2.1 billion U.S. dollars.

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. One such success story is that of Ben Haggerty, better known as Macklemore, the American rapper who had one of the biggest global hits of 2013 with his debut single ‘Thrift Shop’. The decision to write, record, produce and release material on his own has lead Macklemore to be worth an estimated 16 million U.S. dollars, as of May 2014.

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