The record label is a commercial brand created by record companies; the name derives from the printed label that was placed in the center of the vinyl records.
Ownership of record labels
Starting from the first decade of the twenty-first century, companies that operate at the level of production and distribution in the music field can be broadly divided into three categories:
The majors - Linked to multinationals that hold a large part of the world music market.
The independents - Labels that self-produce and promote their products independently of the multinational circuit (but often with distribution or cooperation agreements).
Vanity labels - Labels founded and managed by an artist who are also independent, generally founded to have a certain degree of freedom from one or more main labels that distribute their production.The consolidation of the music industry in the seventies and eighties led to few multinational companies to have control of most of the major record labels. The main labels were later bought by large multinationals, currently three, which are now part of the RIAA and which own most of the music industry.
The work of the majors
Record labels invest part of their money and business in finding new talent and developing artists already under contract. The association of the brand with the artist (and vice versa in the case of established artists) helps to strengthen the image of both the record label and the artist himself.
Although both sides need each other, the relationships between record labels and artists are often controversial, as is the case in any industry when the relationships between the parties become equal. Many artists have undergone modifications or censorship of their albums by the label before publication (songs changed in lyrics or length, covers changed or designed in contrast to the artist's will, and so on). Record labels make these choices and changes with the obvious aim of achieving greater sales success, and thanks to extensive market studies. Often the decisions of the record labels correspond to a real success from a commercial point of view, but this can create a sense of frustration in the artist who perceives the published work as not their own.
In the early years of the music industry, record labels were the only way to success for an artist. The main goal of any new artist or group was therefore to sign a contract with a record company as soon as possible. In the forties, fifties and sixties, many artists were so obsessed with signing a contract with a record company at all costs, that they even got to the point of signing a bad contract, which sometimes did not even guarantee them the rights to the music produced. In some cases, lawyers were hired to check contracts before signing them (which is normal in modern times). Even the film industry has sometimes told these stories.
The birth of independent labels
In the punk scene, the DIY (Do it yourself) ethic encourages bands to self-produce and self-distribute their records. This method has been in vogue since the early 1980s, and is an attempt to stay true to the punk ideals of Do it yourself. Some labels boast the reputation of never having made agreements or having ever cooperated with any major, among the most significant Crass Records.
Towards the end of the nineties, thanks to the use of private recording studios, CD writers, and the spread of the Internet and a general decrease in production costs, independent labels began