There are so many record labels out there, to the point where it might be impossible to count all of the record labels out there, whether we are talking about small businesses or the biggest record labels in the world. There are many independent artists that operate without a record label, but many artists still hope to eventually sign to a record label so that they can get as much exposure as possible. Of course, some record labels make more sense for specific artists than others.

Many artists these days are trying to figure out how to function without a record label. While there’s nothing wrong with remaining independent, the truth is that the biggest music stars in the world belong to a record label of some kind. On any list of record labels, you will find some of these same names – considering that they are some of the most historic and important record labels to ever exist.

It can be tough to come up with a list of the top 10 record labels, but we all know that the biggest record labels are often the most significant forces in the music industry. This isn’t exactly a secret – if you think about any random superstar, there’s a good chance that there’s a large corporation behind his or her success. Either way, here are ten record labels that certainly matter in modern times.

Sony Music

Sony Music Entertainment is easily one of the biggest record labels in the world, and it’s a global conglomerate. The record label is owned by a Japanese parent company Sony. The company is home to many smaller labels, including labels like Arista Records and Columbia Records. The record label enjoys billions in revenue per year.

Sony is headquartered in NYC. Sony is also known for the fact that it launched a joint venture with Michael Jackson, in the form of Sony/ATV Ventures. Michael Jackson is widely considered to be one of the greatest musicians of all time and has sold over 350 million records around the world.

 

Virgin Records

Some of the biggest record labels were started many decades ago, but Virgin Records was actually founded in the 1970s. Of course, Virgin Records is a British record label, and one of its founders is none other than Richard Branson, who founded the Virgin Group. For those that don’t know, Richard Branson is a world-famous entrepreneur, and the Virgin Group includes hundreds of different companies.

Virgin Records isn’t one of the biggest record labels, but they are home to many well-known artists. The record label is famous for signing famous rock groups like The Sex Pistols, Genesis, and Human League. One of the reasons that the music label grew in popularity is because it signed many other more modern successful acts later on like The Spice Girls, Smashing Pumpkins, and Aaliyah.

Universal Music Group

Universal Music Group is a global conglomerate, and its majority owner is the French company Vivendi. The music label is considered one of the biggest record labels in the world, and it’s home to many superstars in genres of all kinds. Tencent also bought a stake in the music label recently.

The record label boasts locations all over the world, and not just in Los Angeles. There are additional locations in Madrid, Nashville, London, Berlin, and more. The music label is home to hundreds of stars, including 50 Cent, Jennifer Lopez, Kanye West, Madonna, and more. One of the most famous recent music hits, “Gangnam Style”, was created thanks to Universal Music Group. The video remains one of the most-watched videos on Youtube. There are many that would consider Universal Music Group to be the most powerful music label in the world.

Warner Music Group

We are starting off with the biggest record labels, and Warner Music rounds out the list. For those who might not know, Warner Music is actually headquartered in Los Angeles, although it’s a global conglomerate. The company actually used to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange, one of the largest stock exchanges in the world.

The music label is well-known and was first created in 1958. The record label was actually created as a way to capitalize on music being made by actors at first, and it’s been a major player in the music industry ever since. If any true music fan was asked to make a list of record labels, Warner Music Group would undoubtedly be mentioned quickly. The record label has been involved with huge acts such as AC/DC, David Guetta, Phil Collins, and many more.

RCA Records

RCA Records is well-respected in the music industry, but it should be noted that its parent company is Sony Music. The company is actually one of the oldest music labels in the United States, as it was founded in 1929.

The music label is home to megastars like Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, Usher, and Chris Brown. The label also gave Kenny Rogers the largest advance to a country star at the time, to the tune of $20 million. Kenny Rogers later left the music label on bad terms

 

Def Jam Records

Def Jam Records is one of the biggest record labels in the world when it comes to hip-hop, and there are many iconic rappers that have signed to the label. The record label rose to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s, thanks to signing acts like LL Cool J and The Beastie Boys.

The music label is normally associated with “urban music”, although it has signed artists that specialize in other genres. Some famous artists that signed to the label include Kanye West, Rihanna, and Young Jeezy.

Island Records

Some record labels exist as a unique record label, specifically meant to distance themselves from the biggest record labels out there. Now, Island Records is technically a division of Universal Music Group – but the record label still has its own distinct identity. The British-Jamaican record label is known for signing creative visionaries like Florence the Machine, U2 (one of the biggest bands in the world), and the late Amy Winehouse.

The record label was founded in 1959 and rose to prominence quickly. It’s not one of the biggest music labels in the world, but it does have some superstars on its roster, including artists like Janet Jackson and Jessie J.

Republic Records

Republic Records is not one of the biggest record labels in the world, and it’s a lot newer than many of the other music labels on this list. Specifically, the record label was founded in 1995 as an independent label. It was later acquired by Universal Music Group in 2000.

 

There are many superstars that have signed to Republic Records, including some of the most influential artists of the last decade. This includes rappers like Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Lil Wayne – but the record label isn’t just limited to one genre. Republic Records has also been involved with megastars like Taylor Swift and The Weeknd. Believe it or not, the concept of Republic Records was conceived at a kitchen table! Now, it’s one of the most respected record labels in the world.

Atlantic Records

Atlantic Records is one of the most well-recognized record labels in the world, even if it hasn’t been around for many decades. It was founded in the 1970s, and it is known for its rise in the 2000s. Craig Kallman, the chairman of Atlantic Records, signed many various successful artists, such as Bruno Mars, Wiz Khalifa, and Ed Sheeran. Atlantic Records is a subsidiary of the Warner Music Group.

Led Zeppelin, one of the most famous rock bands of all times, was signed to the music label at one time. The record label is also known for famous sublabels, such as Maybach Music Group and Grand Hustle Records. For those who don’t know, these are rap labels headed by Rick Ross and TI, respectively.

Interscope Records 

There are many record labels that are known for great music, but Interscope Records is different in the sense that it has been involved with many music icons. For example, Eminem, one of the best-selling rappers of all time, has been on the roster for decades. The parent company of Interscope Records is one of the biggest record labels in the world: Universal Music Group.

There are many other superstars that have made music for Interscope, including Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent, Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani, and more.

 

The music label was founded in 1990 by Jimmy Iovine, who is widely considered to be one of the most successful record executives of all time. Some of the most famous associated labels with Interscope Records include Aftermath Entertainment, Bad Boy Records, and Dreamville Records (headed by superstar rapper J.Cole). Dr. Dre’s The Chronic is considered to be one of the most important hip-hop albums of all time, and was released on Interscope Records. It is easy to see why Interscope Records should be included on any serious list of record labels out there.

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