Major Labels

3 top record labels now earn $2.56M per hour

Although we’re still dealing with a global pandemic, and all the challenges that means for the music industry, major labels UMG, Sony, and WMG are having their most lucrative year ever.

Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix

Despite the global pandemic, the three biggest record labels on Earth are still generating serious revenue in 2021.

A new report from MBW finds UMG, Sony, and WMG on course for one of the most lucrative years in music industry history. After reviewing the Q2 financials of each of the three major music companies, the leading industry platform found each label in an impressive growth period. Combined, the recorded music arms of the three major music companies generated $4.63 billion in the three months to end of June – up by an incredible 40.1% (or +$1.32 billion) on the same period of 2020. When you add global publishing revenues to recorded music revenues at UMG, SMG, and WMG, the three majors generated $5.60 billion in calendar Q2 2021, up by $1.53 billion (or +37.6%) on the same period of last year

That $5.60 billion turnover equates to the three majors cumulatively generating $61.5 million per day in the year’s second quarter – or, in turn, $2.56 million every hour.

Based on the current numbers, UMG, SMG, and WMG should finish the year generating more than $20 billion. That’s still a few billion short of the industry’s early 2000s high, but it’s closer than any other year this decade.

To put this figure further into perspective, a recent review of royalty rates from leading streaming services finds that independent solo musicians need at least 101,000 monthly streams to earn the equivalent to the minimum wage in the United States ($1256.67 per month). That number is much larger for a group featuring four or five members. It’s even larger when you have to account for label cuts, management cuts, etc.

When considering how many artists complain about their income level compared to the money music generates, one inevitably asks: Where does all this money go?

The answers are endless and (mostly) obvious. There are staffing costs, taxes, office costs, travel, promotion, and so on. It costs a lot of money to be among the biggest entertainment companies on the planet, and as rapper T-Pain revealed earlier this year, many people don’t realize how much labels spend to break and support talent.

Not found in the MBW report is any information on what portion of the money generated by these record labels will reach the artists on their roster.

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company’s podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.

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