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The Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin
Japanese idol music band AKB48 entertain the audience by performing on stage in Paris, France, 2009

The music industry consists of the companies and independent artists that earn money by creating new songs and pieces and organising live concerts and shows, audio and video recordings, compositions and sheet music, and the organizations and associations that aid and represent music creators. Among the many individuals and organizations that operate in the industry are: the songwriters and composers who create new songs and musical pieces; the singers, musicians, conductors and bandleaders who perform the music; the companies and professionals who create and sell recorded music and/or sheet music (e.g., music publishers, music producers, recording studios, engineers, record labels, retail and online music stores, performance rights organizations); and those that help organize and present live music performances (sound engineers, booking agents, promoters, music venues, road crew).

The industry also includes a range of professionals who assist singers and musicians with their music careers (talent managers, artists and repertoire managers, business managers, entertainment lawyers); those who broadcast audio or video music content (satellite, Internet radio stations, broadcast radio and TV stations); music journalists and music critics; DJs; music educators and teachers; musical instrument manufacturers; as well as many others. In addition to the businesses and artists who work in the music industry to make a profit or income, there is a range of organizations that also play an important role in the music industry, including musician's unions (e.g., American Federation of Musicians), not-for-profit performance-rights organizations (e.g., American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and other associations (e.g., International Alliance for Women in Music, a non-profit organization that advocates for women composers and musicians).

The modern Western music industry emerged between the 1930s and 1950s, when records replaced sheet music as the most important product in the music business. In the commercial world, "the recording industry"—a reference to recording performances of songs and pieces and selling the recordings–began to be used as a loose synonym for "the music industry". In the 2000s, a majority of the music market is controlled by three major corporate labels: the French-owned Universal Music Group, the Japanese-owned Sony Music Entertainment,[1] and the US-owned Warner Music Group. Labels outside of these three major labels are referred to as independent labels (or "indies"). The largest portion of the live music market for concerts and tours is controlled by Live Nation, the largest promoter and music venue owner. Live Nation is a former subsidiary of iHeartMedia Inc, which is the largest owner of radio stations in the United States.

In the first decades of the 2000s, the music industry underwent drastic changes with the advent of widespread digital distribution of music via the Internet (which includes both illegal file sharing of songs and legal music purchases in online music stores). A conspicuous indicator of these changes is total music sales: since 2000, sales of recorded music have dropped off substantially[2][3] while live music has increased in importance.[4] In 2011, the largest recorded music retailer in the world was now a digital, Internet-based platform operated by a computer company: Apple Inc.'s online iTunes Store.[5] Since 2011, the Music Industry has seen consistent sales growth with streaming now generating more revenue per annum than digital downloads. Spotify and Apple lead the way with online digital streaming.