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Sony Music Entertainment (commonly referred to as Sony Music) is an American global music company, which is part of the Sony Music Groupmusic company, which is part of the Sony Music Group[3] owned by conglomerate Sony Corporation of America, incorporated as a general partnership of Sony Music Holdings Inc. through Sony Entertainment, a subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate Sony.[4]

It was originally founded in 1929 as American Record Corporation and renamed as Columbia Recording Corporation in 1938, following its acquisition by the Columbia Broadcasting System. In 1966, the company was reorganized to become CBS Records, and Sony Corporation bought the company in 1988, renaming it under its current name in 1991. In 2004, Sony and Bertelsmann established a 50-50 joint venture known as Sony BMG, which transferred the businesses of Sony Music and Bertelsmann Music Group into one entity. However, in 2008, Sony acquired Bertelsmann's stake, and the company reverted to the Sony Music name shortly after; the buyout allowed Sony to acquire all of BMG's labels, and led to the dissolution of BMG, which instead relaunched as BMG Rights Management.

As of 2020, Sony Music Entertainment is the second largest of the "Big Three" record companies, behind Universal Music Group and followed by Warner Music Group. Its music publishing division Sony/ATV is the largest music publisher in the world.[5][6] It used to own 50% of Syco Entertainment, which operates some of the world's most successful reality TV formats, including Got Talent and The X Factor, but sold their stake back to Simon Cowell in 2020.[7]

On July 17, 2019, Sony announced that Sony Music Entertainment and Sony/ATV would merge to become Sony Music Group.[8][9] The merger was completed on August 1, 2019.[10][3][11]

It was originally founded in 1929 as American Record Corporation and renamed as Columbia Recording Corporation in 1938, following its acquisition by the Columbia Broadcasting System. In 1966, the company was reorganized to become CBS Records, and Sony Corporation bought the company in 1988, renaming it under its current name in 1991. In 2004, Sony and Bertelsmann established a 50-50 joint venture known as Sony BMG, which transferred the businesses of Sony Music and Bertelsmann Music Group into one entity. However, in 2008, Sony acquired Bertelsmann's stake, and the company reverted to the Sony Music name shortly after; the buyout allowed Sony to acquire all of BMG's labels, and led to the dissolution of BMG, which instead relaunched as BMG Rights Management.

As of 2020, Sony Music Entertainment is the second largest of the "Big Three" record companies, behind Universal Music Group and followed by Warner Music Group. Its music publishing division Sony/ATV is the largest music publisher in the world.[5][6] It used to own 50% of Syco Entertainment, which operates some of the world's most successful reality TV formats, including Got Talent and The X Factor, but sold their stake back to Simon Cowell in 2020.[7]

On July 17, 2019, Sony announced that Sony Music Entertainment and Sony/ATV would merge to become Sony Music Group.[8][9] The merger was completed on August 1, 2019.[10][3][11]

The American Record Corporation (ARC) was founded in 1929 through a merger of several record companies.[12] The company grew for the next several years, acquiring other brands such as the Columbia Phonograph Company, including its Okeh Records subsidiary, in 1934.[13]

1938–1970: Columbia/CBS Records

In 1938, ARC was acquired by the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) under the guidance of the chief executive William S. Paley. The company was later renamed Columbia Recording Corporation,[14] and changed again to Columbia Records Inc. in 1947.[15] Edward Wallerstein, who served as the head of Columbia Records since the late 1930s, helped establish the company as a leader in the record industry by spearheading the successful introduction of the LP record.[16] Columbia's success continued through the 1950s with the launch of Epic Records in 1953[17] and Date Records in 1958.[18] By 1962, the Columbia Records productions unit was operating four plants around the United States located in Los Angeles, California; Terre Haute, Indiana; Bridgeport, Connecticut; and Pitman, New Jersey.[19]

Columbia's international arm was launched in 1962 under the name "CBS Records," as the company only owned the rights to the Columbia name in North America.[20] In 1964, the company began acquiring record companies in other countries for its CBS Records International unit[21] and established its own UK distribution outfit with the acquisition of Oriole Records.[22]

By 1966, Columbia was renamed as CBS Records and was a separate unit of the parent company, CBS-Columbia Group.[23][24] In March 1968, CBS and Sony formed CBS/Sony Records, a Japanese business joint venture.[25]

1971–1991: CBS Records Group

In 1971, CBS Records was expanded into its own "CBS Records Group", with Clive Davis as its administrative vice president and general manager.[26] In the 1980s to the early 1990s, the company managed several successful labels, including CBS Associated Records,[27] which signed artists including Ozzy Osbourne, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Electric Light Orchestra, Joan Jett, and Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) under the guidance of the chief executive William S. Paley. The company was later renamed Columbia Recording Corporation,[14] and changed again to Columbia Records Inc. in 1947.[15] Edward Wallerstein, who served as the head of Columbia Records since the late 1930s, helped establish the company as a leader in the record industry by spearheading the successful introduction of the LP record.[16] Columbia's success continued through the 1950s with the launch of Epic Records in 1953[17] and Date Records in 1958.[18] By 1962, the Columbia Records productions unit was operating four plants around the United States located in Los Angeles, California; Terre Haute, Indiana; Bridgeport, Connecticut; and Pitman, New Jersey.[19]

Columbia's international arm was launched in 1962 under the name "CBS Records," as the company only owned the rights to the Columbia name in North America.[20] In 1964, the company began acquiring record companies in other countries for its CBS Records International unit[21]

Columbia's international arm was launched in 1962 under the name "CBS Records," as the company only owned the rights to the Columbia name in North America.[20] In 1964, the company began acquiring record companies in other countries for its CBS Records International unit[21] and established its own UK distribution outfit with the acquisition of Oriole Records.[22]

By 1966, Columbia was renamed as CBS Records and was a separate unit of the parent company, CBS-Columbia Group.[23][24] In March 1968, CBS and Sony formed CBS/Sony Records, a Japanese business joint venture.[25]

In 1971, CBS Records was expanded into its own "CBS Records Group", with Clive Davis as its administrative vice president and general manager.[26] In the 1980s to the early 1990s, the company managed several successful labels, including CBS Associated Records,[27] which signed artists including Ozzy Osbourne, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Electric Light Orchestra, Joan Jett, and Henry Lee Summer.[28] In 1983, CBS expanded its music publishing business by acquiring the music publishing arm of MGM/UA Communications Co..[29] (CBS later sold the print music arm to Columbia Pictures.[30]) By 1987, CBS was the only "big three" American TV network to have a co-owned record company.[31] With Sony being one of the developers behind the compact disc digital music media, a compact disc production plant was constructed in Japan under the joint venture, allowing CBS to begin supplying some of the first compact disc releases for the American market in 1983.[32]

In 1986, CBS sold its music publishing division, CBS Songs, to SBK Entertainment[33] On November 17, 1987, Sony acquired CBS Records for US$2 billion. CBS Inc., now ViacomCBS, retained the rights to the CBS name for music rec

In 1986, CBS sold its music publishing division, CBS Songs, to SBK Entertainment[33] On November 17, 1987, Sony acquired CBS Records for US$2 billion. CBS Inc., now ViacomCBS, retained the rights to the CBS name for music recordings but granted Sony a temporary license to use the CBS name.[34] The sale was completed on January 5, 1988.[35] ViacomCBS founded a new CBS Records in 2006, which was distributed by Sony through its RED subsidiary.[36]

In 1989, CBS Records re-entered the music publishing business by acquiring Nashville-based Tree International Publishing.[33]

Sony renamed the record company Sony Music Entertainment (SME) on January 1, 1991, fulfilling the terms set under the 1988 buyout, which granted only a transitional license to the CBS trademark.[37] The CBS Associated label was renamed Epic Associated.[38] Also on January 1, 1991, to replace the CBS label, Sony reintroduced the Columbia label worldwide, which it previously held in the United States and Canada only, after it acquired the international rights to the trademark from EMI in 1990.[37] Japan is the only country where Sony does not have rights to the Columbia name as it is controlled by Nippon Columbia, an unrelated company.[39] Thus, Sony Music Entertainment Japan issues labels under Sony Records. The Columbia Records trademark's rightsholder in Spain was Bertelsmann Music Group, Germany, which Sony Music subsequently subsumed via a 2004 merger, and a subsequent 2008 buyout.[40]

In 1995, Sony and Michael Jackson formed a joint venture which merged Sony's music publishing operations with Jackson's ATV Music to form Sony/ATV Music Publishing.[41]

Sony/ATV Music Publishing.[41]

In August 2004, Sony entered a joint venture with an equal partner Bertelsmann, by merging Sony Music and Bertelsmann Music Group, Germany, to establish Sony BMG Music Entertainment.[42] However Sony continued to operate its Japanese music business independently from Sony BMG while BMG Japan was made part of the merger.[43]

The merger made Columbia and Epic sister labels to RCA Records, which was once owned by CBS rival, NBC.[44] It also started the process of bringing BMG's Arista Records back under common ownership with its former parent Columbia Pictures, a Sony division since 1989, and also brought Arista founder Clive Davis back into the fold.[45] As of 2017, Davis was still with Sony Music as chief creative officer.[46]

2008–present: Sony Music Entertainment and restructuring

The release of Invincible was preceded by a dispute between Michael Jackson and Sony Music Entertainment. Jackson had expected the licenses to the masters of his albums to revert to him sometime in the early 2000s, after which he would be able to p

The release of Invincible was preceded by a dispute between Michael Jackson and Sony Music Entertainment. Jackson had expected the licenses to the masters of his albums to revert to him sometime in the early 2000s, after which he would be able to promote the material however he pleased and keep the profits; however, clauses in the contract set the revert date years into the future. Jackson discovered that the attorney who had represented him in the deal had also been representing Sony.[78] He was also concerned that for years Sony had been pressuring him to sell his share in its music catalog venture; he feared that Sony might have had a conflict of interest, since if Jackson's career failed, he would have had to sell his share of the catalog at a low price.[79] Jackson sought an early exit from his contract.[78]

In July 2002, Jackson alleged that the then-Sony Music chairman Tommy Mottola was a "devil" and "racist" who did not support his African-American artists, using them merely for his own gain.[79] He charged that Mottola had

In July 2002, Jackson alleged that the then-Sony Music chairman Tommy Mottola was a "devil" and "racist" who did not support his African-American artists, using them merely for his own gain.[79] He charged that Mottola had called his colleague Irv Gotti a "fat nigger".[80] Sony refused to renew Jackson's contract, and claimed that a $25 million promotional campaign had failed because Jackson refused to tour in the United States.[81]

In May 2012, Sony Music filed charges against the website IsoHunt.[82] The plaintiff's claims in the court document filed at the Supreme Court of British Columbia read: "The IsoHunt Websites have been designed and are operated by the defendants with the sole purpose of profiting from rampant copyright infringement which defendants actively encourage, promote, authorize, induce, aid, abet, materially contribute to and commercially profit from."[83] In February 2016, in a lawsuit filed at a California federal court, Sony Music Entertainment and its associated brands (Arista Records and LaFace Records, formerly owned by Bertelsmann Music Group) accused Belgian radio aggregator Radionomy (owned by Universal Music Group's parent Vivendi) of copyright infringement.[84]

2016 boycott

In February 2016, 100,000 people signed an online petition in less than

In February 2016, 100,000 people signed an online petition in less than 24 hours, calling for a boycott of Sony Music and all other Sony-affiliated businesses after rape allegations against music producer Dr. Luke were made by musical artist Kesha. Kesha asked a New York City Supreme Court to free her from her contract with Sony Music but the court denied the request, prompting a widespread public and media response.[85]

List of Sony Music Entertainment labels