I worked in a record store the summer before my junior year of college, which would put that in 1987. At that time there were 9 major record labels. I don't think I can remember them all, but let me try: WEA, RCA, EMI, Capitol, Polygram, BMG, MCA, Columbia... Ah, I'm getting confused now because it's hard to remember were "major" and which weren't, as well as which corporation swallowed which. I just spent my lunch break trying to make some sense of it.
There are now 5 major record labels: Bertelsmann, EMI, Sony, Universal, and Warner.
In 1987, Bertelsmann was still called BMG. That year it ate RCA, about the time I was starting my job. This year it plans to merge the BMG music arm with Sony music (or possibly already has).
In 1990, Polygram bought A&M and MCA bought Geffen. In 1995, Seagram bought 80% of MCA and in 1998, all of Polygram. The whole shebang was MCA until 1999, when it was renamed Universal.
In 1989, EMI bought Chrysalis (I think that was Pat Benatar's label), and in 1992, Virgin.
In 1889, CBS bought A&M and Columbia, and was then in turn bought by Sony.
Warner Brothers was part of WEA in 1987--Warner/Elektra/Atlantic, as well as containing Reprise and a whole host of smaller labels (as did all the majors, for that matter).And now Warner Records has been sold.
I remember in college that they were the one major label that I regularly bought music from. When was the last time I bought anything from any major label? I can't even say.
I'm glad there are small labels, and I plan to support them as best I can as long as they're out there. But I hate that they're all struggling, yet lose their identity almost instantly when saved financially (maybe) by being picked up by a major.
Gee, could there be any connection between the corporatization of music and the dearth of anything worth listening to on commercial radio? Or am I just seeing coincidences where there are none?
Bah. I think I'll be visiting the Metropolis site very soon.