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Music Industry

C. Michael Elavsky


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The music industry is a term most commonly deployed in reference to the activities of the four largest transnational record corporations – often designated as the “majors” or the “big four,” namely SonyBMG, EMI (Electric and Music Industries), the Warner Music Group (WMG), and the Universal Music Group (UMG) – which collectively account for approximately 75 percent of all legal commercial music sales globally (→  Bertelsmann Corporation ; Sony Corporation ; Time Warner Inc .). All of these corporations are umbrella organizations linking smaller music labels, subsidiaries, and supplementary organizations together through complex corporate ties to larger transnational →  media conglomerates (→  Global Media, History of ; Globalization of the Media ). Emerging from a long series of mergers occurring over the past century, these music corporations wield significant influence over the contemporary global music market. Consequently, many scholars point to the ways these corporations “control” global music production, sustaining their position through the technological, political, and economic power they bring to bear on the ways music operates transnationally as culture and commodity. Other scholars, however, suggest that the complexities behind this term are not properly engaged within such arguments. Still others critically point to the ways in which the term music industry has ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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