History of Record Labels and the Music Industry: 2000s
by Alex Cosper

Introduction 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s

see also American Radio History


- Vivendi Universal became the biggest music company in 2000 when Canal+ merged with Seagram. In 2001 AOL merged with Time-Warner.

- In 2001 the record labels moved toward embracing the internet after tearing down Napster and for allowing free access to thousands of titles over the internet. Vivendi Universal purchased BMG teamed up with Warner to launch MusicNet while Sony and Universal teamed up to launch Pressplay. had already formed a similar online music service called Rhapsody earlier in the year. BMG, meanwhile tried to buy out Napster but in 2002 the deal was blocked by the other labels.

- By 2003 the labels, represented by the RIAA, after having defeated Napster over copyright infringement, took on KaZaa as another website offering peer to peer file swapping. In September 2003 the RIAA began filing lawsuits against people illegally obtaining music online.

- Steve Jobs, head of Apple Computer, revolutionized the music purchasing experience in April 2003 by offering 99 cent song downloads through the iTunes Music Store. In November 2005, The iTunes Music Store became the seventh best-selling music retail outlet in America, surpassing Tower Records. In February 2006 Apple reported that it had sold its billionth song on iTunes. By this point it was clear that iTunes was the dominant online force in selling music, substantially ahead of rivals Napster, Sony, Yahoo's Launchcast or Rhapsody. In early 2008 iTunes surpassed Walmart to became the number one music retailer in America.

- In 2004 Sony Music Entertainment merged with BMG to become Sony BMG, a joint venture between Bertlesmann and Sony Corporation of America. This meant the number of major labels shrank to four, with the three others being Universal, EMI and Warner. - In 2008 Sony Corporation of America announced plans to acquire Bertelsmann AG's 50% share of the Sony BMG, resulting in the label returning to the name Sony Music Entertainment, completely owned by Sony Corporation of America.

- New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer launched a crackdown on music industry payola in 2005. That year he successfully pressured two of the big four major labels, Sony Music and Warner Music Group to admit involvement in "pay for play" practices with radio stations. The labels agreed to pay huge settlements to help fund the ongoing investigation. In February 2006 Spitzer issued subpoenas to nine major radio chains for their involvement in accepting funds channeled through independent record promoters hired by record labels.

- The Fox Television series American Idol drew more audience than the Grammy Awards according to Nielsen ratings, marking a wake up call to the music industry that more people would rather watch performances from unknown amateurs than the biggest names in the music industry that included Paul McCartney, U2, Madonna and Mariah Carey.

- In 2009, for the first time in history, more Grammy awards went to independent artists than major label artists.

- See Music Industry News for 2013, 2014, 2015

Exclusive Playlist Research Interviews with:

Bob Catania (Promotion)
Bruce Ravid (A&R)
Marc Nathan (A&R)
Marc Ratner (Label Owner)
Roland West (Promotion, Distribution)
Jerry Jaffe (A&R)

Introduction 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s

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