What Is a Music Label?

Music Label

Record labels are companies that specialize in recording music and releasing it for public purchase. Their duties typically include funding creation of releases, producing them, and distributing to retailers and online platforms for sale.

Large labels may employ sales and distribution departments that oversee company sales to record stores and online music retailers; smaller independent labels often rely on distributors for this task.


At a time of digital streaming and direct-to-fan sales, music marketing for recording artists increasingly relies on social media campaigns for promotion of songs or albums; as well as merchandise such as T-shirts or posters.

Music marketers assist artists with expanding their fanbase via newsletters that feature music and related content, such as behind-the-scenes looks at song or album creation. Music marketers also collaborate with streaming platforms and radio stations to ensure new releases reach listeners as quickly as possible and ensure playlists receive visibility.

Music marketers may leverage partnerships with tastemakers and other industry contacts to secure positive media coverage for their artist clients, including setting up interviews with music journalists or podcasters.


Every record label has an A&R (Artists & Repertoire) division responsible for discovering new talent.

This team is responsible for talent scouting, identifying new artist potential, overseeing production process and helping market/promote music industry artists and events. This group serves as the backbone of music industry.

Though many musicians now create and release music from home studios, A&R teams remain essential to any musician who wishes to break into the industry. Their expert ears enable them to easily differentiate between one-hit wonders and those with the potential for long-term success.

Tom Lewis is an excellent example of such an A&R professional; in 17 years he has played an invaluable role in helping launch the careers of The Lumineers, Jacob Collier, Aurora, Melody Gardot and easy listening hit duo Michael Ball & Alfie Boe, among many others. When approaching A&Rs with music demos that demonstrate your production capabilities are always the most successful approach.


Production departments at music labels take an active approach to manufacturing and packaging albums. Their responsibility includes making sure each release stays on schedule while working closely with marketing/A&R to coordinate pre-release promotions.

The label may also have an in-house media division that is dedicated to producing media pieces for their artist such as music videos or live performances, plus will have connections within the industry which they can connect them to as well.

Production companies working with various artists may take on all or some aspects of recording process from conception to distribution or specialize in one area such as mixing and mastering. Such companies are commonly known as production labels. Some also provide an artist with nine months to produce some songs (referred to as demos) before shopping them to real record label companies to help get signed.

Sales & Distribution

The Sales & Distribution department is charged with making sure music reaches as many listeners as possible, whether that means working with distributors who take a cut of every sale, or directly with retailers selling merchandise and record albums.

Labels offer artists many services beyond marketing services to bolster their social media presence and build their online profile, including tour management and booking agent arrangements.

A&R (Artist and Repertoire) departments scour live shows, demos and industry developments for talent to sign to their label. When they find an artist suitable for them label, A&R works to secure a contract agreement – often working closely with band or singer members themselves to negotiate how much money each artist earns through royalties or performance fees. Sometimes large labels will have multiple sub-labels which specialize in different genres or countries, which music collectors refer to as labels within themselves – for example 4th & Broadway on Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails vinyl album!

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