|Type||Subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America|
|Predecessor||American Record Corporation (1929-1938)
Columbia/CBS Records (1938-1991)
Sony Music (1991-2004, since 2008)
Sony BMG (2004-2008)
|Headquarters||New York, NY, United States|
|Key people||Rolf Schmidt-Holtz (CEO)
Kevin Kelleher (CFO)
|Industry||Music & Entertainment|
|Products||Music & Entertainment|
|Revenue||▲2.2% $3.9 bilion (USD 2008)|
|Parent||Sony Corporation of America|
The company which evolved into Sony Music was founded in 1929 as the American Record Corporation (ARC) through the merger of several smaller record companies. In the depths of the Great Depression, the Columbia Phonograph Company (founded in 1888) in the U.S. (including its Okeh Records subsidiary) was acquired by ARC in 1934. ARC was acquired in 1938 by the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) (which itself had been formed by the Columbia Phonograph Company, but then sold off). CBS made Columbia its flagship label with Okeh its subsidiary label while deemphasizing ARC's other labels. CBS founded Epic Records in 1953.
CBS only had the rights to the Columbia name in the United States and Canada. The Columbia Phonograph Company had international subsidiaries and affiliates such as the Columbia Graphophone Company in the United Kingdom, but they were sold off prior to CBS acquiring American Columbia, therefore the international arm founded in 1961 utilized the "CBS Records" name only.
In 1966, the Date subsidiary label was repurposed mainly for the soul music outlet. This label released the first string of hits for Peaches & Herb. Date's biggest success was Time Of The Season by The Zombies, peaking at #2 in 1969. The label was discontinued in 1972.
Epic distributed Ode Records between 1967 and 1969 and between 1976 and 1979.
In March 1968, CBS and Sony formed CBS/Sony Records, a Japanese business joint venture. 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.
In 1970 CBS Records revived the Embassy Records imprint in UK and Europe, which had been defunct since CBS had taken control of Embassy's parent company, Oriole, in 1964. The purpose of the revived Embassy imprint was to release budget reissues of albums that had originally been released in the United States on Columbia Records (or its subsidiaries). Many albums, by artists as diverse as Andy Williams, Johnny Cash, Barbra Streisand, The Byrds, Tammy Wynette, Laura Nyro and Sly & the Family Stone were issued on Embassy, before the label was once again discontinued in 1980.
In the 1980's to early 90's there was a CBS imprint label in the US known as CBS Associated Records. Tony Martell, veteran CBS and Epic Records A&R Vice President was head of this label and signed artists including Ozzy Osbourne, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Electric Light Orchestra, Joan Jett, and Henry Lee Summer. This label was a part of (Epic/Portrait/Associated) wing of sub labels at CBS which shared the same national and regional staff as the rest of Epic Records and was a part of the full CBS Records worldwide distribution system.
On November 17, 1987, the Sony Corporation of America acquired CBS Records, which hosted such act as Michael Jackson, for US$2 billion. CBS Inc., now CBS Corporation, retained the rights to the CBS name for music recordings but granted Sony a temporary license to use the CBS name. CBS Corporation founded a new CBS Records in 2006.
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. The CBS Associated label was renamed Epic Associated. 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. Japan is the only country where Sony does not have rights to the Columbia name as it is controlled by Columbia Music Entertainment, an unrelated company. Thus, until this day, Sony Music Japan does not use the Columbia trademark for Columbia label recordings from outside Japan which are issued in Japan. The Columbia Records trademark was also controlled in Spain by another company, Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG), which Sony Music subsequently obtained through the 2004 merger, and later through the 2008 buyout, of BMG.
In August 2004, Sony entered into a 50-50 joint venture with Bertelsmann by merging Sony Music and Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) to form Sony BMG Music Entertainment. BMG can trace its ancestry to Berliner Gramophone. However Sony continued to operate its Japanese music business independently from Sony BMG (while BMG Japan was made part of the merger).
Sony Corporation of America and Bertelsmann announced on August 5, 2008 that Sony agreed to acquire Bertelsmann's 50% stake in Sony BMG. Sony completed its acquisition of Bertelsmann Music Group on October 1, 2008. The company, once again named Sony Music Entertainment Inc. (SME), became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Sony Corporation of America.
The following are the main, standalone operating divisions of Sony Music Entertainment.
Additional labels under each division are listed at Sony Music Entertainment labels.
Further information: List of Sony Music Entertainment labels