As the music industry continues to undergo a digital transformation, the global recorded music market is experiencing a period of rapid change. In order to adapt to these new conditions and avoid disruption, many record labels have signed licensing deals with music publishers to leverage their extensive song catalogs.
A music publisher is an organization that owns or manages the publishing rights to a song or a collection of songs, such as an album, TV show, video game or movie. Music publishers can be independent businesses focused on registering and tracking songs and selling related rights to other businesses or they can be in-house departments of record labels handling the same services for their parent company.
Below we take a look at some of the largest music publishers worldwide – both independent and in-house – based on their revenue from recorded music.
Universal Music Publishing Group
Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG) is the largest music publisher in the world, boasting a collection of more than one million songs. UMPG is a division of Universal Music Group (UMG), which is the largest music company in the world, and the largest record company by revenue and market capitalization. UMUM owns or administers the publishing rights to more than one-third of all the songs recorded since the advent of modern sound recording. UMPG, along with EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, and Warner/Chappell, controls approximately 70% of the music publishing industry worldwide.
Universal Music Publishing Group has more than 1,000 employees worldwide and $2 billion in annual revenues. UMPG is headquartered in New York City, with offices in Los Angeles, London, Stockholm, Berlin, Paris, Sydney and Beijing. The company is the largest music publisher in the world based on the number of songs it controls. UMPG also controls more top 40 hits than any other music publishing company.
Some of UMPG’s most famous songs include “Paperback Writer” by The Beatles, “Sloop John B” by the Beach Boys, “Imagine” by John Lennon, “My Cherie Amour” by Stevie Wonder, and “Respect” by Aretha Franklin.
Sony Music Corp.
Sony Music Entertainment is one of the world’s largest music publishers. The company is one of the “Big Three” global music publishers alongside Warner/Chappell and Universal/EMI. Sony owns or administers the publishing rights to more than three million songs. They also holds an equity interest in Global Music Rights, the world’s most aggressive music rights agency, which has registered more than 10 million compositions worldwide.
Sony Music Publishing, a division of Sony Music Entertainment, is the largest music publisher in Japan, one of the largest in the world based on the number of compositions controlled, and the second largest based on the number of recordings published. The company has more than 8,000 employees and had more than $2 billion in revenues in 2018.
Sony Music Publishing is headquartered in New York City and Tokyo with offices in London, Sydney, Paris and Stockholm.
Warner Music Group
Warner/Chappell Music Publishing is the publishing arm of Warner Music Group, one of the “Big Three” global music publishers. Headquartered in Los Angeles with offices in New York City, Miami, Nashville, London, Melbourne, Munich, and Berlin, Warner/Chappell administers or owns the publishing rights to more than two million songs. The company had $1.5 billion in revenue in 2018. They are the world’s third-largest music publisher based on the number of compositions it controls.
Some of the company’s most famous songs include “Happy Birthday to You” (yes, that one), “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “This Land is Your Land”, “Stand by Me”, “Unchained Melody”, and “Yellow Submarine”.
BMG Rights Management
BMG Rights Management is one of the world’s largest music publishers, with an extensive catalog of more than 10 million compositions, they also own or administer the publishing rights to more than two-thirds of all classical music ever written and more than half of all jazz compositions.
They’re also the world’s third-largest music publisher based on the number of compositions it controls. They own the publishing rights to more than 100,000 musical compositions from the great classical composers, such as Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Chopin.
BMG is headquartered in Berlin with offices in New York City, London, Madrid, Milan, and Paris, with revenues of $2 billion in 2018. The company was founded in 2008 by the German private equity firm, the Bertelsmann Foundation.
Global Music Rights
Global Music Rights is a music licensing agency that has registered over 10 million compositions worldwide. The company is a competitor to the “Big Three” music publishers. They have also filed lawsuits against major record labels and music publishers, alleging copyright infringement. Global Music Rights is based in Los Angeles and was founded by Irving Azoff, who is also the company’s CEO. Azoff is widely known as the former CEO of Ticketmaster and the founder of the entertainment company Giant Productions.
Global Music Rights is suing major record labels and music publishers for what it calls a “massive and growing problem of musical infringement.” By registering compositions that are being used without proper licensing, GMR protects songwriters, artists and rights holders from being exploited by other parties, while enabling them to be compensated for the use of their work.
Concord Music Group
Concord Music Group is one of the world’s largest independent music publishers. The company owns or administers the publishing rights to more than three million songs, including music from artists like Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Eminem, Stevie Wonder, and Thelonious Monk. Concord’s publishing catalog also includes compositions by country legends Hank Williams, Willie Nelson and Roy Orbison.
Concord Music Group is headquartered in Beverly Hills, CA. The company had revenues of $292 million in 2018.
The music publishing industry is made up of a small group of companies that control the rights to the most popular songs on earth. With the advent of streaming music services like Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music, these publishers earn royalties whenever their song is played.
The Big Three publishing companies control the majority of the world’s music rights, and are looking to diversify their businesses beyond sound recording rights. Through their control of the music publishing industry, these large companies set the rules for how the modern music industry operates.