How well do you know the players in the recording industry?

Online label manufacturer www.data-label.co.uk compiled this list of the biggest record labels companies and their artists who have sold the most.

First, a list of the main record labels through history. The ones in bold are/were considered to be “major labels” through the latter part of the 20th century and/or today.

  • Warner Music Group:  Founded 1958. One of today’s major labels.
  • EMI (UK): Founded 1931. Broken up in 2012.
  • EMI (USA): Founded 1973. Acquired by Universal in 2012.
  • Sony Music (known as CBS Records until January 1991):  Founded 1929. Another major label of today/
  • Universal Music Group (UMG) – Roots go back to 1934 as Decca Records. The largest of the major labels.
  • BMG: Founded 1987. Assets sold to Sony.
  • MCA Records: Founded 1967. Now part of Universal.
  • Virgin Records: Founded 1972. Now part of Universal.
  • Polygram Records: Founded 1962. Now part of Universal.
  • Motown Records: Founded 1959. Now part of Universal.
  • Island Records: Founded 1959. Now part of Universal.
  • ABC Records: Founded 1955. Absorbed by MCA in 1979. Now part of Universal.
  • Atlantic Records: Founded 1953. Now part of Warner.
  • RCA Records: Founded 1901. Now part of Sony.
  • Columbia Records: Founded 1887. Now part of Sony.

Top 10 most successful bands by record sales (well, the best estimates we have):

  1. The Beatles – 178 million sold.
  2. Garth Brooks – 148 million sold.
  3. Elvis Presley – 136 million sold.
  4. Led Zeppelin – 111.5 million sold.
  5. Eagles – 101 million sold.
  6. Billy Joel – 82.5 million sold.
  7. Michael Jackson – 81 million sold.
  8. Elton John – 78 million sold.
  9. Pink Floyd – 75 million sold.
  10. AC/DC – 72 million sold.



Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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