Warner Bros. Records Inc. is an American major record label established in 1958 as the foundation label of the present-day Warner Music Group (WMG), and now operates as a wholly owned subsidiary of that corporation. Warner Bros. Records was established on March 19, 1958, as the recorded-music division of the American film studio Warner Bros. For most of its early existence it was one of a group of labels owned and operated by larger parent corporations. The sequence of companies that controlled Warner Bros. and its allied labels evolved through a convoluted series of corporate mergers and acquisitions from the early 1960s to the early 2000s. Over this period, Warner Bros. Records grew from a struggling minor player in the music industry to become one of the top recording labels in the world.
In 2003, these music assets were divested by their then owner Time Warner and purchased by a private equity group. This independent company traded as the Warner Music Group before being bought by Access Industries in 2011. WMG is the smallest of the three major international music conglomerates and the world's last publicly traded major music company. Cameron Strang serves as CEO of the company.
Artists currently signed to Warner Bros. Records include but are not limited to Ciara, Cher, Kylie Minogue, Prince, Goo Goo Dolls, Gorillaz, Adam Lambert, Bette Midler, Blur, Duran Duran, Jason Derulo, Kid Rock, Lily Allen, Linkin Park, Muse, Nile Rodgers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Black Keys, My Chemical Romance and Regina Spektor.
At the end of the silent movie period, Warner Bros. Pictures decided to expand into publishing and recording so that it could access low-cost music content for its films. In 1928, the studio acquired several smaller music publishing firms which included M. Witmark & Sons, Harms Inc., and a partial interest in New World Music Corp., and merged them to form the Music Publishers Holding Company. This new group controlled valuable copyrights on standards by George and Ira Gershwin and Jerome Kern and the new division was soon earning solid profits of up to US$2 million every year.
In 1930, MPHC paid US$28 million to acquire Brunswick Records (which included Vocalion), whose roster included Duke Ellington, Red Nichols, Nick Lucas, Al Jolson, Earl Burtnett, Abe Lyman, Leroy Carr, Tampa Red and Memphis Minnie, and soon after the sale to Warner Bros., the label signed rising radio and recording stars Bing Crosby, Mills Brothers, and Boswell Sisters. Unfortunately for Warner Bros., the dual impact of the Great Depression and the introduction of broadcast radio greatly harmed the recording industry———sales crashed, dropping by around 90% from more than 100 million records in 1927 to fewer than 10 million by 1932 and major companies were forced to halve the price of records from 75c to 35c. In December 1931, Warner Bros. offloaded Brunswick to the American Record Corporation (ARC) for a fraction of its former value, in a lease arrangement which did not include Brunswick's pressing plants. Technically, Warner maintained actual ownership of Brunswick, which with the sale of ARC to CBS in 1939 and their decision to discontinue Brunswick in favor of reviving the Columbia label, reverted to Warner Bros. Warner Bros. sold Brunswick a second time (along with Brunswick's back catalog up to 1931), this time along with the old Brunswick pressing plants Warner owned, to Decca Records (which formed its American operations in 1934) in exchange for a financial interest in Decca. The studio stayed out of the record business for more than 25 years, and during this period it licensed its film music to other companies for release as soundtrack albums. Associated Artists