What are the functions of a record label?

Updated April 17, 2017

There are several options for discovery, distribution and promotion of music, the most conventional of which is through the use of a record label. Record labels are complex businesses with many different divisions and purposes, all of which are designed to assist musicians in increasing their publicity and record sales. Most labels usually are subdivisions of larger recording corporations.


One of the more famed record label divisions is the A&R (artists and recording) department. This department's primary responsibility is the discovery of new talent. This has given the A&R departments of record companies a reputation for being one of the most important divisions because this department is in charge of "who gets in." Other responsibilities of the A&R department include but are not limited to signing new talent to the label contract, helping with song choices, producer selection and the choice of recording studios. This department works as an intermediary between musicians and the other record company divisions.


The main function of the promotion department within a record label is ensuring radio play for a musician's songs. Radio play gets the artists' music out to the masses and is a primary goal for labels in order to guarantee success for both the artist and the record label. The promotion division is vital in making sure the recording artist is marketed to as many radio and TV stations as possible.


One important aspect of becoming successful in the music industry is effective distribution of musicians' CDs to record shops. A record company can distribute from within the company. This means that the larger corporate label already has a distribution company of its own and is utilised for new talent. The second option is using a distribution company outside the label. This option requires what is known as a "label liaison." The label liaison is responsible for working as an intermediary between the large record company's label and the outside distribution company.


Usually, with great success comes greater legal issues. It is for this reason that most record labels have a legal department to handle all contracts between musicians and the label and between the label and any other companies they may utilise. The legal department also is called to action should a lawsuit, copyright infringement or other legal issue arise that is directly related to a musician and the label.

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About the Author

Catherine Fiorentino began work as a professional freelance writer in 2006. Since then she has written for several online content websites, private clients and blogs. Fiorentino has an Associate of Arts in journalism and mass communication from Kent State University.