ML Critical Paper 2

MCOM 202

Farah Saffaf

American University of Beirut



















This paper sheds some light on the music industry and on the fact that it is controlled by three major conglomerates. The consequences of this small number of owners and the implications it has on music is discussed thoroughly. I assess the content of the music and the likeliness of its sounds. This paper explains the trends and values of the music content and the way it differs from those in our society. Appendix A shows different CDs of different artists owned by the only three labels monopolizing the music industry. Appendix B shows calculations I made based on my music collection. The breaking of the regular retail price of the CD helps in analyzing the hidden agendas of major music labels, the reasons behind these conglomerates’ fixed principles. (Knopper 2011) The Arabic music industry is lightly discussed in light of the music collection I possess and the current status of Arabic music.      










            We listen to music almost every day, whether intentionally or not. Not everybody knows that there are only three record companies behind all the music produced. Of course, these big three have numerous subdivisions of record labels, which also have subdivisions. Diversity of ownership is important for a diversity of products. Diversity is disappearing gradually with very similar images of artists/musicians and songs with parallel ideas. The record company behind any particular artist does not really matter to the artists’ fans. The fact that there is an image that an artist should follow to land a record deal is what really matters. My role in the music business is to understand how it works with only three conglomerates controlling it and to analyze whether it is affecting diversity.     


            Based on my music library, I have noticed that there is no diversity of owners. Most of the CDs I possess are produced by Sony music or its subdivision record company. This reality made me think seriously about the road artists have to follow to land a record deal with one of these companies, or else their music career will be doomed. It is really hard to resist the dominant music companies because they are the sole owners of the music industry. When we support an artist, we unintentionally support the record company behind him, by buying CDs or attending concerts. (Appendix A)

            I have noticed that major label recordings are interested in major artists who are already successful and produce hit music, while independent label recordings cater for new artists. The reason might be that major companies have a reputation to maintain; this reputation will be maintained by producing music for major artists such as Madonna. The content of music produced by major companies is directed at elite audiences. On the other hand, content of the independent label recording is aimed at young audiences with hip styles. (Appendix A)

            There are only negative aspects of having few major companies dominating most of the music industry, it is nearly impossible to find a positive aspect. On the other hand, concentration, conglomeration and integration are all negative aspects affecting the music. Concentration of ownership leads to the absence of competition in the music industry. A study conducted in Spain proves that pop music these days is too loud and sounds the same. The study described the level of creativity in music nowadays as “drought” (Wickham, 2012). This is attributed to the scarcity of music labels. The early merger of Sony and BMI, the recent one of EMI and Universal Music Group leads to further concentrating ownership. This leads to less innovation in music and to the increase in the price of music related products due to the fact that it is controlled by three conglomerates. (Nelson 2012). Conglomeration affects the content of music in that it regulates the music content to fit the agenda of the conglomerate and the music outlets it controls. Integration whether horizontal or vertical deeply controls the content of music by jointly supporting its company’s other operations.

            The Arabic music scene is a smaller version of that in the US. Arabic music is produced mostly by Rotana. Arab artists don’t really have a choice when it comes to production houses. Rotana is part of a media conglomerate owned by Saudi media tycoon, Al Waleed Ben Talal. The conglomerate which Rotana is part of is similar to the large conglomerates in the US. The difference is that this conglomerate is controlling a large part of the Arabic music all by itself.

           The trends that dominate my music collection all evolve around love, romance, relationships, sex or annihilation of women. Music lyrics concentrate on sex. Not only does sex sell, it also adds to the notion that it is acceptable to demean women in songs. These songs don’t necessarily communicate the values of the American society as a whole, but it could be a lucrative way to sell music. Values communicated to us through these songs are not at all acceptable in our culture, such as openness about sex, cohabitation, drugs and alcohol. Those values either do not exist in our culture or exist but are hidden in the dark. Learning more about the music industry through the readings and lectures make me understand the status quo of the music business. The trends or themes prevalent in the music industry are governed by the big three, which are chosen for financial or control purposes.

            Wal-Mart and all other leading vendors lost market leadership to downloadable music. People no longer go to music vendors to buy music CDs. Online music shops are much easier to buy music from. Downloadable music is much easier to access, on our phones, tablets, music devices or computers. In Appendix B, based on the Rolling Stone’s analysis of the cost of a CD, we notice that more than half of the price of a CD goes to distributing, labeling and retailing. (Knopper 2011) When downloading music, we do not pay these extra expenses which do not really affect the quality of music. Artists are gaining the price of their talent without the involvement of other factors. Consumers now can make use of a lot more of music downloads with the price of one CD.   


            The music industry in general is manipulated by three major players who control all its aspects and restrain its diversity in an effort to attain financial revenue. Music domination is controlling the image and content of the music produced. This lack of diversity attributes to sameness of music. The Arab countries are also following these footsteps, still in their early stages.          

















Wickham, C. (2012, July 26). Pop music too loud and all sounds the same: official. Reuters. Retrieved from

Nelson, D (2012, June 20). The Universal/EMI Merger: How Will It Specifically Impact The Music Consumer? Consumer Affairs. Retrieved from

Knopper, S. (2011, Oct 25). The New Economics of the Music Industry. Rolling Stone. Retrieved from
















Appendix A



Major/ Independent

One Direction (Up All Night) Deluxe Version

2011 Simco Limited under exclusive license to Sony Music   Entertainment UK Limited

Independent of Sony Music

Bruno Mars Doo-Wops & Hooligans

2010 Atlantic Recording Corporation

Independent of Warner Musical Group

Jennifer Lopez This Is Me… Then


2002 Sony Music Entertainment Inc.


Kylie Minogue Aphrodite


2010 EMI Records Ltd

EMI became independent of Universal Records in 2011

Pitbull Planet Pit

2011 J Records, a unit of Sony Music Entertainment

Independent of Sony Music Entertainment

The Wanted Chasing the Sun

2012 Global Talent Records Limited, under exclusive License to   Universal Island Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited

Independent of Universal

Madonna Hard Candy

2008 Warner Bros. Records Inc. in the US


Beyonce Dangerously in Love

2003 J Records, Sony Music Entertainment Inc.

Independent of Sony

Justin Timberlake The 20/20 Experience (2 of 2) Deluxe Version

2013 RCA Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

Independent of Sony

Elissa As3ad Wa7da

2012 Rotana











Appendix B

I own around 26 CDs in total.

The approximate cost of my collection is 15.99*26= $415.7

Musician’s Union


Publishing Royalties


Packaging/ Manufacturing


Retail Profit




Artists’ Royalties


Label Profit


Marketing/ Promotion


Retail Overhead


Approximate cost of my collection