A record label is a brand and a trademark associated with the marketing of music recordings and music videos. Often, a record label is also a company that manages such brands and trademarks; coordinates the production, manufacture, distribution, marketing, promotion, and enforcement of copyright for sound recordings and music videos; conducts talent scouting and development of new artists ("artists and repertoire" or "A&R"); and maintains contracts with recording artists and their managers. The term "record label" derives from the circular label in the center of a vinyl record which prominently displays the manufacturer's name, along with other information.
Within the music industry; most recording artists have become increasingly reliant upon record labels to broaden their consumer base, market their albums, and be both promoted and heard on mp3, radio, and television, with publicists that assist performers in positive media reports to market their merchandise, and make it available via stores and other media outlets. The Internet has increasingly been a way that some artists avoid costs and gain new audiences, as well as the use of videos in some cases, to sell their products.
Record labels may be small, localized, and "independent" ("indie"), or they may be part of a large international media group, or somewhere in between. As of 2012 there are only three labels that can be referred to as "major labels". A "sublabel" is a label that is part of a larger record company but trades under a different name.
When a label is strictly a trademark or brand, not a company, then it is usually called an "imprint", a term used for the same concept in publishing. An imprint is sometimes marketed as being a "project", "unit", or "division" of a record label company, even though there is no legal business structure associated with the imprint.