Each major is part of a larger communications or electronics conglomerate. Some recent corporate reshuffles have produced this configuration, most prominently Sony’s purchase of CBS for some $2 billion in 1988. Each major has branches throughout the Americas and Europe, and, in most cases, in parts of Asia, Africa, and Australasia. Each embraces a number of record labels: the Philips labels include Polydor, Deutsche Gramophon, Phonogram, and Decca; the Sony labels include CBS, Epic, and Def Jam. (For an outline of the
organization and activities of each of the majors, and their Web sites, see Burnett, 1996; also Barnet and Cavanagh, 1994.)
The market share exercised by the majors varies from country to country, but in some cases is over 90 per cent. There is considerable debate over the economic and cultural implications of such market dominance, especially the strength of local music industries in relation to marked trends toward the globalization of the culture industries. Some commentators see the natural corollary of such concentrations of ownership as an ability to essentially determine, or at the very least strongly influence, the nature of the demand for particular forms of popular culture. On the other hand, more optimistic media analysts, with a preference for human agency, emphasize the individual consumer’s freedom to choose, their ability to decide how and where cultural texts are to be used, and the meanings and messages to be associated with them. The debate in this area is one of emphasis, since clearly both sets of influences/ determinations are in operation.