Sony Music Entertainment (SME) is a Japanese-owned global music conglomerate owned by Sony and incorporated as a general partnership of Sony Music Holdings Inc. through Sony Entertainment Inc., a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America. The company was first founded in 1929 as American Record Corporation and renamed Columbia Recording Corporation in 1938, following its acquisition by the Columbia Broadcasting System. In 1966, the company was reorganized to become CBS Records, and Sony Corporation bought the company in 1988, renaming it under its current name in 1991.
In 2004, Sony and Bertelsmann established a 50-50 joint venture called Sony BMG Music Entertainment, which transferred the businesses of Sony Music and Bertelsmann Music Group into one entity. However, in 2008, Sony acquired Bertelsmann’s stake, and the company reverted to the SME name shortly after; the buyout allowed Sony to acquire all of BMG’s labels, including former Columbia Pictures subsidiary Arista Records as well as RCA Records, and led to the dissolution of BMG, which instead relaunched as BMG Rights Management.
Sony Music Entertainment is the second largest of the “Big Three” record companies in the world, behind Universal Music Group (UMG) and ahead of Warner Music Group (WMG). Sony’s music publishing division is the world’s largest music publisher after the acquisition of EMI. It also owns SYCO Entertainment, which operates some of the world’s most successful reality TV formats, including Got Talent and The X Factor.