The major labels have been dropping one by one. Of course, they never "die out" completely... they just get weak enough until someone buys someone else. The Big Six became the Big Five when Universal took over Polygram. The Big Five became the Big Four when Sony (formerly CBS Records) and BMG effectively merged. And, now we're down to the Big Three as Universal and Sony pick off the remains of EMI
. This was pretty much a foregone conclusion that there would be some sort of merger, when Citibank took over EMI after EMI defaulted on its debt obligations. Universal is picking up the music division for $1.9 billion while Sony gets the publishing side for $2.2 billion. Universal was already the world's largest record label, so adding the likes of the Beatles, Coldplay and Katy Perry to its roster must be appealing. Of course, there's some concern among regulators that this raises antitrust questions, but I really don't see the issue here. Universal Music has been self-imploding by failing to adapt. I don't see how merging it with EMI will do much other than to allow it to continue to be a nuisance and continue to not understand how to embrace the internet. Besides, spending $1.9 billion for more back catalog, rather than investing that kind of money into actually adapting? If anything, this simply accelerates the decline of these labels.