The company owns and operates some of the largest and most successful record labels in the world, including its flagship labels Warner Bros. Records, Parlophone, and Atlantic Records. WMG also owns Warner/Chappell Music, one of the world's largest music publishers.
The film company Warner Bros. had no record label division at the time one of its contracted actors, Tab Hunter, scored a hit song for Dot Records, a division of rival Paramount Pictures. In order to prevent any repetition of its actors recording for rival companies, and to also capitalize on the music business, Warner Bros. Records was created in 1958. In 1963, Warner purchased Reprise Records, which had been founded by Frank Sinatra three years earlier so that he could have more creative control over his recordings. With the Reprise acquisition, Warner gained the services of Mo Ostin, who would be mainly responsible for the success of Warner/Reprise.
The Canadian unit was opened in 1967 as Warner Reprise Canada Ltd, now called Warner Music Canada Co.
After Warner Bros. was sold to Seven Arts Productions in 1967 (forming Warner Bros.-Seven Arts), it purchased Atlantic Records, founded in 1947 and WMG's oldest label (until WMG completed its acquisition of Parlophone in 2013), as well as its subsidiary Atco Records. This acquisition brought Neil Young into the company fold, initially as a member of Buffalo Springfield. Young would become one of Warner's longest-established artists, recording both as a solo artist and with groups under the Warner-owned Atlantic, Atco, and Reprise labels, as well as making five albums for Geffen Records during that label's period of Warner distribution. The Geffen catalogue, now owned by Universal Music Group, represents Young's only major recordings not under WMG ownership.
In 1969, two years after being purchased by Seven Arts, the Warner Bros.-Seven Arts company was sold to the Kinney National Company. Kinney (later changing its name to Warner Communications) combined the operations of all of its record labels, and Kinney CEO Steve Ross led the group through its most successful period until his death in 1992.