Epic Records is an American record label owned by Sony Music Entertainment, a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America, Inc.. Epic was founded predominantly as a jazz and classical music label in 1953. It later expanded its scope to include a more diverse range of musical genres, including pop, R&B, rock and hip hop. Historically, the label has housed popular acts such as Michael Jackson, Cheap Trick, Shakira, Celine Dion, ABBA, Anastacia, Boston, Dave Clark Five, Gloria Estefan, Pearl Jam and Sly & the Family Stone.
Along with Columbia and RCA Records, Epic is one of Sony Music Entertainment's three main record labels. Artists currently signed to Epic as of 2017 include Fiona Apple, Sara Bareilles, Mariah Carey, Keyshia Cole, Future, Fifth Harmony, Jennifer Hudson, Zara Larsson, Jennifer Lopez, Outkast, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Busta Rhymes, Rick Ross, Sade, 21 Savage, Travis Scott and Meghan Trainor.
Epic Records was launched in 1953 by the Columbia Records unit of CBS for the purpose of marketing jazz, pop and classical music that did not fit the theme of its more mainstream Columbia Records label. Initial classical music releases were from Philips Records which distributed Columbia product in Europe. Pop talent on co-owned Okeh Records were transferred to Epic which made Okeh a rhythm and blues label. Epic's bright-yellow, black, and blue logo became a familiar trademark for many jazz and classical releases. This has included such notables as the Berlin Philharmonic, Charles Rosen, the Juilliard String Quartet, Antal Doráti conducting the Hague Philharmonic and George Szell conducting the Cleveland Orchestra.
By 1960, the label's musical base had been expanded to include all genres. This was done in part to prevent the roster of Columbia Records (which, at the time, had a reputation for releasing material by more established acts) from being overstuffed with newer artists. Subsequently, Epic became better known for its signing of newer, fledgling acts. By the end of the 1960s, Epic earned its first gold records and had evolved into a formidable hit-making force in rock and roll, R&B and country music. Among its many acts, it included Roy Hamilton, Bobby Vinton, The Dave Clark Five, The Hollies, Tammy Wynette, Donovan, The Yardbirds, Lulu, July, Helen Shapiro and Jeff Beck. Several of the British artists on the Epic roster during the 1960s were the result of CBS's Epic/Okeh units' international distribution deal with EMI; Epic recordings were issued by EMI on the Columbia label.
Also during the 1960s, Epic oversaw the smaller subsidiary CBS labels including Okeh Records and Date Records. In 1968, Epic recordings began being distributed in the UK by CBS after the distribution deal with EMI expired that year; Epic itself launched in England around 1971.
Epic was involved in a notable "trade" of artists. Graham Nash was signed to Epic because of his membership in The Hollies. When the newly formed Crosby, Stills & Nash wanted to sign with Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegün worked out a deal with Clive Davis whereby Richie Furay's new band Poco (having signed with Atlantic due to Furay's contract from being in Buffalo Springfield) would sign with Epic.
Epic's commercial success continued to grow in the 1970s with releases from ABBA in the UK, Boston, Cheap Trick, The Clash, Charlie Daniels, Gabriel, Heart, Heatwave, The Isley Brothers, The Jacksons, George Jones, Labelle, Meat Loaf, Johnny Nash, Ted Nugent, REO Speedwagon, Minnie Riperton, Pegasus, Charlie Rich, Sly & the Family Stone, Steve Vai, and Edgar Winter. Also contributing to the label's success was its distribution of Philadelphia International Records, which produced additional hit records by acts such as The Three Degrees and McFadden and Whitehead.
Its 1980s and 1990s mainstream success were fueled by its signing and releasing of albums by notable acts such as Michael Jackson, Teena Marie, Shakin' Stevens, Culture Club, Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine, Adam Ant, Living Colour, Incubus, Dead or Alive, Europe, Cyndi Lauper, Ozzy Osbourne, Korn, Pearl Jam, Sade, Luther Vandross, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Rage Against the Machine and Céline Dion, among others. The label's greatest financial payoff came via the release Thriller, the 1982 album by Michael Jackson, which went on to achieve approximately 51–65 million in worldwide sales, becoming the biggest selling album in history.
Sony bought CBS Records in 1987, and the company was renamed Sony Music in 1991. In 2004, Sony merged with another powerhouse music distributor, BMG, bringing labels such as BMG's RCA, Arista and Jive plus Sony's Columbia, Epic and many others under one parent company, Sony BMG. In February 2009, singer and songwriter Amanda Ghost was appointed president of Epic Records. Later in the year, Sony BMG Music (during a reconsolidation of labels) merged Epic and Columbia's operations, and subsequently formed the Columbia/Epic Label Group — but both labels continue to operate as separate brands. Sony BMG's Legacy Recordings reissues the company's classic and catalog titles.
In addition, in the 1990s, European operations of Sony Music were integrated into two separate labels, Epic and Columbia. It was followed by Australian and New Zealand operation of Sony Music in 1997.
The Japanese operation is called Epic Records Japan Inc.
In July 2011, L.A. Reid became the CEO of Epic Records. He left the label in May 2017 following an allegation of sexual harassment. Under Reid's tenure, artists such as TLC, Toni Braxton, Avril Lavigne, Outkast, Future, Yo Gotti and Ciara signed with Epic. Epic also signed the winners of The X Factor during the seasons that Reid appeared on the show.
It was confirmed in February 2012 that Sylvia Rhone, former president of Universal Motown, would launch a new label, Vested In Culture, through Epic Records. In March 2014, Rhone was appointed president of Epic.
In November 2014, it was announced that Mosley Music Group created a joint venture with Sony Music, and that the imprint would be distributed by Epic. It formerly operated under Interscope Geffen A&M from 2006 until late 2014. In the terms of the new partnership, Epic would provide marketing, publicity, handle distribution and overall label services for the imprint. The joint venture was created due to Timbaland's recent collaboration with L.A. Reid on Michael Jackson's "Xscape". Most of MMG's roster would be registered under the Epic imprint, with OneRepublic to remain with Interscope Records.
On January 30, 2015, it was announced that Mariah Carey had left her former label, Def Jam Recordings, to reunite with Reid at Epic. He had worked with Carey at Def Jam under The Island Def Jam Music Group in 2004.. That same month, it was announced that R&B group Jodeci had signed to the label and planned to release their first studio album in 20 years.
On March 2, 2016, it was announced that Jennifer Lopez had rejoined the label, six years after leaving in favor of Island Def Jam and Capitol Records. Lopez's multi-album deal not only reunited the singer with the label, but also with Reid, whom she signed with at Island Def Jam in 2010. On January 18, 2017, it was announced that Atlanta rapper 21 Savage had signed to Epic Records.
In May 2017, Billboard announced that Reid had exited as CEO and chairman of Epic Records.
Unlike sister label Columbia, Epic went through five different logos since its launch. Some logos were temporarily revived for period reissues. The years shown below list the time served as the label's primary logo.
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