EMI Records was a British record label founded by the music company of the same name in 1972 as its flagship label, and launched in January 1973 as the successor to its Columbia and Parlophone record labels. The label was later launched worldwide.
An E.M.I. Records Ltd. legal entity was created in 1957 as the record manufacturing and distribution arm of EMI in the UK. It oversaw EMI's various labels, including The Gramophone Co. Ltd., Columbia Graphophone Company, and Parlophone Co. Ltd.
The global success that EMI enjoyed in the 1960s exposed the fact that the company had the rights to only some of its trademarks in some parts of the world, most notably His Master's Voice and Columbia, with RCA Victor Records and the American Columbia Records owning the rights to these trademarks in North America.
Complicating matters was Columbia's formation of its own operations in the UK by purchasing Oriole Records and changing its name to that of its then-parent company CBS (the legal trademark designation bearing the full name of the parent company, "Trade Mark of Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc."), and as CBS Records International becoming highly successful, a serious rival to EMI, in the UK.
In July 1965, the standalone EMI Record companies were extracted from E.M.I. Records Ltd. and folded into The Gramophone Company Ltd. On 1 July 1973, The Gramophone Co. Ltd. was renamed EMI Records Ltd. At the same time, E.M.I. Records Ltd. was wound down and its activities were absorbed into EMI Records Ltd.
Earlier, on 1 January 1973, all of The Gramophone Company Ltd. pop labels (Columbia, Parlophone, Harvest, Sovereign and Regal) had been rebranded as EMI. EMI Records then signed new acts that became global successes: Kraftwerk, Renaissance, Queen, Olivia Newton-John, Iron Maiden, Kate Bush, Sheena Easton, Pink Floyd, and Robbie Williams (though some of these acts were on different labels in the United States, not EMI's Capitol Records). In 1997, EMI Records' American division was folded into Virgin Records.
In 2010, EMI Records opened a country music division, EMI Records Nashville, which includes on its roster Troy Olsen, Alan Jackson, Kelleigh Bannen, and Eric Church. EMI Records Nashville is a sister label to the Capitol Nashville unit of Universal Music Group.
Australia's most prolific artist, Slim Dusty, signed with the Columbia Graphophone Co. for Regal Zonophone Records in 1946 and remained with EMI until his death in 2003, selling over 7 million records for the label in Australia by 2007.
Virgin EMI Records retains use of the EMI branding after Universal Music Group's acquisition of EMI in September 2012, but it is otherwise unrelated to the old company which was renamed Parlophone Records in 2013 and is now part of Warner Music Group. EMI Christian Music Group was renamed Capitol Christian Music Group. EMI Classics was sold to Warner Music Group in February 2013. After EU regulatory approval, EMI Classics was absorbed into Warner Classics in July 2013.
In Japan, Universal Music Japan did a label reorganization in February 2014, with more than half of the EMI Records Japan artists being transferred to Nayutawave Records, renaming to just simply EMI Records.