Epic Records is an American record label owned by Sony Music Entertainment, a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America, Inc., the North American division of Japanese conglomerate Sony. The label was founded predominantly as a jazz and classical music label in 1953, but later expanded its scope to include a more diverse range of genres, including pop, R&B, rock, and hip hop. Epic Records has released music by artists including Glenn Miller, Tammy Wynette, George Michael, The Yardbirds, Donovan, Shakin Stevens, Europe, Cheap Trick, Meat Loaf, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ted Nugent, Shakira, Sly & the Family Stone, The Hollies, Celine Dion, ABBA, Culture Club, Boston, Dave Clark Five, Gloria Estefan, Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, and Michael Jackson. Along with Arista, Columbia and RCA Records, Epic is one of Sony Music Entertainment's four flagship record labels.
Artists who have signed to Epic Records include Fuel, French Montana, Fiona Apple, Sara Bareilles, Mariah Carey, Future, Fifth Harmony, Zara Larsson, Jennifer Hudson, Keyshia Cole, Franz Ferdinand, Hardwell, Revis, Outkast, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Cheyenne Kimball, Busta Rhymes, Verbow, Rick Ross, 21 Savage, Bernard Butler, Travis Scott, DJ Khaled, Silverchair, Meghan Trainor, Camila Cabello, Wrabel, Swizz Beatz, Pearl Jam and Louis Tomlinson.
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.
Expansion of genres and mainstream success
By 1960, 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.
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.
Sony Corporation bought CBS Records in 1987, and the company was renamed Sony Music in 1991.
It began splitting European operations into two separate labels, Epic and Columbia, in 1992, and in 1997, Sony Music Australia and New Zealand followed suit.
In 2004, Sony merged with music distributor BMG, bringing Arista Records, Columbia Records, Epic Records, J Records, Jive Records, RCA Records, and Zomba Group of Companies to one parent company known as Sony BMG Music Entertainment. In 2008, Sony bought out BMG for $1.2 billion, bringing all affiliated labels together as Sony Music Entertainment International, SMEI. The merger was approved by the European Union in 2009.
Epic's 1980s and 1990s mainstream success were fueled by its signing and releasing of albums by notable acts such as Michael Jackson, Culture Club, the Miami Sound Machine and Gloria Estefan, Wham and George Michael, 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, Céline Dion, and Oasis among others. One of the label's greatest financial payoffs came via the release of 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.
Epic Soundtrax was founded in 1992. It was central to Epic's 1990s success, with 11 releases cumulatively selling more than 40 million records over a three-year period. Notable releases included soundtrack albums for Honeymoon in Vegas, Singles, Sleepless in Seattle, Forrest Gump, Philadelphia, and Judgement Night.
In July 2011, L.A. Reid became the CEO of Epic Records, signing artists such as TLC, Toni Braxton, Cher Lloyd, Avril Lavigne, Outkast, Future, Yo Gotti, Ciara, Meghan Trainor, DJ Khaled and Travis Scott. Epic also signed the winners of The X Factor during the seasons that Reid appeared on the show.
In November 2014, Mosley Music Group created a joint venture with Sony Music, with marketing, publicity, distribution and overall label services provided by Epic. The joint venture was created due to Timbaland's previous collaboration with L.A. Reid on Michael Jackson's posthumous album, Xscape. Previously operated by Interscope, most of MMG's roster moved to Epic.
In 2015, Mariah Carey 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 May 11, 2017, it was announced that Reid would exit as the label's CEO, with no immediate mention of who would succeed him in the position. Three days later, following news of Reid's exit, reports surfaced of allegations against him, which claimed "unlawful harassment" by an employee. On April 23, 2019, it was announced that Rhone had been appointed as Chairman and CEO of the label.
Formerly affiliated labels
550 Music (1993–2000)
Blue Sky (1974–1982)
Caribou Records (1976–1985)
Cold Chillin' Records (1993–1999)
Date Records (1960s)
Duble Kick Entertainment (2010–Present)
Epic Records Nashville (?
– May 2006)
Epic Soundtrax (1992–1997)
Epic Street (1993–1998)
Cleveland International Records (1976–1983)
CTI Records (1980)
Tuff City Records (1983–1984)
Hidden Beach Records (1998–2007)
Glacial Pace (mid–1990s)
Invictus Records (1973–1976)
Jet Records (1978–1983)
Kirshner Records (1974–1983)
MJJ Music (1988–2001)
MLD Entertainment (2010–Present)
Nemperor Records (1977–1990)
Ode Records (1967–1969, 1976–1979)
OKeh Records (1965–1970, 1994–2000)
Pasha Records (1979–1990)
Philadelphia International Records (1971–1984)
Portrait Records (1976–1992)
Ruthless Records (1990, 1999–2009)
Scotti Brothers (1979–1988)
SOLAR Records (1989–1993)
Stone Music Entertainment (1994–Present)
T-Neck Records (1972–1984)
Tabu Records (1978–1991)
The WORK Group (1994–1999)
Virgin Records (1976–1978, 1982–1986)
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.