EMI (originally Electrical and Musical Industries) was a British multinational electronics and music conglomerate, and once one of the largest and most successful record labels in history.
The company can trace its origins back to 1897, when American inventor Emile Berliner, the creator of the gramophone, established The Gramophone Company in London. The company quickly grew to dominate the music industry.
In the 1930s, however, the music industry declined with The Great Depression. And so, in 1931, the Gramophone Company merged with the American Columbia Gramophone Company (not to be confused with Columbia Records) to become Electrical and Musical Industries. It was also around this time that it established its famous studio on Abbey Road, and stereo sound systems were developed.
For a while, EMI served as the European licensee for RCA Victor and Columbia Records, allowing the company to have access to American talent. These relationships came to an end in the 1950s. To compensate, EMI acquired Capitol Records in 1955, along with its existing roster of stars like Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, among others.
In the 1970s, EMI sought to expand, establishing new record labels like Harvest Records, and acquiring existing ones. In 1979, it merged with Thorn Electrical Industries to form Thorn EMI.
Through the 1990s, EMI continued to expand, acquiring even more record labels, including Virgin Records and its artists. In 1996, the group demerged from Thorn, becoming EMI Group PLC.
Entering the 2000s, however, EMI's profits and market share began to decline. In 2007, it was acquired by the equity firm Terra Firma, which sought to restructure the company and cut costs, with plans to cut almost a third of the employees. This didn't work out; many of EMI's artists jumped ship, and EMI ended up saddled with almost $4 billion in debt.
In 2011, Citigroup took temporary ownership of the company, which was gradually liquidated. Universal Music Group acquired EMI's music branch and American assets (including Capitol Records), as well as rights to the Beatles, while Sony/ATV Music Publishing took over its publishing branch, and Warner Music Group got its European assets and constituent labels (including Parlophone Records), thus ending EMI as an independent company.
Companies and labels formerly owned by EMI:
- Apple Records
- Capitol Records
- Charisma Records
- Chrysalis Records
- Harvest Records
- His Master's Voice
- Parlophone Records
- Stateside Records
- Thorn EMI Video
- Virgin Records
EMI was also the European distributor for American labels such as MGM Records, Mercury Records (until it was bought by Philips) and United Artists Records. EMI also distributed Island Records for a time until that label was bought by PolyGram.
- David Bowienote
- Kate Bush
- Lynda Carter
- Duran Duran
- Electric Light Orchestra
- Gang of Four
- Iron Maiden
- Eartha Kitt
- Paul McCartney (as The Country Hams)
- Olivia Newton-John
- Pink Floyd
- Cliff Richard
- Peter Sellers
- Sex Pistols (who were notoriously dropped after one single)
- Talking Headsnote