EMI America was a new major label formed by EMI in 1978. It was a sibling label to Capitol Records, similar to the relationship between Warner and Reprise, Atlantic and Atco, or Columbia and Epic. True to its parent company's British origins, many of its artists hailed from the U.K. The label also issued plenty of American acts and the EMI America imprint was used to market American artists overseas in turn, especially after the merger with Liberty Records.
The very first EMI America single, Michael Johnson's "Bluer Than Blue", was a major hit, and the fledgling company also found success with David Bowie, Gary U.S. Bonds, Kate Bush, Kim Carnes, The J. Geils Band, Corey Hart, Pet Shop Boys, Queensrÿche, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Cliff Richard, Stray Cats, Talk Talk, and George Thorogood, among other acts. The label's acts, particularly the British artists, tended to be lower-profile than the mainline Capitol artists even as they attracted dedicated followings, so EMI America may be a Spiritual Successor to Capitol's earlier Tower label. Where Tower was associated with Garage Rock and Psychedelic Rock, EMI America would develop a similar association through the '80s with the underground rock movements of the day: New Wave Music and early Alternative Rock with Kate Bush, Pet Shop Boys, Talk Talk, and especially Bowie, who was a major influence on both genres.
The imprint was also used for reissues from the Liberty/Imperial/United Artists catalog, with the Liberty name and Statue of Liberty logo being revived for some releases combined with EMI America's gray background and rainbow logo type label design, particularly for country music. However, by 1987 it was merged into another of EMI's sublabels, Manhattan Records, to become EMI Manhattan, before the combined label again changed its name to EMI USA.Then they changed the name again, to just EMI. In 1997, the label was absorbed into Virgin Records and Capitol, with the country music catalog largely moving over to Capitol Nashville. Meanwhile, Manhattan Records would relaunch under its original name in 2001.
In the wake of the dissolution of parent company EMI in 2012, the catalog of EMI America's North American artists remained with Capitol under Universal Music Group, while British and European artists largely went over to Parlophone Records under Warner Music Group distribution, with Rhino Records handling reissues for the latter as it does with other Warner labels.