Record companies and boxing promoters are very similar. If they didn’t have bad press, they wouldn’t have any press at all. Both are known for taking advantage of talented people to make lots of money. While, at the same time, giving their artists or boxers very little in return. But the truth is that not all record labels are the devil in disguise. And not all boxing promoters are Don King.
The Top 10 Empire record label artists will probably pour scorn on my boxing analogy. Empire Records are known for treating their artists with respect and integrity. Maybe that’s why they have worked with some of the biggest urban artists from Hip-Hop and R&B.
Before I talk about Empire Record’s most famous rappers and vocalists, let’s find out what makes the Empire Record label so unique when compared to traditional record companies.
Who Are Empire Records?
The Empire Record Label started as the brainchild of Ghazi Shami and was founded in 2010. As the music industry was in a massive freefall due to digital music piracy and a general change in how music is consumed by the listener, a fresh new outlook was needed.
Major record labels were still fighting against illegal music sharing online at that time. And they had not figured out how to combat it. This is why Empire Records was created.
Rather than a full-on record label…
Empire Records is essentially a distribution company. They don’t necessarily deal in the creation of the music but reside in the marketing, publishing, and distribution side of things. Empire helps artists to use innovative new ways to position their music in a prime spot in digital markets. At the same time, helping artists signed to Empire Records with social networking and content management.
These days, the company is more aptly named Empire Distribution. They have many strings to their bow and provide new, mid-level, and even super-famous bands and artists with many support functions.
Empire Distribution can help fledgling artists develop their brand and image if needed. As well as run blanket and/or focused advertising campaigns online or across traditional platforms. They can act as a go-between for artists and major record labels. And they also help them to sign promotional deals with retailers and other shops and outlets.
How Do Traditional Record Labels Work?
Here’s how traditional record labels work. They sign a talented artist with potential and then fund the entire project of an album using singles to promote the album. This also includes the branding and imaging of the artist.
The record company gives the artist an advance, which is essentially a loan from the record label. That needs to be paid back from the profits of any sales from the said artist. The advance is used to create the album in the studio and also to feed the artist for that duration. It’s the artist’s job to manage that side of the deal and the advance money they are given.
The record label then usually owns every aspect of the artist’s music…
…such as the publishing and the masters. Sure, the artist receives some royalties on any sales made, but only after the record company has “recouped” the advance/loan. Essentially, the artist doesn’t particularly own any part of their music.
Some record deals are different from others. The more famous you are, the more control over your destiny you get. But, in all honesty, the record labels own it all.
What Makes Empire Records Different?
Empire Records have a different way of doing things. As mentioned earlier, they started as a distribution company as opposed to a record label that owns every aspect of the band or artist’s music and brand. Here’s how the Empire Record label works.
Artists will generally pay for their own records and songs to get made in the studio. Then, it’s Empire Records’ job to distribute the music, get it major exposure across as many media platforms as possible, and market the music to the appropriate audience.
Distribution companies like Empire do not own the masters of the music…
Generally, they get an agreed percentage of the money generated from the sales of said album or single. They provide support to the artist on the sales side of the operation. The artists at Empire Records usually own their music, masters, and publishing. It’s changed the way that artists get paid and the level of control they have over the creation and finances of their songs and albums.
Why Do Larger Artists Love Working with Empire Distribution?
Some major music industry stars reach a point where their massive record deals with major labels have expired. It’s not uncommon for major recording artists to sign six album deals with labels that take over a decade or more to honor.
But, once they have honored their deals, they are in the driver’s seat and hold all the cards. This leaves the artist in a very good position to control their music and publishing going forward.
At this point in their careers…
Major music stars essentially just need a decent distributor to support them in any new projects or albums. Their names and brands are already secured.
This means that a major recording artist that signs a distribution deal with Empire Distribution will own the masters of their music going forward. And that means more money in their pockets. Empire will receive an agreed cut of the money generated from record sales, and everyone is a winner.
Biggest Artists on Empire Record Label
Empire Records has the distinction of treating new artists the same way it does ultra-famous Popstars. This is why the Empire Record business model works so well.
They’ve helped some relatively unknown artists, such as the Nigerian singer Olamide, to penetrate Western markets. Likewise, they’ve helped the likes of Hopsin, Bones, and Rotimi to get more exposure and develop their brands.
At the same time, Empire has also worked with legendary names like Madonna. Let’s take a look at the Top 10 Empire Record Label artists in 2023 to get an idea of just how big they’ve become over the past 13 years.
It’s debatable who to place at the top of this list. But, not many names in Rap and Pop Music are bigger than Snoop Doggy Dogg. When Snoops first burst onto the scene as part of Dr. Dre’s legendary The Chronic album in 1992, nobody had ever seen the likes of him before. L.A. gangbangers were thin on the ground of the mainstream music industry in the early 1990s.
When Snoop first released his debut album, Doggystyle, in 1993, it was the most eagerly awaited Rap Music album of all time. Over the years, Snoop has sold 35 million albums worldwide and is a much-loved household name. Empire has worked with Snoop multiple times, and he is one of the most famous artists at Empire Records.
Empire Distribution has worked well with 50 Cent over the years. He’s been one of the biggest names in Rap Music for over two decades and has always been a massive record seller. Some of his most famous tracks include “In Da Club”, “Candy Store”, “P.I.M.P.”, “21 Questions”, and many more.
Fiddy is still out here making music and acting in movies. He might not be the most successful hit-making rapper in modern times, but 50 Cent’s relationship with Empire Records is still fantastic.
Some people might have Kendrick at the pinnacle of the Top 10 Artists at Empire Records. Empire actually supported Kendrick when making his debut album Section.80, so they have deeper ties with Lamar than most. The album went on to sell 5,000 copies in the first week. Quite big for a new artist that nobody knows.
Empire was a massive help in getting Kendrick the exposure he needed to kick-start his career. If you’ve not heard much of his work, I urge you to download the To Pimp a Butterfly album. In my opinion, it’s his best work to date.
Again, Adam Lambert might be in one of the top two positions on this list in some people’s eyes. He is the richest artist signed solely to Empire and currently has a net worth of $30 million. He originally sprang to fame as part of the American Idol TV series.
Over the years, Empire has helped him to sell over three million albums and five million singles across the world. So, their relationship was very important to them both. Some of his most famous singles include “If I Had You”, “Whataya Want From Me”, “Never Close Our Eyes”, and “Fever”.
Empire Records was made for someone like Iggy Azalea. She is originally from Australia and came to America to find fame when she was just 16 years old. In 2018, she signed a deal with Empire Records that helped her to develop as an artist and brand. They helped to turn her from an almost nobody into a fledgling independent artist, and she’s never looked back.
Her deal with Empire shows what a fantastic businessperson she is. Her third studio album, The End of an Era, was released by Empire Distribution and her own label, Bad Dreams Records, in August 2021. This type of deal is what makes joining Empire so refreshing for artists because they get creative control and a lion’s share of the cash it generates.
One of the most famous independent rap artists from the 2010s was the late-great XXXTENTACION. Empire founder Ghazi Shami famously told XXX that he was a “musical phenomenon.” And, boy, was he correct.
XXX started his career as a Soundcloud rapper. But, Empire Distribution saw the potential and offered him a record deal for his 17 album, which some say was around $10 million.
XXXTentacion was already doing well before that, and this is why the Empire deal worked best for him. He already had a name on the independent and underground scene and needed someone to support his projects going forward. And that’s just what Empire did.
Empire Distribution did a great job marketing Anderson Paak’s Venice and Malibu albums which were released in 2014 and 2016, respectively. They massively helped Paak to get his music into mainstream consciousness. He is one of the shining lights of Empire and has even scooped Grammy awards and nominations for his singles and albums.
Tyga is one of the few rappers/singers to make my Top 10 Empire Record Label Artists list because he signed a massive deal with the distribution company. He truly is an Empire artist in every sense of the word. Tyga has had several massive hit singles and albums that have shot him to stardom. He’s collaborated with the likes of Lil Wayne, Chris Richardson, and Drake.
His Careless World: Rise Of The Last King album is easily his most famous and iconic. Empire has helped him over the years to achieve massive things. So, in effect, they have both massively benefitted from the deal.
Has there been a bigger rap name than Cardi B over the past five years? Of course not. She is like Nicki Minaj on steroids. That’s figuratively speaking, guys, not meant to be taken literally. Cardi B might not have signed a record deal with Empire, but they have supported her in a distribution sense several times. She has a very good relationship with Empire that has existed for many years.
Some of Cardi B’s biggest tracks through Empire Distribution include “Pull Up”, “Backin’ It Up”, and “Pop Off”. Cardi B’s Gangsta Bitch Vol. 2 mixtape got massive distribution and marketing support from Empire. So, their relationship and roots go right back to the start of her career and inevitable jump-off.
Last but not least, Freddie Gibbs got rich via his relationship with Empire Distribution. He’s already made a few million and has a net worth of around $3 million since working in tandem with Empire to develop his career. His partnership with Empire has seen Freddie remain an independent artist in control of his creative output and finances.
Freddie is ultra-talented, so he could’ve gotten a major record deal. However, he has retained the majority of his masters and is slowly but surely becoming wealthy by doing things the right way. The likes of Freddie, Hopsin, Dinah Jane, 42 Dugg, Justina Valentine, and Jean Deaux are just a few independent artists that have flourished by signing a distribution deal with Empire.
Are You Looking To Start A Career In Music?
If so, check out our guides on Easy Steps to Learning Basic Songwriting, Steps to Start Your Music Career, What Is A Sound Engineer And How Do I Become One, How To Create Your Own Beats For Beginners, How to Get Your Music on Pandora Radio, and the Best Music Production Schools in the US for more information.
Also, if you’re ready to start making music, have a look at our reviews of the Best Portable Audio Recorders, the Best Multitrack Recorder, the Best Audio Interface, the Best USB Audio Interfaces, the Best iPad Audio Interfaces, the Best Keyboard Synthesizer, the Best Beat Machines for Hip Hop, and the Best Studio Headphones For Home Recording you can buy in 2023.
Top 10 Empire Record Label Artists – Conclusion
When Napster and file sharing became a thing in the early-2000s, it flipped the record industry on its head. Older and more traditional record labels are still struggling to come to terms with the digital download market overtaking physical sales of music.
Spotify, Amazon Music, and iTunes were born out of this digital music download revolution…
But, Empire Distribution saw a gap in the market and filled it like no other record label before or since. Empire Record’s Top 10 Artists are an impressive list of legendary Pop and Rap stars. As well as newcomers and fledgling artists that were trying to make their way through the murky waters of the record industry.
Empire Records offer distribution deals. However, they do not own the masters. Nor do they take all the publishing and royalties like other major record labels. They are built to adapt to the ever-changing digital music industry and give artists an option that very rarely existed before them.
Until next time, reach for success.