Posted on June 3, 2022 | By John Reynolds

What Makes EMPIRE A Unique Record Label In Hip-Hop

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EMPIRE is a distribution company launched and founded by Ghazi Shami in 2010 and has become one of the music industry’s go-to record labels for artists and performers who want to adopt a fresh approach to content management, social networking, and digital development.

How Does It Actually Work?

A team of curators keeps an ear out for up-and-coming performers and independent record labels. Once a customer is on board, EMPIRE’s team actively promotes each release by battling for top playlist rankings and home page placements. 

“We move quickly,” says EMPIRE’s A&R and marketing director, Jonathan Master. “We really fight hard for placements [because] we want to be a home for great artists. Whether an artist sells 500 albums or 500,000, they should be housed in the same place and treated with the same level of respect.”

What Big Time Artists Have Worked With EMPIRE?

EMPIRE has a plethora of notable performers on its roster, both as a label and as a distributor. Anderson Paak’s Malibu and D.R.A.M.’s famous “Broccoli” have both been defining releases. Iggy Azalea’s outstanding album, In My Defense, and Snoop Dogg’s I WANNA THANK ME, were both launched as joint ventures with EMPIRE. This independent label has also released albums by Robin Thicke, and Young Dolph and has created a reputation for itself in hip-hop, with Kendrick Lamar and Cardi B.

What’s Next For EMPIRE?

That Bay Area hustler mindset is strong at EMPIRE, and it’s at the heart of what has made the company’s growth so remarkable. Not only have they grown their marketing, publishing, content, and merchandising departments to over 60 workers split throughout San Francisco, a London office, and a New York a team, but they’ve also begun to push into new verticals outside of hip-hop.

With EMPIRE being more than 10 years in business, the pair reflects on what they’ve built together. “We fall somewhere into that middle space,” Etminan says. “A lot of resources and infrastructure that typically only come with a major [label], but transparency and flexibility and lack of politics that usually comes with an indie.”

“We’re very fluid,” Shami adds. “I can build infrastructure very quickly and if something doesn’t work, I can tear it down and rebuild it and shift directions. It’s like King Kong vs Bruce Lee: do you want size and strength or speed and ingenuity?”

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