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EMPIRE Launches Publishing Arm, Helmed By Al McLean and Vinny Kumar: Exclusive

"With our new technology in place," says founder/CEO Ghazi, "we are now ready to shake up the music publishing business."

Since its founding a decade ago, EMPIRE has grown into a leading indie hip-hop label and distributor, with clients like Kendrick Lamar and Anderson .Paak. Now, founder/CEO Ghazi is expanding the company’s reach with the launch of a new publishing division, announced today (Sept. 10).

EMPIRE Publishing is led by two industry heavyweights: Al “Butter” McLean, the former senior vp of creative for Kobalt Music who has signed acts like Childish Gambino and Mike WiLL Made-It; and Vinny Kumar, the veteran entertainment attorney who has held roles at Slip-N-Slide Records, Universal Music Publishing and with Teddy Riley at Future Records, and previously served in EMPIRE’s distribution division.

“Over the past few years, our development team has worked tirelessly to build a proprietary system to bring transparency and accountability to the publishing industry — and to first and foremost protect artists’ rights,” Ghazi says in a statement. “With our new technology in place and Al ‘Butta’ McLean and Vinny Kumar at the helm, we are now ready to shake up the music publishing business.”

Al “Butter” McLean Vinny Kumar
Al “Butter” McLean and Vinny Kumar Courtesy Photo

EMPIRE’s recording and distribution arms have long focused on transparency by crafting bespoke deals that are always in favor of the artist and offering software to give every partner a clear picture of analytics, recoupment and royalties. Ghazi tells Billboard that he aims to bring that same transparency to the publishing industry, and unlock new revenue streams for the company and its partners. “EMPIRE is all about having a clean ecosystem and unlocking the money,” he says. “Developing and launching a publishing company creates a symbiotic relationship with our distribution and recordings division.”

EMPIRE Publishing has already signed a handful of acts, including producer !llmind, who has worked with artists like Drake, Beyoncé and JAY-Z; Justin Love, who co-wrote H.E.R.’s Grammy-winning song “Focus;” and producer Rippa on the Beat, who has worked with the likes of Rod Wave, Kevin Gates and Kodak Black. EMPIRE artists now signed to the publishing division include Young Dolph, Key Glock, Mozzy, Fireboy DML, Yung Bleu, $tupid Young and RJMrLA.


“Music is magic and what EMPIRE has accomplished over the last 10 years for the culture has been magical,” McLean says. “I’m grateful for this opportunity to help lead EMPIRE into the realm of publishing and publishing administration.”

Adds Kumar, the new vice president of legal and business affairs for EMPIRE Publishing: “Over the past few years, EMPIRE has become one of the leading independent labels and distributors by focusing on empowering artists. We are looking forward to expanding the brand into the world of publishing and supporting our writers in the same way.”

The publishing launch follows several recent announcements from the San Francisco-based company. In June, EMPIRE acquired a majority stake in merch/ecommerce company Top Drawer Merch / Electric Family; and in April, the company partnered with Instagram to debut two new shows of original content. Meanwhile, Ghazi says EMPIRE is set to open an office in Nigeria, which would mark its first outpost in Africa, by the end of the year.