Sylvia Rhone named Billboard Women in Music’s executive of the year

The chairwoman-CEO of Epic Records has overseen the success of acts like Future, Travis Scott and 21 Savage.

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Sylvia Rhone was named Billboard Women in Music’s 2023 Executive of the Year. The longtime record executive is currently the chairwoman and CEO of Epic Records.

Rhone has been a trailblazer for Black women in the music industry. She was the first Black woman to run a major-label affiliate at Atlantic Records’ East West U.K. label, merging with ATCO. It was there she would oversee the success of acts like En Vogue, MC Lyte and Missy Elliott.

In 1994, Rhone was appointed chairwoman-CEO at Electra Records. It was during that tenure that she faced the challenges of getting hip-hop and rap music to get more mainstream exposure. It was a challenge she met head-on and conquered.

2023 Recording Academy Honors Presented By The Black Music Collective - Show
Epic Records Chairwoman and CEO Sylvia Rhone and Swizz Beatz speak during the Recording Academy Honors Presented by the Black Music Collective on Feb. 2, 2023 at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

“There was some pushback from radio, of course, and from the overall community. They didn’t understand hip-hop music,” Rhone told Billboard. “We had to attend board meetings at Time Warner to justify why we had hip-hop, and shareholders protested having hip-hop. So we fought, and we stood up a lot during that time.”

Throughout her career, she would be at the helm of labels like Universal Motown. In 2014, she assumed the role of president of Epic Records. Rhone was promoted to chairwoman-CEO of Epic in 2019. Now overseeing the careers of 21 Savage, Future, and Travis Scott, Rhone is still pushing hip-hop forward.

Rhone’s track record is impressive, but one of the things she’s most proud of is seeing more Black and female employees at major labels. She noted that the staff at Epic is 57 percent people of color and almost 54 percent women.

“When I was first appointed chairman in 1994, I was very focused on opening doors for people like me whether they were women or people of color by giving them an opportunity they may not have received before,” Rhone said. “I am focused on creating power by creating a culture where the creativity of artists on our roster can flourish and there is an exchange of ideas, culture and information from a diverse group of creatives and executives.”

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