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The Los Angeles-based company was formed in 1985 by three former K-tel executives: Bryan Turner, Mark Cerami and Steve Drath. Initial funding was provided by R-tek, a company headed by former K-tel board members: Ray and Harold Kives, and their company took an initial 50% ownership in Priority. Priority bought out the R-tek interest in 1987.
In the early 1990s, the label struck up a distribution deal with EMI, while continuing to operate independently. EMI bought a 50% stake in Priority in 1996, and the remainder in 1998. Despite EMI's full ownership, Priority continued to be independently managed company until 2001, when its operations were merged into EMI’s major US subsidiary, Capitol Records. Priority was absorbed into Capitol Records in 2004 and ceased operations.
In late 2006, EMI revived Priority Records, and it was supposed to start releasing new records again but never did except for a couple compilation and greatest hits albums.
In July 2013 Priority was re-launched via a joint venture between Capitol Records and Insurgency Music. Based at the Capitol Records Building in Los Angeles, the new Priority Records will be a producer centric label that focuses on a broader array of music genres, in addition to its long standing commitment to Hip hop music.