Switzerland-headquartered tech company Utopia Music has appointed Alain Couttolenc as its new CEO.
Utopia co-founder Mattias Hjelmstedt, who has been leading Utopia as its Executive Chairman since February 2023, will step down from his executive position and resume his former role as Chairman of the Board.
In a statement issued on Thursday (October 19), Hjelmstedt said that he “stepped into the role as Executive Chairman to guide Utopia through a tough but necessary transformation that was brought on by changed market conditions”.
He added: “I’m extremely proud of all the colleagues who have stepped up and delivered for our customers during this period. With a lot of this work being behind us, I’m now very excited to hand over to Alain.”
That “transformation” started in around January when Hjelmstedt announced a major restructure which he said at the time represented “an exciting next step in Utopia’s journey”, and proved that his company was “optimizing for the future”.
The restructure saw Utopia’s long-time CEO, Markku Mäkeläinen, depart the firm, while Hjelmstedt assumed responsibility for the day-to-day running of the company.
At the time, Utopia was split into two distinct divisions: (i) ‘Music Services’ (including acquired businesses such as the UK-based trio of Sentric Music Group, Absolute Label Services, and Proper, which it acquired in January 2022); and (ii) ‘Royalty Platform’, under which sat Utopia’s in-house tech platform.
Former Downtown executive Roberto Neri, who joined Utopia as its COO in 2021, was confirmed as the new CEO of Utopia’s ‘Music Services’ division, but on April 3, just 62 days after that announcement, Neri confirmed he was leaving Utopia to become CEO of the new global publishing division of Believe.
Utopia has also been making headlines this year for other reasons. In July Utopia Music made a round of layoffs affecting 5% of the company’s 474 employees. Those job cuts follow the announcement of widespread layoffs at Utopia last November, in which it’s believed around 20% of the company’s workforce left their positions.
Another round of job cuts this past April resulted in another 15% of the company’s staff departing.
Those job cuts in July meant that the company’s final staff count had fallen to between 430 and 440 people, a Utopia spokesperson told MBW. That’s down from an estimated 1,200 staff at the company’s peak. Complete Music Update reported earlier this month that Utopia’s headcount has been reduced further as part of ‘an overall cost reduction exercise’.
Utopia has also divested three companies this year that it previously acquired within the past 18 months.
In February, we learned that Utopia had decided to sell ROSTR back to its founders Mark Williamson and Adam Watson.
In March, Utopia sold Sentric to Paris-headquartered Believe in a transaction Believe said values Sentric at €47 million ($51m).
In July, Absolute Label Services was reacquired by its original leadership team.
Prior to joining Utopia, Couttolenc served as the Chief Development Officer at Ipsos, one of the world’s largest data companies.
There he spearheaded global M&A activities, joint ventures, cooperation agreements, licensing, and partnerships across 89 countries.
Utopia says that his “influence extended to external relations” within the market research industry and organizations such as ESOMAR and the World Economic Forum.
Before his tenure at Ipsos, Couttolenc held multiple top leadership roles at Nielsen Media, a company that provides market research and analysis of media and viewer interactions globally, most notably as SVP for Latin America and then later as CEO Europe Nielsen Media.
According to Utopia, Couttolenc “will focus on translating data into music intelligence by building smart and intuitive services to fully unlock the value of music through accelerated payment cycles, distribution services, and improved insights”.
“I stepped into the role as Executive Chairman to guide Utopia through a tough but necessary transformation that was brought on by changed market conditions.”
Mattias Hjelmstedt, Utopia Music
Mattias Hjelmstedt, co-founder and Chairman of Utopia Music, said: “I stepped into the role as Executive Chairman to guide Utopia through a tough but necessary transformation that was brought on by changed market conditions.
“I’m extremely proud of all the colleagues who have stepped up and delivered for our customers during this period. With a lot of this work being behind us, I’m now very excited to hand over to Alain.”
Added Hjelmstedt: “He has a long and successful track record as a global business leader and has a deep understanding of data and its implementation. Very importantly, he also has a background in media and music, and a wide international network.
“The Board and I are confident that Alain is the right person to succeed in realizing our mission to grow the music industry through innovative data solutions and unmatched distribution capabilities – that’s how we’ll reach profitability and achieve long-term sustainable growth.” –
“I’m honored to join such a dynamic company that is supporting the growth of my greatest passion – music.”
Alain Couttolenc, CEO of Utopia Music, said: “I’m honored to join such a dynamic company that is supporting the growth of my greatest passion – music.
“My main focus will be to contribute with what I know best: creating outstanding services by leveraging data and driving growth. The dedication and passion exhibited by the teams at Utopia, combined with the potential for innovation and growth, are truly inspiring.”
Added Couttolenc: “In close collaboration with the music industry, we will deliver outstanding products and services to our clients and all industry stakeholders across the globe.
“An important task will be to develop and build teams where people can deliver value and thrive in their roles – clarity, agility, and an open and honest culture will be extremely important for success.”
Elsewhere at Utopia, in May, the company entered into a “long-term” £100 million-plus ($125m) contract with DP World, a multinational UAE-headquartered logistics company, to provide warehousing and logistics for physical music in the UK.
As part of the deal, DP World is fitting out a new warehouse in Bicester, in the UK for Utopia’s distribution unit, Utopia Distribution Services (UDS).
Utopia said that stock will be moving from UDS’ warehouse in Aylesbury, UK (which it says it “inherited” from UK warehouse, fulfillment and distribution firm Cinram Novum, whose assets Utopia acquired in 2022.)
In July, MBW listened in to and reported on an interview with Utopia founder Mattias Hjelmstedt on the Dealmakers podcast with Alejandro Cremades, where he dropped some hints as to what has been happening with the company of late.
Other companies acquired by Utopia include, in October 2022, Nashville-based financial services company, Lyric Financial and in September, 2022 Utopia bought Quincy Jones-backed emotional data enrichment company Musimap.
Music Business Worldwide