Ethiopia Habtemariam is stepping down from her role as Chairwoman and CEO of Universal Music Group’s Motown Records.
Habtemariam was promoted to the role in March 2021. In connection with Habtemariam’s promotion back in 2021, UMG said at the time that Motown would have “greater creative and commercial independence to advance its groundbreaking mission of artistic, social and entrepreneurial empowerment” going forward.
Motown now sits alongside iconic frontline Universal Music brands and labels like Capitol Music Group, Interscope Geffen A&M and Republic.
Confirming Habtemariam’s departure on Tuesday (November 29), UMG Chairman and CEO, Sir Lucian Grainge, said: “Motown’s resurgence and powerful partnerships under Ethiopia’s leadership has advanced the label’s legacy as home to some of today’s biggest hitmakers and most meaningful voices in music.”
Habtemariam has spent almost two decades at UMG.
In 2003, she joined Universal Music Publishing Group (UPMG) and by 2010, she worked as an A&R consultant and manager and built a creative team that signed and developed some amazing songwriters such as Cardo, Childish Gambino, Chris Brown, Ciara, Big Sean, Hit Boy, J Cole, Jhene Aiko, Justin Bieber, Miguel, Stacy Barthe and Quavo.
She was later promoted to President of Urban Music/Co-Head of Creative at UMPG in 2014.
During the same year, she was promoted to President of Motown Records, after three years as the label’s EVP, and oversaw Motown’s relocation to Los Angeles from New York.
In the following years, she dropped her roles at UMPG to focus on her role as President of Motown and by 2016, she helped Motown sign artists including BJ the Chicago Kid, Brandy, Kem, Diddy, Erykah Badu, Lil Baby, Lil Yachty, Migos, Sebastian Kole, Smino, Tiana MAJOR9, YoungBoy and Vince Staples among others.
Habtemariam also helped Motown sign a landmark deal with Quality Control in 2015.
“Under Ethiopia’s leadership, Motown has seen strong growth, continuing its legacy of bringing important new voices to modern culture.”
Sir Lucian Grainge, Universal Music Group
Sir Lucian Grainge added: “Under Ethiopia’s leadership, Motown has seen strong growth, continuing its legacy of bringing important new voices to modern culture.”
“After two amazing decades, I’ve made the incredibly hard decision to leave for my next adventure.”
Ethiopia Habtemariam, Motown Records
In an internal memo to her team following her resignation, Habtemariam says: “After two amazing decades, I’ve made the incredibly hard decision to leave for my next adventure”.
Adds Habtemariam: “It was a busy time being in dual roles and laying the foundation for what was to come in an industry with an ever-changing landscape. While continuing to build at UMPG, I was also deeply dedicated to bringing a renewed vision of Black excellence to Motown – rooted in the past but connected to today, global in nature and a platform for the future.
“The business has changed so much over those twenty years but throughout its ups and downs, I’ve always felt blessed to have the opportunity to work in so many aspects of the industry. My hunger to learn and continue to evolve led me to the unique experience of working across publishing and recorded music simultaneously,”
Back in 2019, Habtemariam told Music Business Worldwide in an interview that “every [major label] should be signing diverse music. It shouldn’t just be pop, or dance, or hip-hop, or R&B, or whatever the dominant genre is at the time.”
The executive did not disclose her plans following her exit.
“I will share more about my future plans but for now I want to focus on winding down my role as we get to the end of the year,” Habtemariam says.
Founded in 1959 by Berry Gordy, Motown Records introduced the world to artists including Another Bad Creation, Ashanti, Boyz II Men, Brian McKnight, DeBarge, India Arie, Queen Latifah, Michael Jackson, Michael McDonald, Marvin Gaye, Rick James, The Commodores, The Jackson Five, The Supremes, The Temptations and Zhané.Music Business Worldwide