Universal announced that Habtemariam was being promoted into the role in March 2021, while also confirming that Motown would now be acting as a frontline label at UMG.
The company was previously a subsidiary of Capitol Music Group.
“I’ve always understood the power of music and the responsibility I have, not only to continue to be an advocate for artists and creators, but to forge new paths for entrepreneurs and to lift up our next generation of executives around the world.”
Ethiopia Habtemariam, Motown Records
Announcing her acceptance of the Motown CEO role, Habtemariam said: “It’s an incredible honor to represent and define what Motown is today.”
The Berkeley, CA-born, Atlanta-raised executive added: “I’ve always understood the power of music and the responsibility I have, not only to continue to be an advocate for artists and creators, but to forge new paths for entrepreneurs and to lift up our next generation of executives around the world.”
Ethiopia Habtemariam: Career to date
Ethiopia Habtemariam began her career at Universal in 2003 by joining Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG).
There, she signed the likes of Ludacris, Justin Bieber, J. Cole, Chris Brown, Ester Dean, Hit Boi and Miguel.
Following this success, in 2014, Habtemariam was promoted to the position of President of Urban Music/Co-Head of Creative at UMPG.
Also in 2014, as part of a dual role (across Motown and UMPG), she was Promoted to President of Motown Records, after three years as the label’s EVP.
In the years that followed, Habtemariam dropped her responsibilities at UMPG to focus solely on her role as President of Motown.
Ethiopia Habtemariam: Professional philosophy
In an interview with Music Business Worldwide in 2019, Ethiopia Habtemariam said: “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.
“Even now, when people talk about hip-hop’s dominance, I’m the one saying, ‘Okay guys. Let’s not act like there won’t be some incredible alternative pop, or that the grunge sound might not come back.’
“At its core, music is about an emotional connection between an artist and the audience. I rarely hear artists and musicians label their music within a specific genre; they all create from a pure place of emotion and feel.”
“Shanti Das at LaFace Records changed the course of my life.”
Ethiopia Habtemariam, speaking 2019
Habtemariam also paid tribute to Shanti Das, who gave the young Habtemariam her first music industry experience as an intern at LaFace Records.
“Shanti Das at LaFace Records changed the course of my life,” said Habtemariam. “She provided me with the opportunity to intern there and that changed everything.”
Added Habtemariam: “Another woman I owe a lot to is LaRonda Sutton, who created L.A. Reid’s publishing company, Hitco, and introduced me to the world of music publishing.
“She noticed my talent early on and I learned so much from her on my way up.”Music Business Worldwide