Ethiopia Habtemariam Will Lead Motown Records As New Chairman and CEO

Sarah HallamPeople on the Move
Ethiopia Habtemariam

Ethiopia Habtemariam has been leading the record label as president since 2014. Courtesy of Universal Music Group.

Ethiopia Habtemariam will join a small circle of women music executives as the next chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group’s Motown Records. The company announced her promotion from her current role as president of the label, which she has been serving since 2014, on Monday. Habtemariam will report directly to Universal Music Group chairman and CEO Lucian Grange.

In the announcement, the label said that Motown will also have “greater creative and commercial independence” moving forward.

Habtemariam has been a key player in transforming the Motown label over the years she’s led as president. In 2014, she oversaw the label’s relocation to Los Angeles from New York. She also continued Motown’s practice of developing artistic partnerships with other entities, including Atlanta-based Quality Control Music and Blacksmith Records.

As president, she also has been skilled at creatively forging new paths for her label. In 2017, she partnered with athletic retailer Finish Line and in 2019, Motown soundtracked commercials for the NBA.

Before joining the label, Habtemariam was president of urban music & co-head of creative at Universal Music Publishing Group.

“Motown is such an important voice and, just as when it was founded by Berry Gordy, its impact continues to be felt around the world,” 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.”

Some of the prominent artists in Motown’s partnership roster include Vince Staples, Migos, Lil Yachty, City Girls, among others. Tiana Major9 joined the label in 2019, and is currently nominated this year for a Grammy (Best R&B Song) for “Collide,” which is featured in the critically-acclaimed film “Queen & Slim.”

“It’s an incredible honor to represent and define what Motown is today,” Habtemariam said in the announcement. “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.”

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