Ethiopia Habtemariam, currently chairwoman and CEO of Motown Records, will be stepping down from her position in order to pursue new endeavors, she and the company stated in a joint announcement Tuesday.
“It has been the greatest honor to work with some of the most incredible artists, songwriters and partners in the world,” she said in a statement. “I have always had a clear vision for the talent that I’ve had the privilege to work with, which has led Motown to global success and returned the label to the forefront of contemporary culture. I would not have been able to make that vision come to life without the support of my amazing team at Motown, my UMG colleagues around the world, and Sir Lucian. I am incredibly proud of what we have created during my tenure, and I consider this the perfect finale to my 20 years at UMG spanning publishing and recorded music.”
More from Variety
Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO of UMG said, “Under Ethiopia’s leadership, Motown has seen strong growth, continuing its legacy of bringing important new voices to modern culture. Not only has Ethiopia been instrumental in developing and breaking incredible artists, but also she has strategically identified and amplified key partnerships that have been, and will continue to be, cornerstones of the UMG creative ecosystem. While I will miss working with Ethiopia, I know she will achieve great things going forward and she leaves with our enduring love and respect.”
Habtemariam began her career as an intern at LaFace Records before joining Universal Music Publishing in 2003, ultimately rising to president of urban music & co-head of creative at the company. Beginning in 2014 she held a dual role as president of Motown as well as her UMPG post, before focusing on the label and being promoted to chairwoman/CEO in 2021.
Over her tenure at Motown, Habtemariam — a regular honoree on Variety’s annual Hitmakers lists — struck several partnerships with creative and entrepreneurial entities, including Atlanta-based Quality Control Music, a pact that has produced hits from City Girls, Migos, Lil Baby, Lil Yachty and others. Other companies and artists under Motown’s roof include Blacksmith Records (Ted When, Vince Staples), and Since the 80s (Asiahn, Njomza), along with artists Erykah Badu, Kem and Tiana Major9, among many others.
A successor to Habtermariam will be announced at a later date. Her internal announcement follows in full:
Some of you may or may not know that the top of 2023 marks my 20th year at Universal Music Group. And, after two amazing decades, I’ve made the incredibly hard decision to leave for my next adventure. I’ll address my future plans soon, but today is all about Motown, UMG and you.
First and foremost, to the Motown team, your commitment to our artists, the legacy of this label, and the community at large is not lost on me. It’s been a privilege and honor to work with each and every one of you and I’m so excited to see how you continue to move Motown forward. Over 60 years ago, Mr. Gordy forged a core for this company – one that respects and celebrates artistry and strongly supports creative entrepreneurship – and this continues to live on thanks to all of you. I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve built.
When I think of my time at UMG, it occurs to me that my career really started at this company. I was a creative manager at UMPG 20 years ago, then by 2010 worked as an A&R consultant and manager while building a creative team at UMPG 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 among many others. In 2014, I was promoted to the position of President of Urban & Co-Head of Creative at UMPG and appointed to President of Motown Records.
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. In 2015, we signed a landmark deal for Motown with Quality Control which included a distribution agreement ensuring support in developing the next generation of global superstars. By 2016, as that strategy brought Motown success with new groundbreaking artists, Motown became my sole focus as we continued to grow the company with 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.
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. The fact that I was empowered to this unique position reflects my passion for supporting those that are blessed with the gift of music but also speaks to the incredible opportunities I was offered here and for that I want to thank Lucian who recognized my talent as a creative in publishing and gave me the opportunity to lead at a label as well.
But one thing that has never changed is the love I have for music—and the artists, songwriters and producers that make such incredible art. That continues to drive everything I do professionally, and it always will.
This is an exciting time in music and I look forward to exploring new creative and entrepreneurial opportunities. 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.
Thank you for this incredible journey. Know that I will always be here to support you all.
With love, gratitude and respect,
Best of Variety