Universal unbundles Def Jam, Island, Motown labels

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Universal Music Group has announced a major restructuring, splitting Island Def Jam into three stand-alone labels as Barry Weiss resigns as chairman and CEO of the label’s East Coast group.

A Tuesday news release says historic labels Def Jam Recordings, Island Records and Motown Records will once again become independent operations, effective immediately, while Weiss explores starting another venture with Universal.

Lucian Grange, UMG chairman and CEO, says “we’re positioning them to recapture the uniqueness of their brands” in the news release.

The move comes 15 years after the three influential labels were consolidated in 1999 and as hip-hop pioneer Def Jam celebrates its 30th anniversary.

Island Def Jam has been home to some of music’s top stars, including Kanye West and Justin Bieber.

The other imprints in the Island Def Jam group will be reassigned to the new stand-alone labels.

Universal executives were not available for comment. The label announced a number of changes due to the move.

Steve Bartels, who was president and chief operating officer of Island Def Jam, will become CEO of Def Jam. Dion “No I.D.” Wilson and Kyambo “Hip Hop” Joshua will run the label’s A&R department.

Ethiopia Habtemariam, currently a senior vice president of Motown Records and head of urban music at Universal Music Publishing Group, will be Motown’s new president. The label will be part of the Capitol Music Group and operations will be moved back to Los Angeles.

David Massey will lead Island Records and will expand the label’s A&R and support operations.

The news release also says Island Def Jam’s former head of A&R Karen Kwak will be promoted to the new position of executive vice president A&R, U.S. Recorded Music.

Grange praised Weiss in the news release, calling him a “terrific music executive who led our East Coast labels during a critical time of transition.”

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