Music Executive Barry Weiss Steps Down as Island Def Jam Motown Reorganizes

Barry Weiss
Barry Weiss
 Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Sony Music

Universal Music is reorganizing its Island Def Jam Motown group into three standalone labels and promoting some key executives in the process.

Effective immediately, Island Def Jam will cease to exist, according to a press release issued by UMG. Def Jam will run as its own unit with longtime executive Steve Bartels at the helm as CEO (he was previously president and COO). Island will continue to run under David Massey but will be adding its own marketing, publicity and A&R departments. Motown will move its base to Los Angeles where it will be headed by Ethiopia Habtemariam, who has been promoted from senior vp of Motown Records to president of the label, and run out of the Capitol Music Group. It will also be housed at the Capitol Tower in Hollywood alongside imprints Harvest, Virgin and Blue Note Records.

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Barry Weiss, who had been chairman and CEO of East Coast Labels (following a 20-year stint at Jive Records), will step down “in order to enter into discussions with UMG about a new venture together,” the release states.

Additionally, UMG announced the promotion of A&R executive Karen Kwak, who’ll assume the newly created position of executive vp A&R, U.S. Recorded Music. In her new role, Kwak will serve all of UMG’s labels in the U.S.

In other A&R moves, Def Jam has appointed Kyambo “Hip Hop” Joshua and Dion “No I.D.” Wilson as executive vps and co-heads of A&R. Habtemariam will also continue in her current role as executive vp/head of Urban Music at Universal Music Publishing Group.

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The restructuring is intended to re-establish each of these storied labels -- Def Jam is home to Kanye West, Rihanna and 2 Chainz; Island’s roster includes Bon Jovi and Justin Bieber while Motown claims its rich history in addition to modern R&B and gospel acts -- as distinct creative enterprises.

Says UMG chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge: “At the heart of these great companies is the vision and creative instincts of a team of passionate professionals. At UMG, our labels are empowered to be entrepreneurial and take creative risks. By re-establishing Def Jam, Island and Motown as stand-alone labels within the UMG family, we’re positioning them to recapture the uniqueness of their brands and serve artists with the singularity of vision, focus and creativity that was at the core of their original success.”

Twitter: @shirleyhalperin

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