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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ethiopia Habtemariam: The highest-ranking African-American female at a major record label

Ethiopia Habtemariam: via Facebook

Ethiopia Habtemariam was born on September 24, 1979, and she headed Universal Music Publishing Group as Senior Vice President & Head of Urban Music. She will be taking over Sylvia Rhone's position at Motown Records. That makes her the highest-ranking African-American female (of Ethiopian descent) at a major record label. Motown is a division of Universal Music Group, the World's largest Music company.

Ethiopia Habtemariam
She “strongly believed Motown should be youth-driven,” an individual close to the executive told TheWrap. “It’s all about youth. They’re the ones who open the doors.”

How did she get there?

Ms. Habtemariam has signed some of music's biggest superstars, including; multi-platinum recording artist and songwriter Chris Brown, breakthrough artist and songwriter Keri Hilson, gold recording artist and songwriter Ciara. She's steered the careers of BMI Songwriter of the Year and Producer of the Year Polow Da Don, Andre Merrit, Candice Nelson, Balewa Muhammad, Ezekiel Lewis (The Clutch), Rock City, and Brian Kennedy to name a few.

She also oversee’s one of the hottest urban rosters in music — from multi-platinum and GRAMMY award winning acts like Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent, Eminem, Jeremih, Amerie, Ashanti, Jill Scott, Prince, Nicole Sherzinger, Ice Cube, Raphael Saadiq, Swizz Beatz, DMX, Asher Roth, Beastie Boys, R.Kelly, Babyface, Keyshia Cole, and many more. She is a native of Atlanta and she began interning at LaFace Records at age 14. Hired there as an assistant right after high school, she found herself in Los Angeles in 2001 working as a creative manager for Edmonds Music Publishing. Universal came calling two years later.

So essentially she's an executive from the publishing side of the business being given a very senior role within Universal's corporate structure (she is credited with wooing Justin Bieber into a global publishing deal) business moves like that help you a lot. With her background in music publishing and a sharp focus on discovering hit talent, Habtemariam envisions developing Motown to be a magnet for young trendy stars who appeal to the industry’s core youth audience.

It would be good to see how she and Chairman Barry Weiss work together, hopefully he'll be forward thinking as well, just as he was in the 80's during the maturation stages of Hip Hop when he was keenly aware of what the trends were then. Weiss's resume is well established even now (Britney Spears, Usher, Backstreet Boys, Justin Timberlake, 'N Sync and T-Pain) and now with Ms. Habtemariam steering the ship at Motown, things should be interesting indeed.

Ethiopia Habtemariam: "The labels think they dictate what's hot to the consumer. That's the biggest mistake. You can never underestimate the intelligence of the consumer, especially the youth. I'm not going to mention any specific songs, but there are records that are just hits at radio but don't translate into sales. So you have labels that will chase the charts or what's happening in different areas and then will sign those acts.

But they're not quality acts. That's because artist development doesn't exist anymore. I remember when people knew the names of everyone in a group. Now labels might rely heavily on production companies to give an artist some definition. That's because labels have smaller staffs and so many artists. As such, there's a short list when it comes to the next generation of urban music superstars"

- She definately knows what she's talking about...

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