Ethiopia Habtemariam, a first-generation Ethiopian-American, whose musical journey started when she asked to shadow a woman who worked at LaFace Records at just fourteen years old is now Motown Records’ newly appointed Chairman and CEO.
After working as president at the label since 2014, Universal Music Group promoted Habtemariam to lead Motown Records in a new way. Reporting to UMG Chairman and CEO Sir Lucian Grainge, the music executive is set to give Motown a chance at greater commercial and creative independence that fits in with today’s modern music world.
Habtemariam previously oversaw the label’s relocation from New York to Los Angeles and ensure that Motown continued its dedications to artist development and its partnerships with creative and entrepreneurial music organizations including Quality Control Music based in Atlanta.
“It’s an incredible honor to represent and define what Motown is today,” Habtemariam said in a statement about her new role at the label. “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. I’d like to thank Lucian for his constant support and guidance over the years; my Motown team for all they have done and continue to do; the Capitol team for their help in building Motown over these past six years; Clarence Avant who has always taught me about the power of responsibility; and to Mr. Berry Gordy, for his faith in me to carry on his legacy.”
Motown Records, founded by American record executive, producer, and songwriter Berry Gordy in 1959, paved the way for rhythm & blues and Black artistry to excel in popular culture and in music. Habtemariam being appointed to such a high-level executive role in the music industry speaks volumes not only for the future of Motown but for the future of women in music, too.
Photography by Bonnie Nichoalds for Universal Music Group