Universal Music UK to Merge Island and EMI Labels in Next Stage of Restructuring

LONDON — Universal Music Group is to merge its historic Island and EMI label divisions as part of a widespread restructuring of the company’s U.K. business that will also see the launch of new Audience and Media Division to support artists and labels.

The announcement was made on Tuesday (July 9) by David Joseph, chairman and CEO Universal Music U.K. and Ireland, in an internal memo, which has been viewed by Billboard.

The reorganization of Universal Music’s U.K. operations follows changes the company made to its U.S. teams earlier this year with the formation of Interscope Capitol Labels Group and Republic Corps.   

That structure is now being loosely mirrored in the United Kingdom with the creation of what Joseph called “two new powerhouse frontline label groups” — Island EMI Label Group, headed by Louis Bloom as president, and the newly formed Polydor Label Group, led by Ben Mortimer.

Both label groups will be home to multiple labels “all with creative autonomy,” said Joseph’s memo. Each department will also contain a team dedicated to supporting artists from the wider UMG family, said the Universal U.K. boss.

In line with the restructuring, which comes into effect Oct. 1, Universal is shuffling its executive ranks.  

EMI Records co-president Jo Charrington has been appointed president of a “reimagined” U.K. arm of Capitol, which will sit within the wider Polydor Label Group, as will 0207 Def Jam, led by president Alec Boateng. (Billboard understands that Boateng’s brother and co-president of 0207 Def Jam Alex Boateng is to remain with Universal and will be given a job within an international division).  

EMI Records’ other co-president, Rebecca Allen, will take up the role of president of Universal’s Audience and Media Division (AMD), a newly formed U.K.-based department dedicated to serving artists and labels that will have a global remit.

Joining Allen in the Audience and Media team will be Suzy Walby (media), Kate Wyn Jones (Audience and Digital Strategy) and data and strategic branch The Square insight team, led by Jack Fryer.  

In his internal staff memo, Joseph said the “industry first” AMD team “will revolutionise how we deliver for our artists” and will become Universal U.K.’s largest division.

Not mentioned in the memo is the scale or number of job losses that will result from the changes, although it does state that the consultation period for staff whose roles are potentially at risk starts today and will continue until mid-September.

In the United Kingdom, it is a legal requirement that companies must follow so-called “collective consultation” rules if it is making 20 or more employees redundant within any 90-day period. Universal U.K. declined to comment on staff redundancies.

Not impacted by the changes are Laura Monks and Tom Lewis, who will continue in their current roles of Decca co-presidents, which will remain a stand-alone label. Hannah Neaves remains sole president of Universal Music Recordings.

“As a company, we must continue to be forward-looking, innovative, and bold. Developing artists now requires more creativity and patience than ever before,” said Joseph in his internal memo.

Joseph went on to say that the restructure would “strengthen our labels’ capabilities to deepen artist and fan connections.”  

“We are committed to being the number one place for artists, fans and talent,” surmised the U.K. CEO. “I have an incredible appreciation for our team given what we have achieved in the past and what I know we will achieve in the future.”  

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