The record business keeps spinning: Island DefJam is no more as of today. This is not an April Fool’s joke. Universal Music has made some big changes to Mariah Carey and Kanye West’s record label. Island and DefJam are splitting up, with Island going west. DefJam will be run by Steve Bartels, one of the hardest working guys in show biz. Barry Weiss, who had been president of Island DefJam after coming over from RCA a few years ago, is stepping down.
And there’s more: not only is Island heading west, but so is the label still known as Motown. They will both be separate record labels. Motown isn’t really Motown anyway, as we all know. Those days are over. But the woman who will be running it, Ethopia Habtemarian, is very popular. Karen Kwak, also a great player in the UMG family, will be overseeing everything. As she should!
If success is 99% about showing up, then Steve Bartels is really successful. A jolly easy going “big guy,” Steve loves his artists and support them like crazy– even when Kanye West wanders into his office one day and announces he’s dropping an album called “Yeezus” in five days! (Or as I call it “Meezus.”) Kanye, Mariah and all of the DefJam are lucky to have him. And of course, Steve is a graduate of the Clive Davis School of Music Execs. He has good training.