Universal UK combines EMI and Island as part of restructuring, launches Audience & Media Division

Universal UK combines EMI and Island as part of restructuring, launches Audience & Media Division

Universal Music UK has today completely reshaped its frontline label operations and launched a new Audience & Media Division headed by Rebecca Allen as president.

A memo from CEO & chairman David Joseph, which has been obtained by Music Week, unveils the “supercharging” of the UK labels at Universal as a plan for the “next phase of our company’s growth”. 

The shake-up will mean the combination of legendary labels Island and EMI as Island EMI Label Group, alongside the newly formed Polydor Label Group, which will incorporate a “reimagined” Capitol and 0207 Def Jam.

The huge reorganisation is the latest development in the major’s plans to create a new organisational structure and leadership team for the modern music industry. It follows the restructuring of UMG’s US labels under two frontline label groups – Republic Corps and Interscope Capitol Labels Group.

“Music is dynamic, and constantly changing, both creatively and commercially,” David Joseph wrote to staff in the memo. “Artists need the best and most agile partners by their side. They need a home that will help them harness the opportunities of today, and tomorrow, while also guarding against new risks as they emerge.

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

He added: “As our industry continues to evolve, we have been looking at ways to strengthen our labels’ capabilities to deepen artist and fan connections. You have seen some of the changes happening globally across UMG, most notably in the US with Republic Corps, and Interscope Capitol Labels Group.”

Universal confirmed that some roles will be impacted by the structural changes as label operations are combined.


David Joseph revealed that the new structure will take effect from October 1, with “two new powerhouse frontline label groups, each home to multiple labels all with creative autonomy”.

The combined Island EMI Label Group will be headed by Louis Bloom as president. He recently joined his team at the Music Week Awards to collect the A&R trophy following success with Hozier and The Last Dinner Party.

EMI is already the market leader in the UK, so the combined operation will now command a huge notional market share – it currently stands at 19.2% for the half-year if combining Official Charts Company data for both labels. Island EMI Label Group's newly combined roster will include the world's two biggest streaming acts – Taylor Swift and The Weeknd. In the half-year album sales from the Official Charts Company, Island and EMI had the Top 3 LPs – The Tortured Poets Department by Taylor Swift, The Highlights by The Weeknd and Stick Season by Noah Kahan.

The newly formed Polydor Label Group will be led by Ben Mortimer as president. Polydor Label Group will include a reimagined Capitol with Jo Charrington as president and 0207 Def Jam, led by president Alec Boateng

Music Week understands that former 0207 Def Jam co-president Alex Boateng will remain within the Universal business, in a new international role.

Polydor is set for huge upcoming album releases by Eminem and Sabrina Carpenter, following success so far this year with Billie Eilish, Becky Hill and more.

Music is dynamic, and constantly changing, both creatively and commercially

David Joseph

In addition to those two combined frontline label operations, Laura Monks and Tom Lewis will continue to lead Decca as a standalone label focusing on classical, jazz, instrumental, folk, soul and electronic music.

Hannah Neaves as president of Universal Music Records will continue to build on its strategy to drive new audiences globally for Universal Music UK’s catalogue. Music Week understands that former co-president Azi Eftekhari has now left the business. 

Nickie Owen [international marketing president] has incisively redesigned our International strategy to sit at the heart of our labels, where every conversation is designed to reach global audiences and communities,” noted Joseph.

As chairman & CEO of Capitol Music Group in the US, former Polydor co-president Tom March will be linking up with his former colleagues in the UK as they launch the new label set-up.

“Within each label group will be a team dedicated to supporting artists from the wider UMG family, and with close links to our new US label partners Republic Corps, and Interscope Capitol Labels Group,” wrote Joseph in his memo to staff.


Described as an “equally significant structural change” by Joseph, Universal Music UK will launch the Audience and Media Division (AMD) to serve all artists and labels. It will be led by current EMI co-president Rebecca Allen, who collected the Record Company trophy at the Music Week Awards in May.

“Becky and I have spent a lot of time discussing this vision to create something revolutionary – an industry first where every type of media is seamlessly integrated,” wrote Joseph in the memo. “We are assembling an elite team making this our largest division.”

The Audience and Media division will include:

Media led by Suzy Walby, EMI director of media, who collected the Promotions Team trophy at the Music Week Awards.

Audience and digital strategy led by Kate Wyn Jones, an award-winning digital strategist with 18 years’ experience across communications, publishing and media agencies.

The Square insight team, who focus on the intersection of big data, human insight, strategy and creativity, will continue to be led by Jack Fryer.

The Audience and Media Division will revolutionise how we deliver for our artists

David Joseph

“The Audience and Media Division will revolutionise how we deliver for our artists and become a new centre of excellence at Universal Music UK alongside, among others, the award-winning partnerships team at Globe and a new combined eCommerce and CRM team,” wrote Joseph.

In his concluding remarks, Joseph wrote: “These changes mark an exciting new chapter for our company, and I am confident they will position us for even greater success.”

Earlier this year, UMG confirmed plans for “efficiencies” across the global operation to remain responsive to dynamic market conditions.

The major has started a consultation period for those whose roles are potentially at risk until mid-September. Under UK employment law, consultations take place if more than 20 roles are affected at the same time.

“While the vast majority of our team will continue to be a part of our business going forward, some roles are impacted by the proposed structural changes,” wrote Joseph. “It saddens me that we will have to part ways with some incredible colleagues who have been instrumental in our journey.”

Universal will also be communicating further in the coming days on the changes, including with its artists and their managers.

“We are committed to being the number one place for artists, fans and talent,” concluded Joseph. “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.

“Thank you for your understanding and continued dedication as we move towards this new structure, one which I know is right for our business and our artists.”

Music Week will add to this story as it develops…


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