Motown’s Ethiopia Habtemariam

Ethiopia Habtemariam, a first-generation Ethiopian-American, is the executive vice president of Capitol Music Group and the president of Motown Records. This year in celebration of Motown’s 60th anniversary Ethiopia is releasing a documentary on the legendary American record label. (InStyle)


Ethiopia Habtemariam: Meet the Music Mogul Bringing Motown Back – InStyle

Ethiopia Habtemariam has been working in the music industry since she was a 14-year-old intern at LaFace Records in Atlanta. After turning that job into a full-time position right out of high school, the wunderkind shot straight to the top. Now, at 39, as the executive vice president of Capitol Music Group and the president of Motown Records, she is one of the most powerful women in music. Habtemariam is respected for her ear (with an impressive roster of signed artists like Justin Bieber, Ciara, and J. Cole) and her resolve. “Anyone I’ve ever signed, I really believe in,” she says. “And either you get it or you catch on eventually.”

Most recently, she was responsible for bringing rap trio Migos to Motown, which helped lead to the label’s new awakening. For Motown’s 60th anniversary this year, she’s releasing a documentary on its soulful roots and building on innovative successes like Netflix’s animated series Motown Magic. “I’m bringing back f—ing Motown,” she says, smiling. “That’s badass. This is the most legendary label in music. When you think about what started in a small neighborhood in Detroit and all its superstars [e.g., the Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, the Supremes] who went on to touch the world with their music — I want to remind people of that.”

Leading lady: “The reality is there aren’t many women or women of color who have ever been presidents of a company,” she says. “Having my family’s support from the beginning was dope because that’s not common for immigrant parents, especially in the music space.” Today, the first-generation Ethiopian-American is determined to link arms with like-minded ladies. “If you’re the only woman in the room, that’s a problem,” she says. “Once you have power and people are listening to your voice, you have to include other women.”

Music to her ears: Corporate meetings play a large part in Habtemariam’s day-to-day schedule, but she still carves out time for what she loves most: finding and developing young artists. “I have to stay close to the music and do the things that feed me,” she says.

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