David Massey, president and CEO of Island Records, will step down from the company in June, three sources have confirmed to Variety, although Massey and a rep for the label declined requests for comment.
While the news was first reported in Hits earlier this week, sources say that Massey actually gave notice to Lucian Grainge, chairman/CEO of Island parent Universal Music Group, several months ago and did not really leave open the option for a counter-offer. Massey’s contract is said to be up in June. An insider told Variety that a succession plan is in place at Island, which has a highly capable GM in Eric Wong; further details were not forthcoming.
Although sources say that Massey has secured independent funding for his new operation, there has been some speculation about him returning to Sony, where he spent some 16 years of his career, and where his daughter Clio is a senior director of A&R at Sony/ATV Music Publishing (although it’s possible the new label could be a joint venture, or simply distributed by Sony). Sources say the two will be working together in some capacity in his new venture, which makes him the third major executive in recent months to start a new label, along with Doug Morris, who recently left his post at Sony to start 12 Tone through Warner Music, and L.A. Reid, who has started a company called Hitco after leaving the helm of Epic Records in the wake of sexual-harassment accusations. Both of those labels are at least initially focused on hip-hop, which seems unlikely for Massey’s new venture.
Massey is a London native whose mother, Marion, was one of the first female artist managers and orchestrated pop singer Lulu’s rise to stardom in the 1960s. He began his career as an artist manager for groups like Wang Chung in the ’80s before moving over to the label side — and New York — by taking a top A&R job at Epic in 1991. During his 16 years at the company he signed Oasis as well as pre-superstardom iteration of the Jonas Brothers. In 2007 joined Universal, where he signed Avicii and Iggy Azalea.
He was named president of Island in 2014 and has seen success with releases from The Killers, Demi Lovato, Nick Jonas, Tove Lo, Bon Jovi, Elton John and particularly Shawn Mendes, who has helped bring from a “Vine star” in 2014 to a major artist who is poised for a career breakthrough with his forthcoming third full-length album, which is due in June, right around the time Massey will leave Island.