×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Powerhouse Execs Ethiopia Habtemariam and Jacqueline Saturn Rise Above the Noise

The label heads came together for an insightful conversation at the Music Biz conference in Nashville.

Motown Records President Ethiopia Habtemariam and Caroline President Jacqueline Saturn came together for an insightful conversation at the Music Biz conference in Nashville today (May 8). The two spoke of their illustrious careers and the successful partnership between the Capitol Music Group labels they each head.

Spending more than a decade working in music publishing as president of urban and creative affairs at Universal Music Group, Habtemariam was named president of the storied Motown Records in 2014. Once there, she admitted that her first year was “tough …  we were going through this transition of you could have a No. 1 record at urban radio that didn’t equate to sales at all,” she explained. That changed when Habtemariam entered into a groundbreaking partnerships with Atlanta-based label Quality Control Music, home to such acts as Migos and Lil Yachty. “It was inspiring to see young entrepreneurs that have these diverse backgrounds building something out of nothing and really kind of amplifying that and helping to grow that.”

Today, both Habtemariam and Saturn hold global views of music. Citing Africa and Latin America as two regions from where artists are drawing inspiration. Habtemariam credit Africa for helping break Migos’ hit “Bad and Boujee” during a performance in Nigeria. “It was thousands of people singing along to “Bad & Boujee’ and it went viral on social media,” she said. “Everyone was like ‘oh sh–, they know that record in Africa.”

Habtemariam traveled to Europe at the beginning of this year with QC Music co-founder Kevin “Coach K” Lee, hitting markets in Stockholm, Berlin, Paris and London and experiencing the connection European fans have with  artists through music and fashion. Said Habtemariam: “Hip hop has kind of been permeating through these markets always. But to see the way that we’ve been able to create their brand to be potent in those markets, when they know all the artists and people want to do all kind of deals with them, their eyes are really open to a global marketplace.”

Saturn added that Caroline is also working with some African artists and record labels, as well as partnering with SM Entertainment in Korea to sign a distribution deal with Seoul-based supergroup NCT 127. “I think that as a global company being a part of the Universal Music Group, we are very in tune to things that are happening everywhere,” Saturn said. “I think that we are making sure that we’re tapping into all the different audiences.”

The executives also discussed the challenges they’ve faced in their careers. Saturn, a veteran of Epic Records where she held a senior role in promotion for more than a decade,  recalled the sexism she faced early on when male cohorts told her while she was pregnant that her career would flounder after having children. As Saturn recalled: “There was a bias about what it would be like after you have children, and it was men executives trying to say, ‘She won’t be as good enough; you won’t really care about your job; you’ll be marginalized.’ They literally said it out loud and I remember I was so hurt. I remember that moment because I was like, ‘Oh they have no f–king idea what’s about to go down.’ I did come back with a fury.”

For Habtemariam, the transition from a creative, hands-on role as a music publisher to being an executive running a record label was “really challenging,” she said, often facing doubts from her peers in the industry regarding her success in the new role. As the highest-ranking African-American woman at UMG, Habtemariam is using her influence to support others. “I think we’re in a place in this industry where we get to be an example of something different just by the way that we operate,” she said. “It’s not just about being female and being in these roles, which of course is really important, but it’s who we are and how we choose to run our business.”

More Music

  • Lady Gaga Vegas Residency

    Lady Gaga Talks Importance of Pronouns, Gay Pride During Rousing Speech

    Lady Gaga was all about pride during her SiriusXM show at Harlem’s Apollo Theater Monday night. In between songs, the “Born This Way” pop star gave a rousing speech about the importance of asking people’s pronouns and the necessity of gay pride. She also referenced transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson who was widely credited with [...]

  • Billy Eichner Power of Pride Variety

    Billy Eichner on Taylor Swift's 'Calm Down' Backlash

    When Taylor Swift released her “You Need to Calm Down” music video, it seemed like every member of the LGBTQ in Hollywood was included — except for Billy Eichner. “I’m still not gay enough for Taylor Swift — or too gay — I don’t know what it is,” Eichner joked at Variety’s Power of Pride [...]

  • Jason Aldean' Today' TV show, New

    Jason Aldean Concert Cancelled Due to Severe Lightning (Watch)

    A Saturday night performance by Jason Aldean at the Country Stampede Festival in Topeka, Kansas was canceled due to a major lightning storm. According to local news, inclement weather troubled the three-day country music gathering. Rainstorms delayed the concert on multiple occasions, until eventually organizers called off Aldean’s headlining June 22 show. Watch video below [...]

  • Ewen Bremner as Alan McGee in

    Danny Boyle-Produced ‘Creation Stories’ Adds Jason Isaacs, Steven Berkoff

    Jason Isaacs, Steven Berkoff and a host of other new names have signed on for “Creation Stories,” the film being exec-produced by Danny Boyle about Creation Records co-founder Alan McGee. The producers also unveiled the first shots of Ewen Bremner (“Trainspotting”) as the music mogul. Production is underway on the Irvine Welsh-penned project, with “Lock, [...]

  • Jussie Smollett

    Video of Jussie Smollett With Rope Around His Neck Released by Chicago Police

    The Chicago Police Department released new surveillance footage and files in regards to the Jussie Smollett hoax case on Monday, including one that shows the “Empire” actor shortly after the alleged attack. In one of the videos, police body-cam footage shows authorities entering Smollett’s Chicago apartment, led by his manager, Frank Gatson. Smollett is found [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content