UPDATED: Island Records has offered Justin Eshak and Imran Majid positions as the label’s new co-heads, and multiple sources tell Variety the pair has accepted. However, the pair may have to wait until the contracts are up in 2022 to take on the role, according to a report in Billboard.
If true, the situation is similar to the one Warner Records faced in 2017, when Aaron Bay-Schuck had to wait out the end of his contract with Interscope before he could assume his current role as CEO of the Warner Music label.
Eshak and Majid, pictured right and left above, respectively, are currently executive VPs and co-heads of A&R at Columbia Records, roles they’ve held since 2018.
The two will replace former president/CEO Darcus Beese, who announced he was stepping down to return to his native U.K. last month. While the label enjoyed success during Beese’s stint with Shawn Mendes, Demi Lovato (whose new album, “Dancing With the Devil,” drops next week) and recently signed Sabrina Carpenter, it has not had a high profile and sources say there was unhappiness with its failure to attract hip-hop talent — a situation the appointment of Eshak and Majid looks likely to address.
Majid joined Columbia in 2013, signed rapper Lil Tjay and worked closely with rapper Russ, pop singer Rachel Platten and duo Ayo & Teo. He began his career in 2004 as an assistant in the A&R department at Universal Motown Records Group before moving over to Republic.
Eshak also joined Columbia in 2013 and, according to a press release, played an integral role in the signing and development of Hozier, whose debut album sold over 2 million copies domestically, as well as Ruth B and Leon Bridges; he also worked closely with The Chainsmokers. Prior to joining Columbia, he spent five years at Mick Management and began his career in 2003 at Republic Records.
The move also resolves the fact that two of Universal Music Group’s New York-based labels did not have permanent CEOs — Def Jam has been run by UMG general counsel Jeffrey Harleston since Paul Rosenberg’s departure in February of last year. However, sources say that Island is run more as a boutique imprint than a stand-alone; much of its infrastructure is handled by UMG itself or the Republic label, which handles its radio promotion and other functions.
Columbia has seen a string of new artists notch hits recently, including Lil Tjay’s “Calling My Phone” (No. 6 on Rolling Stone’s Top 100 songs this week) and Kid Laroi (“Without You,” No. 34), in addition to the staying power of 24kgoldn’s “Mood” feat. Ian Dior, which the label works in conjunction with RECORDS. The exits of Eshak and Majid follows news that Shawn Holiday, co-head of Urban at Columbia, is leaving to start a new label and publishing venture with Irving and Jeffrey Azoff at the end of March, though a label rep notes that he will remain a consultant operating in an A&R capacity.
Variety has reached out to Eshak, Majid and Island Records for comment.