Universal Music Group has announced the launch of Virgin Music Label & Artist Services, a “new global network delivering premium and flexible artist and label services to the industry’s most dynamic entrepreneurs and independent talent worldwide, inspired and influenced by the spirit and ethos of the iconic Virgin Records label.” The long-running label, originally founded by Richard Branson in 1972, came to Universal as part of its acquisition of EMI’s recorded-music division in 2012. It has gone through several iterations over the years and this move significantly re-elevates its profile as a global music brand.
UMG Chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge said: “Virgin has long been a name synonymous with disruptive innovation, musical creativity and entrepreneurialism. We are thrilled to announce the reinvigoration of this iconic music brand as a new model for global distribution and label services – combining UMG’s unrivalled regional executive teams with dedicated resources and best-in-class services and technology, to help foster long-term partnerships and deliver global success for the next generation of independent labels and artist talent. In total, this global launch represents an important evolution of our industry-leading strategy to be an accelerator and vital partner for the music’s best independent artists and entrepreneurs.”
Branson said: “I’m proud that half a century after we opened our first independent record shop in London, the Virgin Music name continues to represent the very best entrepreneurs, innovators, and artists from the world of music today.”
Founded in the U.K. by Branson, Virgin began with a leaning toward progressive rock — its first global smash was Mike Oldfield’s instrumental “Tubular Bells” album in 1973 — but pivoted toward punk rock and new wave, releasing the Sex Pistols’ galvanizing debut in 1977 and fully embracing the ensuing new wave movement with releases by the Human League, XTC, Japan and many others. In the following decades it released hit albums by Culture Club, the Spice Girls, Lenny Kravitz, David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, George Michael, Janet Jackson Aaliyah and many others; it also discributed such labels as Frontline, Stiff, Charisma and Circa and launched the Caroline and Astralwerks, both now successful divisions within the UMG label family.
Virgin Music Label & Artist Services will be led in each region by highly skilled executive teams, providing fully resourced regional hubs that combine UMG’s technology platforms, specialist local networks and expertise with UMG’s global strength and reach. Effective immediately, Virgin Music Label & Artist Services will provide artists global solutions, with fully staffed operations already established in the world’s top five music markets (U.S., Japan, U.K., Germany, France) and across Latin America, the world’s fastest-growing region for the past five years. Additional operations will launch in the coming months. Regional details include:
L-R top row: Tina Adams, Vanessa Higgins, Jacqueline Saturn, Hirokazu Tanaka
L-R bottom row: Thomas Lorain, Jim Chancellor, Víctor González, Michael Roe
In the U.S., Caroline will be renamed Virgin Label & Artist Services. It will continue under the leadership of Jacqueline Saturn, who becomes President, Virgin Music Label & Artist Services, reporting to Capitol Music Group President and COO, Michelle Jubelirer. The company offers independent artists and labels the resources of UMG, on top of a winning team of strategists and marketers, resulting in hugely successful partnerships such as: Motown’s innovative alliance with Atlanta-based Quality Control Music, leading to the rise of global superstar such as Lil Baby; 10K Projects whose break out artists include Trippie Redd, Internet Money, Surfaces and Iann Dior. Other successful partnerships with artists and label include Clairo through the Fader Label, Shaed through Photo Finish, Black Pumas through ATO Records. NCT127 and SuperM through SM Entertainment and independent artists E-40, Mac Demarco, Anson Seabra, Judah & the Lion and others.
In the U.K., industry executive Vanessa Higgins has been appointed as MD, Virgin Music Label & Artist Services UK, effective immediately. She joins UMG from Regent Street Records, the independent record label and music publishing company she founded in 2014, after spending 15 years as a touring musician. Higgins has a long history of working with independent artists, having also served as a board member of the BPI (the U.K. record labels’ trade association) since 2015, and as Director of the BPI’s innovation hub between 2016-19. Higgins will report to David Joseph, Chairman & CEO, Universal Music UK. Labels and artists that will be distributed from the U.K. will include: Mixtape Madness, Brit Award nominees D Block Europe, Midas The Jagaban, Digga D, Potter Payper & Bugzy Malone, Fiction, Billie Marten, The Amazons and The Big Moon, Rema, StayFleeGetLizzy, Tiffany Calver, EGA, Faceless and NQ.
In France, the new evolved division will be built from the foundations of Caroline France, with operations led by Thomas Lorain who has been appointed as MD, Virgin Music Labels & Artist Services France effective immediately. Lorain has overseen Caroline France since 2014 and currently manages a team of sixteen. Caroline France’s top artists include Alpha Wann (Don Dada Records), Carpenter Brut (No Quarter), Grand Corps Malade (Anouche Productions), Kaaris (OG Record/Lutèce), Polo & Pan (Hamburger Records / Ekleroshock), RimK (Frenesik) and Wejdene (Guette Music / Caroline France). On top of the artists already distributed, the first labels to join Virgin Music France will include: Danger Productions (Captaine Roshi), Guette Music (Larse) Profile de face (Lewis OfMan, Pretty Boy Aaron) and Think Zik! (Imany, Anwar).
In Germany alongside other markets across Central Europe, existing Caroline operations will be incorporated and expanded into Virgin Music Label & Artist Services. The new division in Germany will be led by Tina Adams, who will assume the role of Label Manager effective immediately. The label will be based in Berlin and will report to Frank Briegmann, Chairman & CEO Universal Music Central Europe and Deutsche Grammophon. The new division will operate alongside domestic frontline label Virgin Records Germany.
In Latin America & Iberia, Virgin Music Label & Artist Services will launch in early 2021 across a handful of key markets including Mexico, Spain and Latin operations in the U.S. The label will have dedicated teams and resources based in Los Angeles, Miami and Mexico City and will focus on supporting the next wave of independent Latin talent, labels, influencers and entrepreneurs globally. Virgin Music Label & Artist Services Latin America will be the first fully integrated label services division worldwide for Latin music, providing artists, labels and partners with access to local and international marketing services, Live and management services through GTS, Merchandising through Bravado and Publishing services alongside UMPG.
Virgin Music Latin America will be led by Víctor González, who has been appointed to the position of President, Virgin Music LATAM & Iberia, effective immediately. González has worked for UMG for more than 22 years, and most recently held the position of President, Universal Music Latin Entertainment (UMLE). He will be based in Los Angeles and will report to Jesús López, Chairman & CEO Latin America & Iberian Peninsula.
In Japan, Virgin Music Label & Artist Services Japan will launch, effective immediately, and will broaden the existing capabilities of Caroline Japan, which will be combined into the new division led by highly experienced executive Hirokazu Tanaka, reporting to Naoshi Fujikura, President and CEO, Universal Music Japan. The new division will operate alongside domestic frontline label Virgin Music.
Caroline International’s award-winning label services operation based in the U.K. will be renamed Virgin Music Label & Artist Services, effective immediately, under the continued leadership of MD’s Michael Roe and Jim Chancellor, and will support the leaders of Virgin worldwide to ensure that Virgin Music Label & Artist Services continues to represent and distribute the best in independent talent and labels around the world. In 2020, Caroline International delivered major international chart success for Caroline artists including: Aitch, The Big Moon; Internet Money; Zoe Wees (Via UM Germany) and D-Block Europe amongst others. Artists and Labels to be distributed globally via Virgin Music Label & Artist services include: Because Music (Christine & The Queens, Major Lazer –global markets outside of France), Van Morrison, Steven Wilson, Sophie Hunger, Peter Gabriel, Tame Impala (ex UK, US & Australia), Iggy Pop, Underworld and DAVE (excluding UK & US).