Universal Music Group this morning made official a move that's been common knowledge in the music business for many weeks: The company "has begun the revitalization of EMI Recorded Music" with the appointment of former Columbia Records COO Steve Barnett to Chairman & CEO of its Capitol Music Group. The announcement was made today by UMG Chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge, to whom Barnett reports.
Barnett will be based in Los Angeles and responsible for the overall management of the company, which includes Capitol Records, Virgin Records, Blue Note, Astralwerks, Harvest, Capitol Christian Music Group, Caroline and the Capitol Studios. Its artists include Katy Perry, 30 Seconds To Mars, The Beatles, Norah Jones, Aaron Neville, Alice in Chains, A Fine Frenzy, Ryan Adams, Amos Lee, The Decemberists, Joe Lavano, Rosanne Cash, Anita Baker, Van Morrison, Bob Seger, Beach Boys and Emeli Sandé (for the US), among many others.
Rumors of Barnett's move arose several weeks ago, and he reportedly left Sony sometime in October. Today's announcement presumably means that Barnett was granted an early release from his contract, which sources told Billboard.biz did not expire until March of next year. Some of Barnett's Columbia responsibilities have already been filled with the appointment of former Universal/Republic vet Joel Klaiman as Columbia's new executive VP/GM.
"As we begin to invest in and revitalize EMI globally, the Capitol Music Group, including Virgin, will play a central role in our creative and commercial initiatives. And there is no one better to spearhead this than Steve," Grainge said in a statement. "His entrepreneurial approach and intuitive ability to build, strengthen and transform artists into powerful global brands has resulted in remarkable success."
"Throughout my career in music, I've always been keenly aware of EMI's impact on the world's culture, so I could not be more excited and grateful for the opportunity Lucian has given me to build the Capitol Music Group into an exceptional record company," Barnett said. "It was not an easy decision to leave such a successful company as Columbia, with its incredibly talented artists and the team of people who work so hard on their behalf. However, I know that the label is in great hands and I wish them all the best in the future as I move on to my new company home."
The statement noted that Barnett's appointment "is among the first of many steps that will be taken by UMG to expand EMI's creative ranks, reinvest in new talent, enhance innovation and create more diversity and choice for consumers."
Barnett first joined Sony Music's Epic Records in 1996 as Senior Vice President, International, rising to Senior Vice President Worldwide Marketing for the label in 1997. He served as Executive Vice President/ General Manager for four years after that, rising to label President in 2004. He was appointed Co-Chairman and COO of Columbia in 2005.