Universal Music Group will have to wait until next year for newly recruited co-heads of Island Records, Justin Eshak and Imran Majid, to bring their talents to the label.
Although multiple sources confirmed that Eshak and Majid — co-heads of Columbia Records’ A&R department — will take on the top job vacated by Darcus Beese in early February, the duo is not expected to start their jobs until their contracts with Columbia are up next year.
Eshak and Majid, who have run Columbia’s A&R department as a team since 2018, worked closely with Hozier, Leon Bridges, Lil Tjay, Powfu and Kina. In recent weeks, the label has turned heads by luring Miley Cyrus away from RCA and signing Grimes, although those efforts were led by Columbia’s chairman and CEO, Ron Perry
Since 2018, when Perry took reins of Columbia, the label’s market share has grown steadily. After dropping to 3.31% market share on current releases that year not including distributor RED (down from 4.89% the year before), it grew to 4.76% in 2019 and 5.68% in 2020 — a four-year high. So far in 2021, the label’s market share is down to 4.86%. (Current releases are defined as released in last 18 months or if the music is still current at radio or in the top half of Billboard 200 chart.)
Eshak and Majid will have their work cut out for them running Island. A much smaller label, whose leading acts include Demi Lovato, Nick Jonas and Shawn Mendes. The past five years, the label’s market share has hovered under 2%, decreasing since 2018. Island currently holds a 1.72% market share so far in 2021.
Despite its breakout hits in 2020 — including Harry Styles’ “Watermelon Sugar,” BTS’ “Dynamite” (part of a co-venture with Big Hit Entertainment) and “Savage Love (Laxed – Siren Beat)” by Jawsh 685 and Jason Derulo — Columbia’s A&R department has recently seen some changes. A&R star Shawn Holiday — who served in the dual role of co-head, urban music at Columbia and head of urban music at music publisher Sony/ATV — partnered with Full Stop Management’s Irving and Jeffrey Azoff to launch a new record label and music publishing company. A rep for Columbia Records said, however, that Holiday “is still very much a part of the A&R staff and will continue to work with Polo G and Chloe X Halle,” among other artists. She declined to comment further for this story.
Last week’s announcement that Def Jam Recordings had partnered with Emmy-winning TV producer and actor Lena Waithe (The Chi) to launch Hillman Grad Records, included the news that Tebs Maqubela had joined the label from Columbia. Maqubela had previously worked in A&R for Lost Rings, the gaming and music imprint that Columbia established in the summer of 2019.
Sources also say that Columbia A&R director Wes Donehower has exited the label for Republic Records.