Universal Music Group (UMG) is building up its partnerships with the independent music industry with the formation of Virgin Music Label & Artist Services, a global network for independent artists, which UMG announced today (Feb. 18) along with a string of executive appointments to staff the company’s new regional hubs.
Virgin Music Label & Artist Services will collaborate with independent distribution and marketing services firm Ingrooves Music Group, which UMG acquired in 2019, giving the former company’s label and artist partners access to Ingrooves’ recently-patented AI music marketing technology. As a result, UMG aims to offer a wide spectrum of services for independent labels and artists at every stage of development.
The announcement also marks the revitalization of Virgin Records, which Richard Branson founded in the U.K. in 1972. The company has served as home to icons like David Bowie, The Sex Pistols, Aaliyah, The Rolling Stones and Janet Jackson, and spurred both Caroline, a distribution and label services company for independent artists, and electronic label Astralwerks, which are now divisions of the UMG label family. Many of the new Virgin Music Label & Artist Services regional hubs will be built on the foundation of existing Caroline divisions in those regions.
“Virgin has long been a name synonymous with disruptive innovation, musical creativity and entrepreneurialism,” said UMG chairman/CEO Sir Lucian Grainge. “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 unrivaled 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,” he continued, “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.”
Added Branson: “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.”
UMG also announced the appointments of executives to lead Virgin Music Label & Artist Services’ regional hubs across the globe, with fully-staffed operations already established in the world’s top five music markets — the U.S., Japan, U.K., Germany and France — and across Latin America.
In the U.S., Caroline will be renamed Virgin Label & Artist Services and continue under the leadership of president Jacqueline Saturn, who will report to Capitol Music Group president and COO Michelle Jubelirer.
In the U.K., Vanessa Higgins — a former touring musician and the founder of indie label/publisher Regent Street Records — has been named managing director, Virgin Music Label & Artist Services U.K., effective immediately. She will report to Universal Music U.K. chairman/CEO David Joseph.
Caroline France serves as the foundation for a new, local Virgin Music Label & Artist Services division, led by managing director Thomas Lorain, who has overseen Caroline France since 2014.
Existing Caroline operations in Germany will be incorporated into a regional Virgin Music Label & Artist Services hub in Berlin, led by label manager Tina Adams, who will report to Frank Briegmann, the chairman/CEO of Universal Music Central Europe and Deutsche Grammophon. It will operate alongside domestic frontline label Virgin Records Germany.
In Latin America and Iberia, Virgin Music Label & Artist Services will launch in early 2021 across key markets including Mexico, Spain and Latin operations in the U.S., with dedicated teams and resources in Los Angeles, Miami and Mexico City. The operation will be led by UMG veteran Víctor González in the position of president, Virgin Music LATAM & Iberia, based in Los Angeles and reporting to Jesús López, UMG’s chairman/CEO of Latin America & Iberian Peninsula.
UMG says the Latin America operation will be the first fully-integrated label services division worldwide for Latin music, giving artists, labels and partners access to local and international marketing services, live and management services through Global Talent Services (GTS), merchandising through Bravado and publishing services alongside Universal Music Publishing Group.
Virgin Music Label & Artist Services Japan will build off of Caroline Japan and be led by Hirokazu Tanaka, reporting to Universal Music Japan president/CEO Naoshi Fujikura. The new division will operate alongside domestic frontline label Virgin Music.
Finally, Caroline International’s U.K. label services operation has been renamed Virgin Music Label & Artist Services, under the continued leadership of managing directors Michael Roe and Jim Chancellor, and will support the leaders of Virgin worldwide.
Additional regional operations will launch in the coming months.