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New CEO announced for Def Jam US

By | Published on Wednesday 11 August 2021

Universal Music’s Def Jam division in the US has a new CEO. Or it will from the start of next year. Tunji Balogun is leaving Sony Music to take up the top job at Def Jam from 1 Jan 2022.

The major’s General Counsel and EVP Of Business & Legal Affairs, Jeffrey Harleston, has headed up Def Jam in the US on an interim basis ever since the label’s previous CEO – Eminem manager Paul Rosenberg – stood down at the start of 2020. Harleston will continue to perform that task until Balogun – who previously worked in an A&R role at Universal’s Interscope label – formally re-joins the business next year.

Announcing the appointment, overall Universal Music CEO Lucian Grainge says: “Tunji is part of a new wave of dynamic executives who view today’s artists and music through a unique creative lens. Not only does he bring a deep understanding and respect for the cultural significance of what Def Jam has created over the past four decades, but he also sees the boundless potential of what Def Jam can be to a new generation of artists and fans”.

Balogun himself adds: “I grew up on Def Jam’s music – collecting, listening to and studying their albums and singles – those early moments as a young fan have had a lasting influence on who I am today. Def Jam remains one of music’s most iconic brands and has always represented forward-thinking artists and partners that continue to shift ideas and impact culture around the world. I’m honoured to lead Def Jam into its next chapter and thank Lucian and Jeff for their support and this incredible opportunity”.

And finally, Harleston chips in: “It has been an honour and a pleasure to lead and grow Def Jam over these past two years. Having had the privilege of working with Tunji for more than a decade, I couldn’t be happier to hand the reins over to him. Tunji has all the tools to take the Def Jam brand and artists to new levels of success. He has the vision. He has a track record of signing the best and brightest new talent who ‘move culture’ around the world and has always been an incredible advocate for artists”.