Jul 9, 2024 3 min read

Universal Music UK announces restructure, creating two big label groups

Following the restructure of Universal Music in the US, the UK division of the major has announced similar changes, with most of its frontline labels reorganised into two groups. There will also be a new Audience & Media division. The restructure will mean job losses, though we don’t know how many

Universal Music UK announces restructure, creating two big label groups

Universal Music UK is planning a significant restructure, following the lead of the major’s US business and re-organising all of its frontline labels into two big groups. Sort of. Classical and jazz label Decca will remain its own thing. And a new Audience & Media division is also being created. Job losses are expected, though the exact number of redundancies is not yet clear. 

David Joseph, Universal’s UK boss, outlined the changes in a memo to staff, citing the  “dynamic and constantly changing” nature of the music industry as the driving force behind the restructure. “Developing artists now require more creativity and patience than ever before”, he said, emphasising the need for the company to be “forward-looking, innovative and bold”. 

Setting out the changes, which will go into effect in October, he continued, “As our industry continues to evolve, we have been looking at ways to strengthen our labels’ capabilities to deepen artist and fan connections”. 

Referencing the recent restructuring that took place across Universal’s US operations, he said that staff would recognise the changes in the UK reflected “some of the changes happening globally across UMG, most notably in the US with Republic Corps and Interscope Capitol Labels Group”. 

The two big frontline label groups in the UK will be known as the Island EMI Label Group and the Polydor Group. The new Island EMI division will merge the currently separate Island and EMI labels, and will be led by current Island President Louis Bloom. The Polydor Group will be headed up by current Polydor boss Ben Mortimer, and will also include the 0207 Def Jam label and a “reimagined” Capitol Records.

Jo Charrington and Rebecca Allen, the current Presidents of EMI, are moving to new roles within the company. Charrington will become President of Capitol Records UK, a role she held previously before a 2022 rejig merged the Capitol and EMI labels. 

Allen will head up the new Audience & Media ‘super division’, which will bring together the major’s media, marketing, data and analytics teams, working with artists and labels across the group. 

“Becky and I have spent a lot of time discussing this vision to create something revolutionary”, Joseph’s memo continued, “an industry first where every type of media is seamlessly integrated. We are assembling an elite team making this our largest division”. 

The major music companies often go through periods of centralising media and marketing operations, so that all the labels tap into a central resource, and then periods of allowing different divisions and labels to build their own teams. Centralisation does make sense at the moment, with most labels cutting back on more traditional marketing and promotions, while there are definite benefits to running data-driven digital marketing through one team 

In particular, centralising all data operations in one team working across all Universal’s labels has a number of obvious benefits. It allows for better insights from larger datasets and helps develop consistent methodologies. A single team can create unified reporting standards and concentrate expertise in one place. This approach makes it easier to respond quickly to queries from different labels. It also helps spot trends across the whole business that individual labels might miss, potentially identifying new opportunities sooner.

Saving money is part of the plan with this big restructure of Universal's UK business, as it was with the US restructure. A consultation is now underway regarding the roles that will go. Under UK law such a consultation is mandatory if a company is making more than 20 employees redundant within a 90 day period. 

On redundancies, Joseph's memo stated, “While the vast majority of our team will continue to be a part of our business going forward, some roles are impacted by the proposed structural changes. It saddens me that we will have to part ways with some incredible colleagues who have been instrumental in our journey”.

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