Def Jam CEO steps down to launch new project

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Paul Rosenberg steps down as CEO of Def Jam Recordings to launch Goliath Records JV with UMG. / Billboard

Paul Rosenberg stepped down as CEO of Def Jam Recordings last Friday after 2 years. Def Jam’s parent company, Universal Music Group (UMG), has placed their executive VP of business and legal affairs, Jeffrey Harleston, as interim CEO.

This change was prompted by the launching of a new joint venture with UMG called “Goliath Records,” which Rosenberg will run. He will continue his roles as head of his management firm, Goliath Artists, and his position as President of Shady Records. 

While CEO of Def Jam Recordings from January 2018 to February 2020, Rosenberg was attending these other roles on the side, which seemingly overwhelmed him after some time. Although he has publicly expressed his immense gratitude for being given the opportunity to serve as label head for Def Jam, it seems as though his first passion is artist management. 

He said the following in a statement on Friday via Instagram: “My ability to multi-task is not without limits. My new relationship with UMG gives me the ability to continue to sign and develop talent, while still dedicating the time necessary to fulfill my management duties.”

Rosenberg is best known for managing Eminem but has since evolved into a business mogul in the music industry. Becoming CEO of Def Jam back in January 2018 came as a surprise to some, considering Rosenberg had no major label experience before. What made him qualified was his knowledge of the music industry from a business perspective. He helped turn Eminem into the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) best-selling solo rapper of all time while being the head of his management firm and Shady Records at the same time.

Even at 47 years old Eminem is still releasing commercially successful music thanks to his undeniably loyal fanbase. Rosenberg has always been the man behind the curtain for Eminem’s long lasting, consistent success. 

This change comes at an interesting time for Def Jam since their best selling artist, Justin Bieber, just released his first album in five years along with a brand new docu-series titled “Seasons” on YouTube. The label has struggled to find a direction in recent years, which has led to the departure of several executives including their marketing chief and head of A&R. The biggest artists on their roster include Kanye West, Jhene Aiko, YG, 2 Chainz, Big Sean and Alessia Cara. 

There are certainly questions to be answered for Def Jam since things have been better before. West and Cara have failed to meet fan’s expectations on their most recent projects while other Def Jam artists, like Big Sean, Bieber and Rihanna, have been nowhere to be found in the music scene over the past few years. 

With Def Jam enduring some turmoil, it will be interesting to see who UMG picks to replace Rosenberg as CEO. It’s still a highly coveted position, even with all the troubles that go along with it. Def Jam is a legendary label with a great history particularly in hip-hop. They badly need to find a direction in 2020 since for a while now, other labels have been making a bigger splash. 

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