Sir Lucian Charles Grainge, CBE, (born 29 February 1960) is the chairman and chief executive officer of Universal Music Group. Over the course of his career, he has been instrumental in the careers of artists such as Lady Gaga, Amy Winehouse, ABBA, Eurythmics, Rihanna, Sam Smith, Take That, Psychedelic Furs, The Rolling Stones, Sting, U2, Jamie Cullum and Andrea Bocelli.
Grainge has worked in the music business for his entire career. In 2013, 2015, and 2016, he topped Billboard Magazine’s “Power 100” list as the most powerful person in the music business, the only person to ever hold that distinction three times and the first to earn that position for consecutive years. Irving Azoff called him "the great hope for the music business" and Jimmy Iovine commented that Grainge "is working to restore [a] spirit of risk-taking and innovation" by being "willing and open to entrepreneurship and that kind of thing the record industry has gotten depleted of."
In an interview with Grainge, Billboard wrote: "If 'power' means moving markets or greenlighting massive spends, Universal Music Group chairman Lucian Grainge demonstrated a staggering penchant for it when UMG completed its $1.9 billion acquisition of EMI's recorded-music assets in September 2012. Grainge is a fierce and tireless advocate for the recorded-music business."
In 2013, CNET wrote, "Grainge is positioning Universal to lead the pack" of major labels in their embracing of new digital opportunities. A 2014 front-page LA Times profile of Grainge said, "if anyone can save the music business, it might be Grainge." In 2015, Billboard wrote, "in the age of Spotify, YouTube and Shazam, Grainge is positioned to tackle his business' overriding priority: win fair compensation for artists, and take full ownership of content that other parties have been profiting from."
Early life and career
Grainge grew up in North London. He worked his way up in the London music scene after leaving Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School for Boys at the age of 18, when he began working as a runner at a talent scout company called MPC.
After calling several record label heads from the Music Week directory, he got through to Maurice Oberstein, the chairman of CBS Records, who hired him for publishing company April Music's A&R department. His first signing was the Psychedelic Furs.
In 1982, he became the director of RCA Music Publishing. Two years later he became an A&R director for MCA Records. He set up PolyGram Music Publishing in 1986 and joined Polydor as GM of A&R and business affairs in 1993. He was promoted to managing director of Polydor in 1997, and had success with acts including Boyzone and the Lighthouse Family. Since becoming chairman and Chief Executive of Universal Music in 2011, Grainge has overseen a strategy to increase Universal's digital distribution, international expansion and market leadership in both recorded music and publishing.
Universal Music Group
Grainge became the chairman of the UK division of the Universal Music Group and later became chairman of Universal Music Group International in 2005. He served in this position until 2010. On 1 January 2011 he became CEO of the Universal Music Group and later became chairman on 9 March 2011. He succeeded Doug Morris who served as chairman and CEO since 1995.
Grainge has been influential in Universal Music Group's international digital expansion by pioneering distribution models with a wide range of technology partners, including Apple, Spotify, BSkyB, Rdio, Virgin Media, Vodafone and 19 Entertainment.
He recently established the licensed music service, One-Stop China, with Baidu, as well as a deal with B'IN to break Taiwanese acts on the mainland. There is also an agreement in place with Reliance to start India's first mobile music service.
Grainge also helped arrange the partnership between Bravado, Universal Music's entertainment merchandising division, and Tommy Hilfiger and oversaw expansion for flagship classical labels Deutsche Grammophon and Decca Classics. He also put together the global strategic partnership with entertainment company Live Nation.
Within his first year as chairman & CEO of Universal, he led the company in acquiring EMI's Recorded Music operations. In doing so he argued that selling to Universal was the only way to make EMI better and thus lift the entire industry. He made the revitalization of former EMI labels such as Capitol Records and Virgin Records a key part of his strategy. As a result of the EMI acquisition, "Grainge will go down as the master architect of what is likely to be the last big deal in the music business."
In the EMI deal, UMG acquired the Beatles catalogue. UMG's merchandising division, Bravado, subsequently secured North American merchandising for the band. UMG is now creating a "unified marketing strategy for the music and associated products of the most influential and beloved band in the history of music." The wisdom of the acquisition was further illustrated by the quick success of the revitalized Capitol Music Group. In 2015, Capitol earned all the major Grammy Awards for the year, with Sam Smith receiving Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Song of the Year awards and Beck winning Album of the Year.
In 2013, Grainge partnered with Russell Simmons, Brian Robbins and Steve Rifkindto create All Def Music, the first major label-affiliated music company created specifically to sign, develop and promote artists on YouTube. Russell Simmonscalled Grainge "the most innovative of music executives."
UMG partnered with Samsung in the spring of 2013 to launch a music service in Africa called the Kleek, featuring the company's international catalogue, as well as local artists.
Under Grainge's leadership, UMG has broken a string of records, becoming the first company in the US to have nine of the top 10 songs on the digital charts, according to SoundScan, and weeks later, becoming the first company to hold all 10 of the top 10 spots on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. According to an industry insider, UMG's "enterprise value in 10 years stands to be closing in on $40 billion."
In 2015, Grainge starred in a documentary film that depicts the life and death of late British singer Amy Winehouse, entailed as Amy which was released theatrically in July.
In 2015, Vivendi announced that Grainge agreed to extend his tenure as UMG’s chairman and CEO until at least 2020, stating he was key to its strategy. Under his leadership, UMG experienced growth in annual revenue, digital recorded music revenue and EBITDA.
Grainge led the acquisition of Bravado, then part of Sanctuary, and transformed it into UMG's entertainment merchandising and brand management division, Bravado. The company represents artists including Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and Kanye West, and has formed partnerships with retailers including Barneys, Bloomingdale's and Selfridge's.
In January 1993, Grainge married his first wife, attorney Samantha Berg. That November, she experienced complications while giving birth to their son Elliot, and fell into a coma from which she never recovered. She died in England in 2007.
In 2002, Grainge married his second wife, Caroline. Their daughter Alice was born in 2001. In November 2012, Grainge and his wife reportedly paid 13 million USD for a house in Pacific Palisades. They had previously leased a Brentwood home from the owner of Rhino Entertainment.
His older brother, Nigel Grainge (1946 – 2017) was also a music executive (founder of Ensign Records).
Industry honours and other achievements
In 2008, Grainge was honoured with the prestigious Music Industry Trusts’ Award, which recognizes the world’s most influential and successful executives in music. Members of U2 presented him with the award, and other acts he was associated with, like Take That, performed at the ceremony.
Grainge was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2010 New Year Honours for services to the creative industries. In 2012, UK Prime Minister David Cameron appointed him as a British Business Ambassador. He was knighted in the 2016 Birthday Honours for services to British business and inward investment. He was inaugurated to appointment to the Order of the British Empire and Knight Bachelor by Prince William on November 29, 2016.
Grainge is a Trustee of The American Friends of The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.
In 2013, he received the Humanitarian Award from The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding. That same year, UMG was honored with a SAG-AFTRA American Scene Award, recognizing the company's commitment to diversity as exemplified by its "entire catalog and roster of artists." In 2014, he was awarded the President's Merit Award ("Icon Award") by the Recording Academy in recognition of his significant contributions to the music industry. In 2015, he will receive the Spirit of Life Award from the City of Hope, recognizing his outstanding achievements in business and his dedication to philanthropic causes.
Grainge serves on the boards of Lionsgate and Northeastern University.
On 7 May 2016, he was awarded an honorary doctorate of music by the Berklee College of Music.
In October 2016, Variety presented Grainge with its 2016 Empowerment Award for overseeing a "noticeable shift in the demographics of the industry leader’s C-suites” with women occupying some of the highest executive positions at Universal Music Group.
In May 2017, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity announced that Grainge would be honored as the 2017 Media Person of the Year, the first music executive to receive this honour. Philip Thomas, CEO of Ascential Events, organizers of Cannes Lions, praised his "bold investments in music and technology that helped return the industry to growth, while continuing to foster an environment that puts artists first".
In June 2018, Grainge was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame with the Howie Richmond Hitmaker award. At the ceremony, Ariana Grande performed in his honor and Grainge was inducted by The Weeknd.
He was awarded an honorary doctorate of music by the Berklee College of Music in May 2016 and an honorary doctorate of global commerce by Northeastern University in May 2017.
In March 2019, Grainge received a PTTOW! Icon Award, which "honors trailblazers in their industries who have had an impact on culture around the world."
In September 2019, Grainge received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.
Billboard named Grainge as the first-ever Executive of the Decade after he topped the magazine's "Power 100" list as the most powerful person in the music business in 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2019. He is the only person to ever hold that distinction more than once and for consecutive years.
Irving Azoff called him "'the great hope for the music business'" and Jimmy Iovine commented that Grainge "is working to restore [a] spirit of risk-taking and innovation" by being "'willing and open to entrepreneurship and that kind of thing the record industry has gotten depleted of.'" An interview feature in Billboard described Grainge as "a fierce and tireless advocate for the recorded-music business". In 2013, CNET wrote that “Grainge is positioning Universal to lead the pack” of major labels in their embracing of new digital opportunities. A 2014 front-page Los Angeles Times profile said that "if anyone can save the music business, it might be Grainge."
In January 2020, Grainge was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with UMG artists including Beck, Justin Bieber, Birdman, Lewis Capaldi, Tori Kelly, Sam Smith, and Hailee Steinfeld in attendance. Shawn Mendes and Lionel Richie were the ceremony's featured presenters. Ellen K of KOST Radio Morning Show host, the emcee of the event, said, "I've never seen so many stars show up to a Walk of Fame ceremony before."