Detroit native and veteran star CeCe Winans is the label’s first signing, with her inaugural Motown Gospel album — Winans’ first record in five years — tabbed for release early next year.
Also on the roster are Detroiter Kierra (Kiki) Sheard, Smokie Norful, Tye Tribbett and Tasha Cobbs. All are scheduled to perform at a launch party tonight in Los Angeles.
In bearing the Motown name, the label nods to a city that “has always been a hotbed for gospel music,” said Barry Weiss, chairman and CEO, Universal Music Group East Coast Label Group.
Weiss said the new label will often tap the promotional resources of Motown Records, whose current roster includes Ne-Yo, Erykah Badu and Kem.
The venture comes half a century after Motown’s first foray into gospel music, with the short-lived Divinity Records in 1962.
But the new Motown Gospel is already a prime-time player, marshaling an array of top executives in New York and Nashville and helmed by a pair of industry veterans: Universal’s Weiss — whose Island Def Jam group includes Motown Records — and Bill Hearn, president of EMI’s Christian music arm.
“It’s hugely significant for Barry Weiss and Bill Hearn to come together,” said Jackie Patillo, executive director of the Gospel Music Association. “This just strengthens the reach for gospel music.”