Nashville’s Music Row took a hit on Wednesday when the Disney Music Group announced it’s shutting down Lyric Street Records, the home of Rascal Flatts.
The guys in the group — Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney — should be OK. They’re working on one last album for Disney, and an official release indicates that project will still come out in the fall on a different Disney-affiliated label. In addition, the guys are in talks about a new recording deal with the Mouse. If, for some reason, they can’t come to an agreement with Disney, it’s a sure bet that the band could find another partner willing to invest in its massive career.
Less certain is the future of the Lyric Street staff and the other artists signed to the roster. Eight people were told Friday is their last day, including label chief Randy Goodman, who’s such a prominent player in town that he’s the chairman of the board for the Country Music Association. Remaining staff members will continue to work the current singles by other artists on the roster before their tenure is completed. That assures some temporary continuity for those employees as they look for new gigs, and for Bucky Covington, Kevin Fowler and Tyler Dickerson. A little less clear is the status of Sarah Buxton, Love And Theft and the Parks. In recent months, Lyric Street had already bid farewell to SHeDAISY, Trent Tomlinson and Jessica Andrews.
A label closure is dramatic, but so is the loss of a leader who’s been at the helm for nearly 30 years. That occurred elsewhere on Music Row on the same day as the Disney bombshell, when Joe Galante announced he intends to step down as the head of Sony Music Nashville, which oversees four labels: Columbia, RCA, BNA and Arista. Joe moved from New York to Tennessee in the ‘70s as an RCA employee, working on the careers of Waylon Jennings, Ronnie Milsap and Dolly Parton. Within a few years, he became the head of the label, overseeing the rise of such acts as Clint Black, Keith Whitley, Lorrie Morgan and the Judds.
Through a series of label start-ups and mergers, Joe currently makes daily decisions about some of country’s most significant hitmakers: Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, Brooks & Dunn, Carrie Underwood, Alan Jackson, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride and Montgomery Gentry, among them. Joe will continue to run the label until a replacement is found, and he’ll still work as a consultant to smooth out the transition. That may have already happened; Billboard.biz reported Thursday morning that music publisher Gary Overton, of EMI Music Publishing, will take the job.
The dual Lyric Street/Sony announcements were painted with a tinge of irony. Randy Goodman was Joe Galante’s right-hand man at RCA for more than a decade.