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Country music's new blood

Country Standard Time Editorial, June 2000

The business side of country music continues to have its problems. At least when it comes to the major labels.

And that could be good news for several burgeoning labels.

Much has been written about the decline of the country music sector in recent years with a scant few artists - chiefly the Dixie Chicks, Shania Twain and Garth Brooks - accounting for a good chunk of the record sales.

In this day and age of the bottom line, even a gold record, meaning sales of 500,000 copies - does not ensure financial success or the ability of an artist to stay with a label.

Now, not only are artists getting dropped, but record companies aren't faring much better. Arista, the home of Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson and Brad Paisley, is going to shut its doors soon, becoming part of RCA.

No doubt, several acts are going to be cut from the roster, inevitable during shake-ups.

Asylum downsized staffing recently and is now part of the Warner family. That despite success with George Jones and Trio II.

Atlantic Records moved over to the Warner building.

Perhaps the one bright spot is the development of the well-financed Dreamworks Records label, enjoying success with Toby Keith and Asleep at the Wheel among others. With other labels consolidating, this indeed may be a good time for a new label to step into the breach.

Another player could be Gaylord Entertainment, which seems likely to start a label with Arista head Tim Dubois running the show.

Smaller labels also could benefit. Audium Entertainment recently started with several well-known acts who have not enjoyed much commercial success lately, like Ricky Van Shelton and the Kentucky HeadHunters. Loretta Lynn also is in the fold. They also will reissue Country Music Foundation releases.

It's no surprise there are new companies coming into play. Perhaps the existing labels have been too slow to respond to the split between traditionalists and more pop-flavored country to survive.

The new blood may be welcome blood.