The Toronto headquarters of Sony BMG Music Canada closed Monday (Feb. 19) as an estimated 15 employees were dismissed.

According to sources, staffers were notified late last week that the head office would be closed and that all positions were under review. The office opened "as usual" for business today (Feb. 20).

Among the 15 staffers let go was the five-person publicity department, including publicist Erin Smyth. The layoffs come a week after two top level executives departed the company -- Norman Miller, VP of digital business, IS&T and marketing services and Christine (CJ) Prudham, VP of legal and business affairs - and a month after Sony BMG Music Canada president Lisa Zbitnew was suddenly ousted Jan. 15.

After Zbitnew's quick exit, Sony BMG Music named Shane Carter and Neil Foster Sony BMG Music Canada co-presidents.

In an email response to Billboard about their firings, Sony BMG Music Canada co-president Shane Carter wrote "no comment" regarding a confirmation of the staffers let go.

Despite speculation of the pending dismissals, many Canadian music industry vets were shocked by the move. "I can understand they had to drop some people but to do it in such a manner was disgusting," says a retail music buyer. "If this is an example of this new administration, I'd almost rather not do business with them."

According to Nielsen Entertainment Sony BMG Canada's market share year to date is 19.3% compared to 11.6% for EMI; 12.9% for Warner; and 37.7% for market leader Universal Music.

In the past year, the company's domestic roster has been downsized with such promising singer/songwriters as Liam Titcomb and Jeremy Fisher and pop rapper Shawn Desman being dropped. Last week rock band The Trews left the fold after a licensing deal with Bumstead Records in Toronto wasn't renewed.

Still remaining on the Canadian roster are such top level acts as Our Lady Peace, Chantal Kreviazuk, and Keisha Chante.

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