Chrysalis Records To Be Re-Born After Acquisition

Courtesy Photo
Robin Millar, Jeremy Lascelles, Chris Wright and Robert Devereux.

Chrysalis Records, one of the U.K.’s seminal independent labels, will be relaunched following its acquisition by Blue Raincoat Music from Warner Music Group. 

Formed in 1968 by Chris Wright and Terry Ellis, the label helped break and develop the international careers of a host of big-selling artists throughout the '70s and '80s, including Jethro Tull, Procol Harum, Blondie, Pat Benatar, Huey Lewis and the News, Ultravox, Spandau Ballet, Sinead O’Connor, The Specials and numerous others. 

In 1991, Chrysalis was sold to EMI who continued to run the label as a standalone imprint throughout the Nineties, achieving huge domestic success with British pop star Robbie Williams, before being folded into EMI Records. 

Following Universal’s purchase of EMI in 2012, Chrysalis was sold to Warner as part of the deal for Parlophone Records. There it remained -- largely mothballed -- until an agreement was struck with London-based Blue Raincoat Music, announced today (June 1) and coming into effect June 24 this year. 

In its new guise, former Chrysalis Music CEO Jeremy Lascelles, who founded Blue Raincoat Music alongside record producer Robin Millar in 2014, will once again take charge of the label, which returns to independent ownership after 25 years of being in the care of the majors. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

The new arrangement also sees Chrysalis’ co-founder and original owner, Chris Wright, reunited with the label, while former Virgin Entertainment Chairman Robert Devereux is additionally backing the enterprise.  

“It’s a really special day,” Wright tells Billboard. “It’s almost indescribable. As great as I felt when the deal was concluded, to see it in print brings it all home to you as to how surprised I am about the whole thing. It’s not something I dreamed about. I sold the label in 1991 and I never expected to see it again. That’s for sure. It’s a really poignant, emotional day.”

Going forward, Wright, who will join senior management of the label in a non-executive chairman role, says that an immediate priority is to restore the brand’s credibility and reputation.   

“It’s like a faded diamond,” he states. “The first thing we need to do is polish it up, give it some TLC and try and get back to the identity that it used to have when it was one of the great independent labels of the world. It’s unfortunate that unlike, say, Virgin and Island Records, whoever has owned Chrysalis label, especially more recently, has not done that. Initially EMI did do that, but since it was sold to Universal and then from Universal to Warner it hasn’t necessarily been at the forefront of everybody’s thought process.” 

To that end, the new team in charge of Chrysalis will look to raise the profile of its existing artist roster and associated catalogs, which includes home-grown acts The Specials, Sinead O’Connor, The Waterboys, Fun Boy Three, Ultravox and Generation X, as well as Debbie Harry, the label's sole remaining U.S. artist after Universal stripped the majority of its international roster before selling to Warner. Plans are also in place to acquire catalogs from other established artists and make new artist signings.

“We will have the necessary infrastructure whereby if we spot somebody who we think has got the kind of potential that we want to work with, we will be able to do the job for them,” says Wright, who believes that relaunching Chrysalis with the same spirit and independent ethos as its '70s and '80s heyday will, once again, help build a thriving business. 

“Going back to the glory days -- and really from when we started -- we never signed anything that was pop or too commercial. Everything we signed was cutting edge. Everything we signed had quality smacked all over it. We would look at artists and say: ‘Well, they might sell lots of records, but they don’t quite fit.’ And if they didn’t fit, we didn’t sign them,” recalls the co-founder, citing Blondie as an example of an alternative act that Chrysalis signed, which then exploded into the mainstream. 

“We certainly didn’t sign anything that we thought was a quick fix, a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ type pop group,” says Wright, eyeing a swift return to former glories. “I’m hugely excited about what this new partnership can do. I think there is no end to what we can achieve.”