Chrysalis Records to House New Music Again as a Frontline Label

Chrysalis Records
Courtesy of Chrysalis Records

Zena White (MD Partisan Records ), Laura Marling and Jeremy Lascelles (CEO Chrysalis Records)

Laura Marling is the label's first signing in partnership with Partisan Records.

Chrysalis Records, one of the U.K.'s seminal independent labels, is to be relaunched as a frontline label, releasing new music for the first time in more than two decades.

The London-based label's first signing is Brit Award-winning British singer-songwriter Laura Marling, formerly of Virgin EMI, whose last album, 2017's Semper Femina, was released independently through Kobalt's label services division.

Her first album for the newly reborn Chrysalis Records will be released later this year in partnership with Partisan Records as a co-branded global release. Further signings will be announced in the coming months, Chrysalis CEO Jeremy Lascelles tells Billboard.

"There's no question in our minds that this is the right moment to bring Chrysalis back," he says. "I've frequently praised Laura as being the most important artist of her generation and I believe that to be the case. We couldn't have wished to be involved with a more brilliant artist."

Formed in 1968 by Chris Wright and Terry Ellis, Chrysalis Records 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.

The label was sold to EMI in 1991 who continued to run it as a standalone imprint, achieving huge domestic success with British pop star Robbie Williams, before being folded into EMI Records.

Lascelles' first reign at Chrysalis ran from 1994 to 2011, when it was sold to BMG. Warner subsequently bought the business as part of the deal for Parlophone Records. Lascelles and Robin Millar’s Blue Raincoat Music company acquired the mothballed label in 2016, returning it to independent ownership.

Since then, its owners focus has been on tidying Chrysalis' vast catalog, but the intention was always to one day relaunch it as a frontline record label, says Lascelles.

The decision to partner with fellow indie label Partisan Records on signing Laura Marling was born out of the two companies achieving international success with Cigarettes After Sex, who are signed to Partisan and managed by Blue Raincoat Music. Other artists on Partisan's roster include IDLES, Fontaines D.C., John Grant and the catalog of Fela Kuti.

"We share offices with Partisan and I know how good they are and how well they work as a team, so I rang [managing director] Zena White and [founder] Tim Putnam, said what we were thinking of doing and that we'd love to figure out a way that we can work together," explains Lascelles.

"Right in the midst of that, we discovered that we were both trying to sign Laura Marling. So at that point we just said, 'Let's do this one together.' When we presented that idea to Laura's management, it completely captured their imagination."

"There is a really strong synergy between the brand that we are building [at Partisan] and the brand that Chris Wright and Terry Ellis built back in the day, starting in the 1960s, and continuing with Jeremy and Robin's careers," says White. "The spirit of what Chrysalis represents creatively are really important values to us at Partisan, so [this partnership] just felt like something that we should absolutely explore."

For the time being, the partnership between Chrysalis and Partisan is a one-off deal exclusively limited to Laura Marling and an as-yet-unnamed associated project from the singer, but both parties are open to collaborating on other artist releases, if the situation arises.

"The future is the future. We'll see," says Lascelles. "But right now it's very much a Laura-orientated partnership."

"Chrysalis is going extremely well in terms of the revenues it's producing and it feels like we have unblocked the dam that was stopping people discovering and rediscovering the label's catalog," says the CEO. "We feel in a good place there now and this feels like a good moment to start putting new music out there."