In a surprise move, after more than 20 years at Roadrunner and 12 as president, Jonas Nachsin is stepping down from that post.
At press time, there was no word on who will replace him, but a source told Billboard.biz that new leadership will be announced within days. In the hours after his departure, sources said that nine people had been laid off from the label, primarily in the IT, finance and royalty areas, although different sources said longtime publicist Amy Sciarretto was let go as well.
Nachsin's own exit letter to his staff, which Billboard has obtained, indicates that WMG and Atlantic Records' senior management want to ensure that the label remains an enduring brand.
"I am so proud of what we have accomplished to showcase Roadrunner as not only a 'record company' but as a lifestyle and cultural beacon for fans around the globe," Nachsin wrote. "The chemistry of groundbreaking artists worked by a world-class group of truly committed employees has made Roadrunner a name with no equal over the years. That will continue." He closed by thanking "the great team here much success as they move forward into a new chapter for Roadrunner."
His memo was followed by one from Atlantic co-chairmen Craig Kallman and Julie Greenwald, thanking him for his substantial contributions and years of dedication.
"For two decades, Jonas has been a passionate champion of Roadrunner's incredible roster of artists and helped forge the unique identity of one of the world's great labels," the memo reads in part. "Everyone who has worked with Jonas -- including artists, managers, the Roadrunner team and the wider Warner Music family -- have all been touched by his commitment and leadership. He has been instrumental in the careers of so many extraordinary artists, from superstars including Nickelback and Slipknot to breaking talents Young the Giant and Stone Sour. We will all miss Jonas and wish him the best in his next endeavor."
Roadrunner is expected to continue as a hard-rock brand, but now the question is who will have the stewardship of the label.
In April of this year, the departure of founder Cees Wessels -- whom Nachsin thanked in his farewell email, for "[giving] me my start and the opportunity to help grow Roadrunner into the important, vibrant label it has become" -- and a staff downsizing shook the hard-rock community: the label has been an iconic brand since the 1980s, with artists ranging from King Diamond and Sepultura to Slipknot and Nickelback.
At the time, Nachsin and the remaining Roadrunner staffers assured the industry and community that the label A&R staff would continue to sign and issue great hard-rock artists. Consequently, whoever is named as Nachsin's replacement will likely be scrutinized for his or her hard-rock bona fides.
In December 2006, the Warner Music Group announced that it had entered into a deal to acquire a 73.5% stake in Roadrunner Music for $73.5 million; the deal closed on Jan. 30, 2007. At the time, the label employed about 100-120 people worldwide and had offices in eight countries. WMG fully acquired Roadrunner in November of 2010.
After WMG assumed full ownership of the company, about 20 staffers were let go at the label's headquarters in the Netherlands as Warner assumed back-office support functions. About 36 staffers were let go in the April 2012 downsizing and most of the label's offices were shuttered, with the remaining international staffers either working out of their homes or in WMG offices, sources told Billboard at the time.
Currently, Roadrunner's year-to-date U.S. album share for 2012 stands at .76%, which is consistent with its performance over the last two years. Its share was .85% at the end of 2011 and .74% at the end of 2010, but that was when Nickelback's "Dark Horse" album was amassing 2.5 million units of its 3.2 million in total sales. Before that album hit, in 2007 Roadrunner's market share was .73% and in 2006 the label finished with .92% market share.
In 2008 and 2009, its U.S. album market share was 1.08% and 1.58%, respectively. Current artists on the Roadrunner roster include Airbourne, Blackstone Cherry, Gojira, Dream Theater, Killswitch Engage, Korn, Machine Head, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Opeth, Ratt, Rush, Slipknot, Soulfly, Stone Sour, Storm Corrosion, Trivium, Theory of a Deadman, and Young the Giant.