After months of speculation about what Sony Music’s leadership would do about the empty top spot in their Nashville office, a new CEO has been appointed for Sony’s country and Christian division. Randy Goodman, founder and former president of the defunct Lyric Street label, will take over from outgoing Sony Nashville head Gary Overton, multiple sources say. The ink is not yet dry on the contract, but is expected to be within 24 hours.
Another industry veteran who’d been rumored for the job, Ken Robold, is said to be coming in as Sony Nashville’s new general manager. Although Sony didn’t immediately confirm the reports, an announcement about Goodman’s and Robold’s respective appointments is believed to be imminent.
The news comes as a relief to many on Music Row who’d spent the last three and a half months wondering how Sony Nashville could continue without someone in charge. As everyone in town seemed to know — and the Wikileaks Sony documents dump confirmed — Sony had wanted to hire manager Jason Owen for the top job last year, well before Overton’s exit began to manifest. Having been turned down by Owen at the time, the company took another run at the Little Big Town/Shania Twain handler this spring, but he and Sony ultimately weren’t able to come to terms on a deal that would allow him to keep his management company, Sandbox Entertainment.
Worries that Sony lacked a Plan B — after Owen fell through a second time — quickly became hopes among many in Music City, once word of Goodman’s and Robold’s arrival started getting around last week. Both execs have a long history with major labels in Nashville, and neither will be accused of being the flavor of the moment.
“Randy Goodman and Ken Robold are two of the most artist-supportive, focused, and creative people in town,” said Nancy Russell, Alan Jackson’s former manager. “That place has been like a lost ship on the sea without a captain for too long, so it’s comforting to know that what Joe Galante built during his many years at RCA and then Sony will be in capable hands again. It’s great news for the Nashville community.”
Goodman had been seen as Galante’s protégé at RCA Nashville in the ‘80s and ‘90s and a possible successor for the top job when he served as the label’s general manager. But he left to found Lyric Street in 1997, heading that company — and finding considerable success with Rascal Flatts — before Disney shuttered the imprint in 2010. Ironically, Disney closed the label and let Goodman go the same week that it was announced Galante would be handing the Sony Nashville baton to Overton. Although hopes for Overton’s reign ran high at the time, Sony’s market share dipped during his tenure, and Goodman’s supporters believe what’s happening now is what should have happened five years ago.
Robold brings a wealth of experience from labels that were in competition with RCA and Sony, having enjoyed a 22-year run at Polygram/Universal that ended with him becoming that label group’s executive VP and general manager in Nashville. More recently Robold spent a year at the helm of Zac Brown’s Southern Ground Artists label.
Whatever take the industry may have on Overton’s time at Sony, there’s agreement that Goodman will benefit by having not only been brought up under Galante’s wing but coming along late enough that he won’t be constantly compared to his former boss. “Gary was the proverbial ‘guy after the guy’,” said a former Sony Nashville VP, remarking on the shadow in which Overton had to work. “The plum gig is the guy after the guy after the guy, which is where the job sits now.”