Weekly Wire
Nashville Scene Where To?

Those affected by downsizing consider their options

By Beverly Keel

FEBRUARY 15, 1999:  The nine country acts who were dropped from Decca and Mercury find themselves in the difficult position of trying to land another record deal at a time when labels are reducing their rosters. Interestingly enough, their managers mostly seem optimistic about future prospects. Here's what several plan to do:

Danni Leigh: "I think we have another deal," says manager Ron Cotton. "It's a little premature to mention names, but there have been two labels who have expressed interest in doing something. I called them just as soon as I knew this was happening.

"I think it would be easier for a new act to get another deal," he adds. "Dolly Parton is a legend in her own time...but unfortunately most labels today see her and George Jones as people who aren't going to sell platinum albums or get airplay."

Chris Knight: This relative newcomer is in the middle of recording a new album. Once his departure from Decca is finalized, manager Rick Alter will begin shopping him around to other labels. "It's an opportunity to move forward because we had been in a neutral stage for so long," Alter says. "Now at least we know where we are. Labels have called from Nashville, New York, and L.A., curious about what we are going to do. At this point, we are trying to move the recording process along as much as we can." Label executives will get a chance to see Knight perform at Caffé Milano on Feb. 25.

John Anderson: "I've had calls from three different major labels and a couple of independent labels," says manager Bobby Roberts. "We're confident that we will place John with another label; we're not in a hurry."

Rhett Akins: Manager Jack LaGrone says he began discussions with other labels several months ago when questions arose about Decca's future. "There's no question it's a tough time," he says. "In Rhett's case, it could be easier to take him back to radio than a new artist because he has somewhat of a name and a fan base built up."

Shane Stockton: Manager Susan Burns' first priority is to put Stockton in front of Nashville audiences because many executives haven't seen him perform live. He'll get that opportunity at the New Faces show at the upcoming Country Radio Seminar. "I know we're going to find a new home," she says.

Rebecca Lynn Howard: Both Howard and Dolly Parton were signed first to Rising Tide; when that company folded, they moved to Decca. W. Howard Fields Jr., who manages the 19-year-old Howard, is currently in negotiations with MCA. "I'm not sure how it will shake out," he says.

As for onetime MCA/Decca employees, they're also looking for new opportunities:

Expect Stephen McCord, former MCA senior director of A&R, to be snapped up quickly because he's the best at artist development in this town. If Universal is smart, the company will find another place for him somewhere else in its organization.

Shelia Shipley, former Decca senior vice president, will likely search for a similar position at another label. If that doesn't happen, expect her to form her own management company, where her label and radio promotion experience would be invaluable.

Rick Baumgartner, former Decca vice president of national promotion, has experience not only in radio promotion, but also in sports and broadcasting. He says he'll explore opportunities both within and outside the music business.

Frank Liddell, who worked in Decca's A&R department, has already joined Carnival Music. Expect him to continue producing and publishing.

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