Amid some big changes in the music industry, new RCA Records CEO Peter Edge and longtime colleague Tom Corson, who was promoted to president and COO in August, have officially shuttered historic labels Arista and Jive. J Records, launched by Clive Davis in 2000 as an “instant major,” will also see its artists bequeathed to RCA.
“The path we’ve taken is to refresh RCA, so we’re going to retire those brands,” Corson tells The Hollywood Reporter in a new interview. “There may be a reason down the line to bring them back, but it’s a clean slate here.”
Jive Records, run by Barry Weiss for nearly 20 years, was home to multi-platinum pop stars Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. Arista was founded in 1974 also by Davis, who signed Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin and Barry Manilow to the label. In recent years, it saw releases by Usher and Pink. All artists will now fall under the RCA Records banner.
In the digital age, one might think these closures mean there is little value, awareness or loyalty to a label by name, but the execs insist it’s quite the opposite. “The concept is that there is value in branding RCA and not having it confused or diluted by other labels,” says Corson. “The artists have all been supportive. We didn’t make this move without consulting our artists, and we haven’t had any push-back. Frankly, they’re the brand. We’re defined by our artists.”
The move follows a round of layoffs in which dozens of staffers were let go, including longtime executives Richard Palmese (J’s evp of promotion, who had been Davis’ right hand man for three decades), Tom Carraba and Peter Thea (both Jive evps) and roster cuts made (American Idol season 9 winner Lee DeWyze was a casualty), all in an effort to significantly downsize the label. “We’ve learned to work with less and hopefully accomplish the same or more,” Corson adds. “But by definition, the business has shrunk – the staffing has shrunk, our rosters are smaller. But we’re still profitable.”
Under the Sony Music umbrella, now headed by Doug Morris, RCA was founded in 1929 and is the second-oldest label in the U.S. (behind fellow Sony property Columbia). Together, the labels have boosted their parent company’s market share to comfortably place it in the No. 2 spot, behind Universal Music, Morris’ former employer and Weiss’ current home, where he is Chairman & CEO of Island Def Jam and Universal Motown Republic Group.
Says RCA’s Edge of his label’s place in the greater Sony picture: “Doug is intent on making A&R the focus of RCA and the new focus of Sony Music. The big initiative here is to spend more money on artist development, making more records and making better records and less on all of the other stuff. I happen to agree with him.”
Update: A rep for Arista Nashville, whose roster includes Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley and Ronnie Dunn, tells THR the country label’s Sony Music Nashville operations “remain unchanged.”