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Blue Raincoat acquires Chrysalis Records, reuniting the label with founder Chris Wright

By | Published on Thursday 2 June 2016

L-R: Robin Millar, Jeremy Lascelles, Chris Wright, Robert Devereux

Chris Wright is back involved with Chrysalis Records, the record company he co-founded in 1968 and later sold to EMI in 1991. This development follows the acquisition of the original Chrysalis UK catalogue and the label brand by Blue Raincoat Music, the newish independent music firm set up by the former boss of the Chrysalis publishing business, Jeremy Lascelles, with the backing of Wright.

EMI originally acquired half of the Chrysalis record company in 1990, taking complete ownership the following year and then running the label as an imprint of the major well into the 2000s. Though the label brand had been pretty much phased out before the ‘dark times’ at EMI, which ultimately led to the British music major being split into two and sold to Universal (recordings) and Sony/ATV (songs).

Wright, meanwhile, continued to run the other Chrysalis businesses, most notably the Chrysalis music publishing company, which at one point dabbled in recordings itself via a label imprint called Echo. There were also TV and radio interests, the latter being sold off to the then fledgling Global Radio, now the biggest commercial radio outfit in the UK. The Chrysalis music publishing business was then acquired by BMG in 2010, with the German music rights firm adding the Chrysalis brand to its name in some territories for a few years after that.

As much previously reported, when Universal bought the EMI record company it was forced to sell off various assets in Europe to get regulator approval for the deal. The lion’s share of those assets, including much of the Chrysalis UK catalogue, went to Warner Music, which in turn pledged to sell or license chunks of the recordings it was acquiring to indies, in a bid to stop reps for the independent sector demanding competition regulators interfere with its involvement in the EMI sell-off.

That commitment is only just coming into effect – with Beggars recently taking over the Parlophone-era Radiohead catalogue – and this deal is also part of that process. Blue Raincoat will get a significant portion of the Chrysalis UK catalogue as part of the arrangement, including recordings by The Specials, Sinead O’Connor, The Waterboys, Ultravox and more. It also plans to sign new artists and release new records under the label brand.

The new Chrysalis record company – with Wright as Non-executive Chairman – will sit alongside the Blue Raincoat management and publishing businesses, BMG still technically having the rights to publish songs under the Chrysalis banner.

Confirming the deal, Lascelles said yesterday: “This is a wonderful moment. Chrysalis Records is for the first time in many years, back in the hands of an independent. And I’m doubly delighted that we have got Chris on board as well. For him to be reunited with a company that he started nearly 50 years ago is pretty special. Chrysalis is an iconic brand with an incredible catalogue containing some of the great songs of its era – the likes of ‘Ghost Town’, ‘Nothing Compares To U’, ‘The Whole Of The Moon’ and ‘Vienna’, still sound as relevant today as they ever did”.

Wright added: “For me this is an historic and emotional day as Chrysalis is back in the hands of myself and my partners at Blue Raincoat. We’ll run it as an independent, revitalising the catalogue for the digital age. We believe it can become a new home for many established artists to sit alongside the incredible acts we already have”.

And Lascelles’s co-founder at Blue Raincoat, Robin Millar, concluded by stating the mission of the all new Chrysalis Records, saying: “There are reasons why great artists sometimes get through and sometimes don’t. A great artist needs time, constant support and a strong team. That time and teamwork has been conspicuously absent in recent years. It’s no coincidence we don’t have enough artists that change the thinking of a generation today. We’re letting the air back into that room and re-igniting the genius that resides in the Chrysalis vaults which is a big part of that process”.