A dismal, sluggish economy was central to every part of American life in 2010, and it certainly had an effect on Music Row. Nowhere was it more obvious than when Disney shut down the Lyric Street Records office in April, creating turmoil in the lives of several artists, including Rascal Flatts.
The Lyric Street closing and all that it represented is the No. 12 story among country music’s one dozen most important stories of the year.
Originally, Rascal Flatts was expected to continue recording for another Disney-associated label. But million-selling acts have never been an everyday occurrence — even when the record industry was at its financial peak — and no sooner did the Lyric Street news come out than Big Machine Records came calling. Ultimately, Big Machine was able to swing a deal, and the group delivered its next album, Nothing Like This, to the same company that represents Taylor Swift, Justin Moore and Reba McEntire. If you weren’t paying attention, you might not have realized anything was different. The first single, “Why Wait,” stormed to No. 1 on the country singles charts and the album debuted at the top of the Billboard country albums list.
The other Lyric Street acts haven’t quite fared so well, though it appears they haven’t given up. Texas artist Kevin Fowler got his music back and put out a greatest-hits album called Best Of So Far. Bucky Covington continued making live appearances and already has some concert dates on the schedule for 2011. And Tyler Dickerson, who turned 17 in November, continued to work as an opening act for Brooks & Dunn’s Last Rodeo Tour.
“Labels closing and artists losing their record deal — that happens all the time,” Tyler shrugs, though the shutdown wasn’t quite so easy to swallow when it first happened.
“The first couple of days were hard,” he recalls. “I mean, 16 years old, this is what you worked for your whole life and in 30 seconds it’s gone.”
The label was a fairly small, tight-knit company, and delivering the news was not a pleasant task for division president Randy Goodman, who not only had to tell the artists they were out of a recording deal but also had to inform a whole crew of employees that they were out of jobs. Randy was out of work, too.
“He called me as soon as it happened and reassured me that everything was gonna be fine with me and he was gonna help me as much as he could,” Tyler notes.
Still, no Lyric Street artist went through more than Love And Theft. The group’s first single was released on the company’s sister label, Carolwood, though that label was closed in late 2009 and the the band was shifted to Lyric Street. Less than six months later, they discovered they were without a place to put out any new music.
Two members of the band, Eric Gunderson and Brian Bandas, got married. Meanwhile, Love And Theft regrouped and stayed as positive about the group’s future as possible.
“For us right now the focus is on putting together a batch of fresh music that we wanna present to people and go from there and find out who really wants to be on board with that and who is gonna be the best fit for our new home,” they said as recently as October. “We’re trying to write, make music and see what comes out of that.”
Since then, they’ve undergone more changes. Brian has decided to leave, and he makes his last appearance as a band member on New Year’s Eve in Chesapeake, Va. As a result, Love And Theft shrinks from a trio to a duo, which may not be the worst thing that could happen. It didn’t seem to be a problem for Sugarland.
Hopefully, Love And Theft, their former labelmates and the American economy in general can all rebound as well as Rascal Flatts did.