Chrysalis Records has today (February 26) announced that it is to be re-launched as a frontline label. It will mark the first time it has released new music in over two decades.
To jump-start the launch, Chrysalis has confirmed details of its first big move: a partnership with independent label Partisan Records to co-sign British singer/songwriter Laura Marling for a fully co-branded global release.
Marling will release the follow-up to 2017’s Semper Femina later this year.
An official press release stated that further signings to Chrysalis will be revealed in the coming months.
In 2017, Chrysalis acquired a series of artist catalogues from Warner Music as the label built its roster. The change of ownership of Chrysalis was one of the big deals to emerge from the Parlophone Label Group divestment process in an acquisition led by Blue Raincoat Music’s CEO Jeremy Lascelles and Robin Millar in June 2016.
Partisan is currently home to acts including Cigarettes After Sex, Idles, Fontaines D.C., John Grant, the catalogue of Fela Kuti, and more.
Below, Chrysalis CEO Jeremy Lascelles and Partisan MD Zena White tell us more about what we can expect from this new strategic partnership.
What's behind the decision to relaunch Chrysalis as a frontline label after 20 years?
JL: “When we (Blue Raincoat Music) bought Chrysalis Records in 2016, the catalogue had been somewhat neglected over the years and was in need of some serious house keeping. Over the past three and a bit years we have knocked it into pretty good shape and it is currently flying as a catalogue business. Both Robin Millar and my hearts' are in record making (me as an former A&R person, Robin as record producer), but we resisted the temptation to make and release new music until we felt we could do it well and do it properly. That time is now.”
So why partner with Partisan? Do you share values with the label?
JL: “Blue Raincoat Artists manages Cigarettes After Sex, who are signed to Partisan. We have worked very closely over two Cigarettes albums and had a lot of success together. So, the two companies know each other well. Additionally, we are friends and neighbours. In London we share office space, separated by an unlocked glass door, so we are in and out of each other’s space all the time. In New York, Ed Harris (Cigarettes’ manager) works out of Partisan’s office, so there is a physical as well as a strategic closeness. When I was thinking about the overall set up we would need with the re-born Chrysalis label, I figured I needed as good a marketing set up as Partisan had, so I rang Tim and Zena in New York and started floating ideas about how we might work together. The conversations were in mid flow, when we both realised that we were independently trying to sign the same artist - the wonderful Laura Marling - so it became a no-brainer for us to say, ‘Let’s do this one together.’ Fortunately Ric Salmon and Brian Message, Laura’s managers, were equally excited about the prospect of this partnership, so that’s how this all ended up.”
Partisan and Chrysalis share the fighting spirit of the underdog
Zena White, Partisan
From Partisan’s side, why are you excited about the partnership?
ZW: “There are a lot of synergies, firstly in the spirit of Chrysalis: Chris Wright and Terry Ellis started it in the 60s and stayed independent for 20 years. They’re known for their curation of singular voices and their fearlessness of doing things that others said can’t be done, and learning on the job. It's very inspiring and in some ways we hope to reflect some of the same at Partisan... We share that fighting spirit of the underdog. The Chrysalis brand never eclipsed the artists on it and yet it became so strong on both sides of the Atlantic. It's such a huge honour for Partisan to play a part in their relaunch as a frontline independent. When the opportunity arose, it made sense to us to collaborate on Laura as we have a track record, having worked together for a few years on Cigarettes After Sex creating success by putting the artist's vision first and not taking no for an answer. Jeremy and Robin's accomplishments across both of their careers could be intimidating, but despite their decades of experience they both want to rip up the rule book and keep innovating. I sometimes find we’re the most conservative voice in the room! It's fun and it feels great to be working together again.”
Can you describe the mechanics of how the Laura Marling/Partisan partnership is going to work?
JL: “We are set up to do this absolutely as a co-label venture. Everything is co-branded and we will utilise the strength of both companies to the full. Partisan’s presence in the US is a hugely important factor, and we both think internationally and share the same view of the importance of the global market. The Laura campaign is super-exciting for both of us, and I think we have come up with a plan that will keep Laura and her music very visible over the next 12-18 months. It helps of course that she has made a sublimely brilliant album – arguably the best in her already illustrious career.”
We resisted the temptation to make and release new music until we felt we could do it well and do it properly. That time is now
Jeremy Lascelles, Chrysalis
And what does a deal like this say about Partisan's approach? Coming after Cigarettes After Sex, it feels like another lively collaboration...
ZW: “It's natural for independent record companies to foster community to gain strength in numbers. However our collaboration with Chrysalis is both reverential and subversive... Those two qualities don't have to be mutually exclusive and both are extremely important to Partisan in how we approach working with our artists, reaching their fans, building our partnered relationships. Respecting and appreciating what's been built can coincide with creating something fresh and new. Laura is the perfect artist for us to work on together because she encapsulates both qualities in her art, especially at this juncture. We are taking the experience and knowledge of both companies and combining it with one of the most celebrated female talents in recent British history who is herself entering a new period of her own artistry. The goal is to reach as many people as we can all together. Sure, this is the first partnership we have made with another record label, but that essence of teamwork is the way we prefer to work across the board because somehow we always get further.”
What can you tell us about the new Laura Marling record?
ZW: “Laura’s new album will be her seventh and she only just turned 30! She’s genuinely experienced and accomplished as an artist, songwriter and performer, yet she is still so young. Thus, she's in a very unique position as an elder statesman for a new generation. Her new music is absolutely gorgeous. To me, she is simultaneously worldly and personal, more mature. She has made a classic, timeless record.”
Finally, how do you want Chrysalis to impact the music business going forward?
JL: “We (as in Chrysalis on our own) have other signings lined up, which we will reveal in the near future. Our view is simply to find and work with great artists of varying musical styles and back stories, to help them make great records, and to find smart, innovative and collaborative ways of making sure they reach as wide an audience as they deserve. And I guess that having another strong player in the independent music sector cannot be a bad thing.”