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CHRIS WRIGHT TALKS CHRYSALIS
AND MORE

Chrysalis Records co-founder Chris Wright, who recently found himself back at the helm of his legendary British label after helping to buy it back from Warner Music Group, has given an insightful interview into his illustrious nearly 50-year career.

Speaking to [PIAS] owner Kenny Gates, Wright discussed his beginnings in the independent music business in 1967, and being mentored by Mo Ostin and Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant.

In 1967, with partner Terry Ellis, he founded the Ellis-Wright music agency, which they renamed Chrysalis a year later. Along with launching the careers of Jethro Tull, Blondie, Billy Idol, Huey Lewis, Sinead O’Connor and Spandau Ballet, Chrysalis was where execs including Daniel Glass, Simon Fuller, Jeff Aldrich, Ron Fair, Peter Edge and Guy Moot started their careers.

But in 1987, Chrysalis started running out of money and had to sell up to EMI, with Wright’s publishing business later going to BMG. “That was very tough,” he remembers. He chose BMG because of their due diligence at “getting the deal done. When you get to the altar, they have the ring. It may not be the brightest ring in the jewellery shop, but it’s in the pocket—ready to go on your finger.”

Today he has no relationship with BMG, but describes Thomas Rabe, CEO of BMG parent Bertelsmann, as “probably the most impressive executive I’ve ever worked with.”

The plan for Chrysalis reborn is “to run it as an independent, revitalising the catalogue for the digital age.” Said Wright: “When I sold the first half of the Chrysalis label to EMI, I fought very hard to put a clause in the contract that every single artist on the Chrysalis label had to stay on the Chrysalis label; it could not be decimated. That’s why we sold to EMI—because they agreed.

“That clause is still in the contact and still fully enforceable, and the Chrysalis label should never have been fractured like it has been” since UMG bought EMI Music and then sold Parlophone assets to WMG in Europe—so UMG still owns the Chrysalis U.S. recordings.

Go here for a history of the independent music business in Blighty, and a very entertaining interview with one of its most beloved execs. 

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