Sunday, 30 September, 2007 1:27 PM
Unique and Compelling: The Story
Behind the Lyric Street Phenomenom (CMA)
BY GLENN SWELTZER
Lyric Street Records Staff. (front)
Heather Conley, Marketing Director; Greg McCarn, VP Marketing; Kirk
Boyer, Senior Director, A&R; Cindy Heath, Publicity Director;
Renee Leymon, Senior Director, National Promotion; (back) Robin
Gordon, Senior Manager, A&R Administration; Paula Eden, Executive
Assistant; Dale Turner, VP, Promotion Administration; Kris Lamb,
Promotion Coordinator; Kevin Herring, VP, National Promotions; Tonya
Stroud, A&R Coordinator; Teresa Vinson, Senior Manager, Artist
and Label Relations; Randy Goodman, President; Ashley Heron, Senior
Manager, Marketing; Chris Palmer, Director, Regional Promotion/Northeast;
Doug Howard, Senior VP, A&R.
2007 CMA Close Up News Service
Lyric Street Records
makes no secret of a short but revealing phrase that has guided
it toward success over these past 10 years. Its essence lies in
these simple words: unique and compelling.
The words crop up a lot
in the conversations of Randy Goodman and Doug Howard, President
and Senior VP of A&R respectively of Lyric Street. The label's
20 employees take them everywhere they go - literally, on cards
tucked in their wallets and purses, in the unlikely event that anyone
might forget the company mandate.
But this is only part
of a larger formulation, the rest of which says just as much about
why Lyric Street has elevated one act after another - Sarah Buxton,
Bucky Covington, Josh Gracin, Marcel, Rascal Flatts, Lisa Shaffer,
SHeDAISY, Trent Tomlinson - toward stardom.
"We want to sign
artists who are unique and compelling, with unique and compelling
songs that we can deliver to critical mass at Country radio,"
Goodman emphasized. "My job isn't to come in with something
that's way too alternative and say, 'Country radio, you should be
playing this.' My job is to build careers, sell records and create
a sustaining base for Lyric Street Records."
Broken down, the Lyric
Street mantra balances the pragmatic and the ideal. The two seem
like oil and water: impossible to mix, at least until someone strikes
the right match. That's when they ignite together, in a blaze of
Platinum and Gold.
Since releasing its first
album in 1998, Lyric Street has released 26 albums and sold nearly
20 million units.
Lyric Street is not the
first Country subsidiary launched by a major parent company. But
it stands alone now in what was once a crowded field, its identity
enduring and intact. Talent and hard work have a lot to do with
it. Investment helps too, but that $10 million that Disney pumped
into opening Lyric Street a decade ago wasn't the first time a corporation
poured ample funding into a startup.
Two more unusual factors
play into this story, which began in a den at Goodman's home and
culminated in June at a festive anniversary celebration at the Country
Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The first traces back some 30 years,
to when Goodman and Howard began their friendship as students at
David Lipscomb University in Nashville.
"It was based from
the get-go on our love for music," said Howard. "But the
beauty of it is that we have different personalities and we would
go on to have different experiences before the opportunity was right
for us to begin our business relationship."
For Howard, those experiences
took him to Belmont University, from where his song-based perspective
led him to a position with Welk Music. As the publishing company
morphed into PolyGram Music, Howard rose to the position of GM even
as he returned to academics to earn a law degree from Vanderbilt
Goodman, meanwhile, emerged
from Lipscomb with a degree in political science and economics,
earned a music business degree at Belmont and then toured with a
rock band as road manager. After a year and a half he traded the
wanderer's life for a publicity gig at RCA Records, where he rose
rapidly in the New York and Nashville offices.
He was Senior VP and
GM in Nashville, working closely with RCA Label Group Nashville
Chairman Joe Galante, when Disney offered him the reins of Lyric
Street. Though he valued his 18-year run at RCA, Goodman took the
"How many times
in your career will the second largest media company in the world
ask you to start a company for them?" he explained. "When
I began to sit with that notion, I felt that if I didn't do it,
I would regret it for the rest of my life."
His first step was to
call Howard. Their achievements in the music business, on the record
and publishing sides, gave the operation balance right from the
start. And their personal ties invested the company's culture with
the tolerance for candor and team spirit that drives it to this
"We all wear as
many hats as we can," Goodman said. "I'll never forget,
when we were setting up SHeDAISY, we decided to send out these film
canisters with candy you could get at a movie theater. It was eight
o'clock at night, and Doug, Greg [McCarn, VP Marketing], Kevin [Herring,
VP National Promotion] and I worked at this long table until we
could get those canisters out. That's still the spirit at Lyric
Street. If a phone is ringing and somebody is walking by, they'll
stop and answer it. That's a blessing."
With very few staff changes,
aside from four positions added to the original 16, this stability
and familiarity goes further at explaining the company's high batting
average. But the picture isn't complete without that second and
"We got lucky too,"
Goodman admitted. "I can't stress that enough. But that wouldn't
have been enough without everything else. We try to be smart. We
work hard. We keep our overhead low by having a focused roster and
having everyone wear as many hats as they can. And in the end, with
all the right people onboard, I never looked back. I knew we were
going to make this happen."
On the Web: www.hollywoodrecords.go.com/lyricstreetrecords
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