In an emotional meeting with his staff, Virgin Nashville President Scott Hendricks announced Wednesday morning (Jan. 24) that the EMI-owned label will close, a source in the company has confirmed. Hendricks opened the Nashville office in August 1998 following his departure from EMI-owned Capitol Nashville, a move prompted by a highly publicized power struggle with Garth Brooks.
The move will send Virgin artists Chris Cagle, Clay Davidson, River Road, Tom Mabe and Roy D. Mercer to Capitol Nashville. Hendricks will leave the company, but EMI will try to place Virgin’s staffers with its other Nashville-based labels including Capitol and Christian imprints Sparrow Label Group, Forefront Records and EMI Gospel.
News of Virgin’s shuttering came “out of the blue” for most of the Virgin staff. A source called the move “a bottom line decision” prompted by the fact that country’s recent downturn has made it impractical for EMI to maintain two separate country labels in Nashville.
A producer, whose credits include albums by Faith Hill, Brooks & Dunn and Alan Jackson among others, Hendricks has made successful A&R decisions at both Capitol and Virgin. Of eight artists registering in Billboard’s country Top 15 for the first time in 2000, three — Cagle, Davidson and Capitol’s Keith Urban — were signed originally by Hendricks.
Chart position did not translate into sales, however. Cagle’s debut album, Play it Loud, has sold 32,000 copies, according to figures provided by SoundScan, and his hit single, “My Love Goes On and On,” has sold 23,000 copies. The title cut of Davidson’s debut album, Unconditional, which went to No. 3 on the Billboard country singles chart, sold 60,000 copies. The album sold 85,000 copies.