DreamWorks Nashville Merges With Mercury and MCA

Universal Music Group Implements Downsizing After Purchase of DreamWorks' Record Division

DreamWorks Nashville, label home to Toby Keith, is merging with Mercury and MCA Nashville as part of downsizing within the Universal Music Group, company officials announced Friday (May 7). UMG Nashville will now encompass those three labels, in addition to Lost Highway Records.

DreamWorks Records began in 1996 as part of a company founded by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen. After UMG purchased DreamWorks SKG’s record division for an estimated $100 million in October 2003, DreamWorks Nashville remained as a stand-alone label whose roster includes Keith, Darryl Worley, Emerson Drive and Jessica Andrews. DreamWorks SKG continues to be active in film and television projects.

Under the corporate restructuring, UMG Nashville chairman and CEO Luke Lewis and DreamWorks Nashville president James Stroud will serve as co-chairmen of Mercury, MCA and DreamWorks. Lewis will also continue to run UMG’s alt.country imprint, Lost Highway, which is not affected by the merger.

Already empowered by Shania Twain’s success at Mercury, Lewis gained control of MCA’s country operations in 2002 following the departure of longtime MCA Nashville chairman Bruce Hinton.

Ironically, Keith’s career was in a slump when his contract with Mercury ended following the 1998 compilation, Greatest Hits, Volume I, and he has openly criticized the way his music was handled at the label. After moving to DreamWorks in 1999, he began ascending to superstardom with the album How Do You Like Me Now?! Stroud has co-produced all four of Keith’s DreamWorks albums.

The latest merger resulted in the elimination of at least five jobs. Restructuring is underway throughout UMG Nashville, including its radio promotion, publicity and A&R departments.

“While this merger will open up many more opportunities for our artists and executives, downsizing is simply the toughest thing to do in a business for all concerned,” Stroud said. “We have made a difficult but focused decision that will significantly strengthen our company and allow us to pursue many new initiatives.”

Lewis noted, “Many talented executives were affected by this merger, and their contributions over the years have not gone unnoticed. At the same time, this company is poised for great success with an abundance of creative and innovative talent, and I am truly excited by the numerous opportunities this new structure affords our company and artists.”

MCA’s roster includes George Strait, Reba McEntire, Vince Gill, Lee Ann Womack, Trisha Yearwood, Gary Allan and Josh Turner. The Mercury artist list includes Shania Twain, Terri Clark, Julie Roberts, Billy Currington and James Otto.

Calvin Gilbert has served as CMT.com’s managing editor since 2002. His background includes stints at the Nashville Banner, Radio & Records and Westwood One.