Reports of the
venerable archival label’s immediate demise seem somewhat exaggerated, but
there have been massive layoffs.
By Fred Mills
Bloggers and music forums erupted late yesterday with rumors
of the shuttering of Rhino Records. One sample posting:
“I have it on good
authority that Rhino as we know it does not exist anymore as of 5:00 PM PST.
Fifty or more employees have been eliminated suddenly, including almost all the
marketing, editorial and art departments. This is absolutely devastating news.
I am shocked and saddened, as I’m sure you all are, too. Any music lover will
feel this way. I feel so badly for the people who have so lovingly curated
music history, presenting us with exceptional releases over the years.”
While the sentiments are absolutely right on – I’ve had
nothing but the utmost respect for Rhino and Rhino Handmade over the years, and
feel privileged to have reviewed many of their titles, including some of the
most elaborately designed box sets (collector catnip at that) on the planet – the
specifics seems a bit premature.
Variety indicates that yesterday
afternoon Warner Music Group laid off “between 30 and 40 staffers” with cuts
made across-the-board “in all departments, including A&R, marketing,
promotion and publicity.” The magazine quoted from a statement issued by Rhino
that “cited a ‘fundamental transformation of the physical new release and
catalog business” as a reason for the cuts. Rhino will evolve into an
entity that ‘handles WMG’s global digital catalog initiatives, film, TV,
vidgame and commercial licensing, and name and likeness representation for
Variety added that Rhino’s core
market for “high ticket items” such as boxed sets, had declined steeply
alongside the general decline of physical product in general.
So clearly, change is afoot at Rhino. Does this mean those fantastic boxes
and in-depth retrospectives are a thing of the past? It’s too early to say, and
judging by the vague wording of the Rhino statement, it appears the label is
entering a transitional phase that we can only sit back for and see what
All that aside: just recently Rhino issued massive, comprehensive boxes on
Big Star and Los Angeles Nuggets (both reviewed in the new, Winter 2009, issue of BLURT, by the way) – but if
the label is to go the way of the dinosaurs, let it be in such fine style as
Rhino Records, I salute ya.