Hayes Carll Leaving Lost Highway After Declining Option

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Photo by Marc Brubaker
Hayes Carll at BestFest, September 25
As if we haven't heard enough news about what trouble the major labels are having and the changing business model for labels and artists, Rocks Off learned over the weekend that Hayes Carll is leaving Universal Americana imprint Lost Highway.

According to Carll's longtime manager, Mike Crowley, label head Luke Lewis called to let Carll and Crowley know that it was time for the label to exercise its option to keep Carll and asked the pair if Carll wanted to stay with the label or go. Carll opted to leave.

And, according to Crowley, Ryan Bingham, who had so much success with the movie Crazy Heart, is also not renewing with Lost Highway.

"Lost Highway has been super for us," says Crowley, "but it's gotten to the point where there's no place left for them to throw money toward selling records. And the bottom line for most artists is that no one is selling many records."

Or as Robbie Fulks once told us, "I can not sell my records just as well as someone else can not sell them."

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Carll is nominated for artist of the year at next month's Americana Music Association convention, behind his latest effort for Lost Highway, KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories).

Crowley explained that with more and more downloading rather than sales of physical units, "we can probably do that for ourselves as well as any label could do it for us, and we keep more money doing it ourselves."

Crowley, who also manages Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis, stresses that it is not an issue with Lost Highway.

"Luke Lewis has been a fantastic supporter of Hayes Carll," says Crowley. "He and his team have been great to us and have done everything they ever said they would to get Hayes out there. I hate it that we aren't going to be doing business with Luke anymore."

"Being part of Universal Music, we've watched as the corporation has tightened the reins on Lost Highway," says Crowley.

"The requirements that Universal imposes just make less and less sense for artists like Hayes and Ryan, who are never going to be something that can be marketed like Lady Gaga."


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