and A&M too….plththththt

Is this the begin­ning of the endgame? Not real­ly, it’s more like the rais­ing of the cur­tain on the last act of the endgame. At least that’s the way it feels to me. Whilst it’s not over yet, and Warn­ers are expect­ed not to roll over, pri­vate equi­ties’ impend­ing pur­chase of EMI sig­nals a fun­da­men­tal, prob­a­bly ter­mi­nal change of course for one of the biggest record labels (and the old­est, with its roots going back to Emile Berlin­er, the grand­dad­dy of the music indus­try, in the late 19th Cen­tu­ry)

In the same way Poly­Gram bought Island, Motown and A&M for their cat­a­logues pri­mar­i­ly (although they got U2 as a bonus with Island), and Uni­ver­sal then bought Poly­Gram for it’s cat­a­logue (and the bonus of using the fam­i­ly jew­els to turn young Bronfman’s lame play­thing, MCA, into a real record com­pa­ny), the EMI pur­chase sale is just about that. And lit­tle more.

You have to feel for any artist tied into EMI now, those bro­kers and mon­ey men don’t want to be in the risky busi­ness of devel­op­ing artists, pro­vid­ing tour sup­port, mak­ing gross­ly over­priced videos that nobody watch­es but artis­tic egos and pushy man­agers insist on; or for that mat­ter deal­ing with those bloat­ed egos on a day to day basis.

All this in a mar­ket that has col­lapsed some 20% in the past year.

Nope, these guys want that large­ly pas­sive income…that glow­ing cat­a­logue of mas­ters and songs, those lit­tle cash cows, and noth­ing else. Any­thing apart from that that requires any effort will be turned into quick cash by the new owners…perhaps with a sale to Warn­ers, who’s Edgar Bronf­man, still may want the odd thing, or con­tract as some sort of com­pen­sa­tion, assum­ing of course his share­hold­ers are will­ing to let him. But even Warn­ers feels like its wind­ing back its oper­a­tion to lit­tle more than cat­a­logue exploita­tion, with some 400 lay­offs across the com­pa­ny (none of which seem to be at the senior exec­u­tive lev­el), and any desire to buy EMI was about that risk free cash­flow.

It all comes at a per­fect time for both EMI, and any poten­tial pur­chas­er, as Cold­play aside, they have vir­tu­al­ly no signed acts of any con­se­quence to the mar­ket place. Sure there is Norah, but her sec­ond album large­ly died, and there are lots of inter­est­ing bits and pieces, but most are licensed, rather than signed. When, as a label, your biggest assets are a cou­ple of groups you signed decades ago, it’s time to fold.

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