Unlimited edition / with an unlimited supply

A few quick thoughts on EMI/UMG (the Sony part is a done deal so I’ll leave that).

  • I’m extra­or­di­nar­i­ly doubt­ful whether the EU will let this pro­ceed. The US yes — they’ve long since walked from the sort of monop­oly pro­tec­tion that saw things like AT&T bro­ken up under the The Sher­man Act or the more recent Clay­ton Act. The bank­ing sys­tem, Microsoft and iTunes are evi­dence of that. No gov­ern­ment in the US want to get involved in soci­ety-friend­ly lev­el­ling of the play­ing field at the risk of upset­ting lob­bies and the courts have raised the bur­den of the plain­tiff accord­ing­ly. Those days are gone.
  • Europe is anoth­er beast. They’ve blocked record indus­try merg­ers in the past, notably Poly­Gram-Warn­ers and EMI-Warn­ers, nei­ther of which were as indus­try chang­ing as this. They made Sony and BMG jump through sub­stan­tial hoops and it almost did­n’t hap­pen — and that was to cre­ate 4 majors, this cre­ates 3.
  • IMPALA, who rep­re­sent the indies and who are firm­ly opposed to this, are waayyy more pow­er­ful than they were then, with some 30% of the mar­ket, up from 18% or so when that Sony/BMG merg­er took place. They have mas­sive mus­cle in Europe and this will be a bat­tle.
  • That said that change in per­cent­ages arguably means that indie group­ing now in an odd way con­sti­tutes a anoth­er major-label type bloc. It may work against their argu­ment of unfair monop­oly.
  • It could also be argued too  — and is like­ly to be — that this is artist unfriend­ly. A sin­gle mono­lith­ic com­pa­ny sim­ply does­n’t have the resources and time to ded­i­cate to the vast num­bers of artists they’ve found them­selves with. This merg­er real­ly only suits super­star and pri­or­i­ty acts — any­one else sim­ply gets lost in the noise and morass. This is even more so as you leave the major ter­ri­to­ries and look at the count­less small oper­at­ing com­pa­nies around the world who sim­ply don’t have the peo­ple, time or resources to work what they are offered already. Frankly, unless you were one of said super­star acts you would absolute­ly nuts to sign to UMG. You sim­ply will nev­er mat­ter enough.
  • For that rea­son this is arguably anoth­er nail in the major label cof­fin as the inno­va­tion and edge that the indus­try needs to sur­vive will increas­ing­ly flow from the indies and the indies will have the mus­cle to keep the acts.
  • It’s a neg­a­tive for back cat­a­logue. Expect more of the vast cat­a­logue owned by the group to lan­guish unheard. Once again there sim­ply isn’t the time or resources there to ensure it gets the space it needs. The EU Use It or Lose It copy­right pro­vi­sions may have teeth here.
  • This could take months or a year to con­clude either way.
  • I won­der how long it will be before Apple Corps Ltd and The Bea­t­les sue to stop this — they sue EMI all the time and this is a prime oppor­tu­ni­ty. Their cat­a­logue is the EMI crown and the vinyl remas­ters are due with­in 12 months.
  • There will be blood­let­ting at Warn­ers.
  • There is an irony in the fact that The Gramo­phone Com­pa­ny (=EMI) is per­haps going to be absorbed by its for­mer Ger­man sub­sidiary (the core of UMG is the com­pa­ny that grew out of PolyGram=Deutsch Gramo­phone who were set up by The Gramo­phone Com­pa­ny pre-WW1)

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Well they tied it up in a plas­tic bag / and turned it upside down ma — The Opin­ion­at­ed Din­er
November 22, 2011 at 12:07 am

[…] my quick, very much off the cuff, thoughts about this a week or two back, there was one thing that I found more dis­turb­ing than any­thing else, even though I didn’t […]

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