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 12:11 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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