Some serious news on this leap-year day. In the Music Biz, how big is too big? How big should be deemed too big? The M&A mania that started in the 1980s did not leave record labels untouched and today’s ‘labels’ are actually the Frankenstein’s monsters put together from numerous M&As. Now, three Frankenstein’s monsters are wanting to combine to make two super-monsters – but not if IMPALA, an European trade body, gets its way.
Sony plans to acquire EMI’s music publishing business and Universal wants to get its hands on a prestige trophy, the blue chip EMI recording label itself. For Heavens Sake! La Scala and the finest opera houses, singers, orchestras, and conductors have been on EMI for literally over a century. To me, this deal is akin to McDonald’s buying out Maxim’s or La Tour d’Argent in Paris. Or Coca Cola buying Moet & Chandon (yes, I know it could happen).
Unlike me IMPALA does not care about the upstairs-downstairs marriage; their position is that the two super-monsters that would result would be too big and would suffocate the competition. Yesterday they filed objections with European regulatory bodies citing various grounds including concentration of power and potential price fixing.
Hooray for IMPALA! but what do you think? Aren’t Sony Music, Universal Music, and EMI big enough as they are? Time was when RCA, Columbia, Decca, and Capitol were America’s four major record labels. Now each is merely a piece of a Frankenstein’s monster that is one or another entertainment-cum-publishing conglomerate that cares two hoots about music. As for labels like Atlantic, Sun, Dot, Mercury, Verve and so on which enriched the American music scene in its most vibrant days, farewell forever – in today’s America everything music marches in lockstep, and talent is relatively homogenized. How will indy labels and music thrive?
Teddy Roosevelt, where are you?! Come back, you King of the Trust-Busters! And please ‘trust-bust’ this entertainment-cum-publishing industry racket before we’re left with ‘One World Music Label’.
Richness in Diversity!