Indie labels cry foul as Universal’s bid to take over EMI approved; Parlophone and Mute to be sold off
Universal’s ongoing attempt to acquire EMI has been given the green light by the European Commission.
EMI’s ailing fortunes were exposed in 2007, when the company were revealed to have made a £260m loss over the year. Terra Firma Capital took ownership of the company the same year, by which time plenty of artists – Paul McCartney and Radiohead – had jumped ship. Citigroup subsequently bought EMI in 2010, and have been looking to hawk it ever since. Last November, Universal Music Group announced plans to buy the company, but the deal has been held in limbo pending approval from the European Commission.
As BBC News report, the Commission has now given formal approval to the £1.2bn takeover deal, although there are a number of caveats. The regulatory body has ruled that EMI must sell off Parlophone, which currently holds Pink Floyd, Kylie Minogue and Blur on its books. Mute – home to Can, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Carter Tutti Void – must also be flogged off, as must Chrysalis and the Classics label. Universal will also have to jettison its Sanctuary and Co-Op imprints. The Commission believe that the asset sales will keep Universal’s market dominance below the crucial 40% mark.
Universal claim that the new deal will give them ownership over the likes of Emeli Sande, Robbie Williams, Genesis, Katy Perry, Beach Boys and The Beatles (who, despite being part of Parlophone, were excepted from the sale). A spokesmen from the company suggested that the acquisition will “benefit the artistic community and music industry”, and claimed to have already fielded offers for the labels in question.
Others are less thrilled. Martin Mills, chair of the independent Beggars Group, claims that the move doesn’t augur well for small independent imprints: “It’s good to see that the Commission has seen this deal as such a threat to the market that it has demanded and received truly swingeing commitments to divestments. However, that should not conceal that fact that Universal’s arrogance has paid off for them, that they have destroyed a significant competitor, and that even with these divestments their ability to dominate and control the market has reached even more unacceptable levels. Anyone trying to start a new digital service will be realising that very soon, and we will continue to look to the regulators to monitor ongoing behaviour.”