Earlier this week EMI was taken over by US bank Citigroup. This reveals a disturbing truth about the wider industry, says former Creation boss Alan McGee
First things first: EMI is still a great British label. I mean, it owns the Beatles back catalogue! So why is it in the hands of a bank? It’s just economics. Guy Hands bought it in 2007, at the height of the market, when people were paying stupid prices for everything, not just labels.
Lily Allen: an EMI artist
The trouble is, now everyone has woken up to the reality, which is that illegal downloading is murdering the music business. Will EMI find a buyer? Bits of it will. Everyone wants a piece of its publishing catalogue, which is worth a lot – but these days no fucker wants to buy a record company.
I actually think Guy Hands didn’t do a bad job. He was just personally unfortunate. He came along at the wrong time. Shit happens. It was a time of affluence of abundance. Then the world economy turned upside down, Lehman Brothers went broke, and the world changed. The market crashed.
EMI’s problems should be a wake-up call. How did they get into this mess? It all comes back to the impact of illegal downloading. We have to change the legislation in this country and come down much harder on piracy. Otherwise guys in little bands starting out now are never going to be the next Rolling Stones. When you download an album illegally, it’s not the record company guys that get fucked – those people are still on massive salaries – it’s 19-year-old kids, it’s guys in bands making £100 a gig.
When I came along in the 80s and 90s, I was lucky to be in a market where people bought music. Now If I wanted an album, I could just go on some torrent site and download it. You’ve got to give bands a chance, let them develop. In the 80s, bands started dodgy, then they got good. The bands I worked with – Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, even Oasis – it took them a few years to go from being OK to being good. These days bands don’t get the chance, they just get dropped.
There’s only one independent label, post-Creation, that’s really been phenomenal, and that’s Domino. Laurence (Bell, owner) is a genius. He’s touched with gold dust. Whether it sells or not, he’s got the magic touch. As for me, if I ran EMI, I’d get legislation changed and make a profit by stopping piracy. I’d hire A&R people on the street who actually know their fucking music. Then again, it’s easy for me to say that because I’m a bald man living in Wales reading Aleister Crowley. What the fuck do I know?