Universal’s takeover of EMI ‘bad news for almost everyone’, say independent labels

Indie labels slam 'extreme corporate arrogance' and say Universal's dominance is dangerous

Independent record label bosses have claimed that Universal‘s proposed takeover of EMI is “bad news for almost everyone” in the music industry.

Earlier this week, it was announced that EMI had agreed a deal with Universal Music for the sale of its recorded music division for $1.9 billion (£1.2 billion), before they later revealed they’d also agreed to sell its publishing arm to Sony for $2.2 billion (£1. 4 billion).

There is thought to be no regulatory obstacle to Sony securing the deal, but Universal are likely to have to sell off £429 million worth of assets in order to satisfy competition laws.

In an interview with Music Week, Martin Mills – founder of record company Beggars Group, which houses independent labels including 4AD, Rough Trade, XL and Matador – said he was not in favour of Universal’s acquisition of EMI.

“This looks like breath-taking corporate arrogance,” he said. “It’s hard to imagine this acquisition being approved, given Universal’s existing dominance in an over-concentrated market.”

He then added:

Even greater dominance would be bad news for almost everyone involved in the art and business of music.

Meanwhile, global rights agency Merlin‘s CEO Charles Cadas, whose company has previously represented the likes of Domino and Ninja Tune, said it was “difficult to see this as anything other than a setback for the digital market”.

“Putting even more power in the hands of the company already most likely to try and shape services into what is most advantageous to itself doesn’t seem the likely path to that outcome,” he said.

“I sincerely hope the regulators will quickly realise the negative impact this sale will have on the market, and act accordingly.”

The deals to sell EMI mean that, for the first time since 1931, the UK will be without one of the major global record companies. Coldplay, 30 Seconds To Mars and Katy Perry are among the artists signed to the label and its subsidiaries.