The EMI fiasco – what it means for you

The EMI fiasco – what it means for you


norman lebrecht

November 11, 2011

The day the bank foreclosed on EMI’s hedge-fund owner, a source at Universal told me ‘we’ll carve it up between us and Sony.’

Which is exactly what happened.

Outside bidders were discouraged from the outset by Citigroup’s $4 billion price tag and Warner Music, despite its Len Blavatnik billions, lacked the bluff and experience to play ball with the big boys. They walked away from the table last week, around the same time as Universal did. But Universal were just bluffing. In their mind, the outcome was never in doubt.

So what does that leave?

Just two majors left in the music industry – Universal and Sony – with Warners, Bertlesmann and anyone else rubbing their noses on the windownpane from the outside.

And what does that mean for you and me, the consumers?

A source at Universal tells me that they will to continue treat EMI as a competitor until the deal is cleared by the monopolies authorities. After that, it’s crunch down and merger. EMI, 120 years of music history, will disappear.

The EMI brand, which had a certain distinctive value, will vanish into a corporate maw.  The music we get from Universal and Sony will become safer and more homogenous. Given that the two have cooperated in this deal, they will find new ways to work the market to their advantage, not ours. EMI had been badly run for decades but its disappearance is a loss for all who care for independent music voices.



  • Petros Linardos says:

    The major labels have been undermining their own brand value with substandard recordings for at least two to
    three decades. There may be overall fewer recordings, with the market share of major labels steadily shrinking, but don’t we still get plenty of good or excellent ones, from all kids of labels?

    Even Norman’s always interesting CD’s of the week column recently awarded five stars to two releases from, well, Universal – Chailly’s Beethoven Symphonies and Aimard’s Liszt Project.

    The appearance of artists on major labels can boost their careers. But how fair can that be? Wasn’t Nelson Freire a great pianist long before he started making recordings for Decca from his late 50s on?

    Norman, here are two highly subjective questions:
    – How do you see the proportion of “worthwhile” recordings in our days, compared to the 90’s, 80’s or 70s?
    – What do we gain and loose by seeing major labels vanish or loose their authority?