time to change the way we view music and the arts

Universal Good Luck

Yesterday was Veterans Day; a day meant to honor the men and women of the United States armed forces of the past, present and those incoming for the future. A serious day of recognition indeed.

Yesterday was also recognized, on a much lighter note, as the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year into this millennium.
Though I’m sure not everyone who got married yesterday, had a child or just made a wish is of New Age or Numerological beliefs, the sheer amount of online chatter about the date and people’s impending desire to wish for good luck or anything else of personal desire, might make you think a huge portion of the world hard converted their thinking. Unfortunately for the people behind EMI, yesterday was the capstone on something that hardly constitutes good fortune on their behalf.

11-11-2011 saw the UK label at the end of the long, drawn out battle over its ownership.

American based label, Universal Music Group and multiple “investors led by [the] Sony [Corporation],” as stated HERE by Forbes, have taken possession of EMI’s music and publishing divisions respectively and have ended what was a powerfully led, British business entity without further questions hanging in the balance, barring the last hurrah of antitrust evaluations, the European Commission and smaller but aggressive indie lobbying to break up the corporate amalgamation. You’ll see below, the pending market share value if this survives. (If you want to read the full statement issued by Sony about their portion of the shift, click HERE.)

The deal has amounted to a sale of £1.2 bn. ($1.9 bn.) for Universal and $2.2 bn (roughly £1.5bn)

Despite the craziness this whole debacle has brought about for the music major, it’s sadder, I think, to see the other companies’ true colors about the whole ordeal. This article by the guardian.co.uk mentions the following sentiment by EMI’s board chair and Citigroup’s vice chair, Stephen Volk:

“The deal “accomplishes Citi[group]’s objective of maximising the value of EMI.”

A second article by the guardian on the EMI saga expands on the publication’s opinion that “Citigroup just wanted shot of it to the quickest and highest bidder, with no real care for the legacy EMI – with one of the truly great music catalogues in the world – represents.” While on paper and within earshot, there is some superficial comfort to be had in EMI going back into the hands of music oriented groups rather than a finance and bank oriented assembly like Citigroup or the private equity group Terra Firma, (despite the fact that Terra Firma had at least voiced intention of nurturing EMI rather than just owning a trophy,) the mathematical and marketing repercussions of this shift could very likely be the catalyst for yet another seemingly irreversible change in the music industry. Universal Music Group will gain from the deal, a “a global market share of over 40%” (cit. [1]) and one has to wonder where the red tape and regulatory gavel is at this particular moment. UMG is well aware that discussions via regulatory investigations are going to come and probably take “up to a year.” (cit. [2]) and that they will try to clear the high bar set by “selling off €500m (£429m) of “non-core” assets such as small catalogues and stakes in minority ventures.” (cit. Ibid. [2])

For news observers such as myself, EMI active musicians (as well as those who only recently jumped ship to Universal) and the still energetic presence of the indie players all over the world, after all the “t’s” are crossed at the “i’s” are dotted, there appear to be two crucial mindsets that remain and need to be endured while those in charge go through the motions and we see how things play out:

1) The industry grieves the loss of what was a staple and shining model of financial, artistic and cultural strength for the music business

2) Money and contracts and Fortune 500 names aside, we hope that for the sake of artistic integrity that Universal’s claims of being “committed to both preserving EMI’s cultural heritage and artistic diversity.” (cit. Ibid. [2]} isn’t just for show and that it will truly be the bright, hope instilling final move that some like Mick Jagger are embracing it as.

Jagger himself is saying he is, “particularly welcom[ing] the fact that EMI will once again be owned by people who really do have music in their blood.”

If these wishes of good faith don’t stick to Lucian Grainge’s (CEO of UMG) promise of preservation, not only would it be disheartening on the front of Britain’s musical legacy, but the musicians caught up in this abundance of fire would be attempting to make music and connect with their fans amidst a pit of debris and mud that will only get repeatedly slung back and forth if too much focus stays on the holder of the content and not the content itself. Yes, artists deserve to be compensated properly and protected properly for what they provide to the world. However, if Jagger wants to pick up a guitar and writes a good song sitting in the back of his trailer and records a rough mix on CD when no one is watching, a song is a song and regardless of what label team these people play for, once again it all comes back to the material, so we can’t let the structure that holds all that stuff collapse and bury it.

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