Top Musicians Threaten Strike Over EMI Sale To UMG
With all the reporting and coverage of the completed $1.9
billion acquisition of EMI by Universal Music Group, one very important voice
has been (unsurprisingly) left out of the conversation entirely: the artists
themselves. Some of the world’s greatest musicians are now considering withholding
any new albums as an act of protest, unhappy they are being treated as
"assets" in the forced sale of their label. Leading the revolt is
English alternative rock band Blur against
the sell-off of Parlophone (part of EMI), a label that has been the instrumental
for artists like The Beatles and Coldplay.
As part of the EMI takeover deal, Universal Music has been
ordered to sell off Parlophone, which includes artists earning "steady
revenues" like Pink Floyd, Tina Turner, David Bowie, Duran Duran, and
more. As part of the deal, however, Universal got to keep The Beatles
catalogue, as well as Katy Perry, Robbie Williams and The Beach Boys.
Many of the label’s artists are unhappy being viewed merely
as “assets” or “pawns” in a game that is set to be in the best interest for the
powers that be. To protest this move, the rockers of Blur have joined forces
with a number of Parlophone label-mates to collectively lobby potential bidders
for the company and calling on them to place the interests of artists first, as
reported by The Independent. If the musicians don’t find the new Parlophone owners
to their liking, they could withhold all future releases and effectively go on
"Artists are the only people currently being left out
of the conversation, which is unfortunate,” said Blur drummer Dave Rowntree to The
Independent. “If the staff at the label are unhappy with the new arrangements
they are free to leave, but the artists are not."
Rowntree is said to be backing negotiations through the
Featured Artists Coalition (FAC), a pop stars "trade union" supported
by Lily Allen and Radiohead.
“The FAC was formed by musicians who were fed up with the
industry taking decisions without considering the impact it would have on those
who actually make the music," he said.
Chief executive of the Music Managers Forum Jon Webster says
that they are holding discussions with potential bidders to ensure
that they “understand that the future of the record business is about genuine
partnership with artists”. The potential future Parlophone owners are said to include Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and BMG Rights Management.
"Artists have withheld releases to get better terms if
they are powerful enough,” he added. “They can sit down with the new owners and
get a solution. It's the smaller acts that suffer most because they have no
The future of Parlophone is said to be a concern by many artists
on the roster and industry personnel alike. This includes legendary producer Sir
George Martin, who became Parlophone’s manager back in 1955 and perhaps more
famously gave The Beatles their big break in 1962.