A week after the Grammy Awards celebrations, the music industry is hunkering down for what could be an intense yearlong fight over corporate consolidation.
The ownership landscape of the major music companies has shifted significantly in the last year. In May, the Warner Music Group was sold to Access Industries, a conglomerate controlled by the Russian-born billionaire Len Blavatnik, and in November Citigroup reached deals to split EMI — home to the catalogs of the Beatles, Coldplay and Katy Perry — between Sony and the Universal Music Group.
The EMI deals are subject to approval by regulatory agencies in the United States, in Europe and elsewhere. The Federal Trade Commission has been investigating the mergers since late last year, and on Friday, Universal, which had bid $1.9 billion for EMI’s recorded music division, filed its merger application with the European Commission.
Sony, which led an investment consortium in a $2.2 billion offer for EMI’s music publishing assets — the copyrights for songwriting and compositions — is expected to submit its filing soon.
If approved, the sales would reduce the number of major players from four to three and give Universal and Sony substantial advantages over Warner. Battle lines have been drawn throughout the industry, with Warner and independent labels lobbying to block the deals and consumer groups expressing concern that the deals would stifle competition and innovation…
…“This is a tremendously large thumb on the scale of a developing digital music ecosystem,” said Casey Rae-Hunter, deputy director of the Future of Music Coalition, an artists’ advocacy group, which last week wrote to the F.T.C. outlining its objections.”