While the independent label community was divided regarding Universal’s bid to buy EMI, especially once the mega-major started committing to sell off over half of EMI’s European assets, it was those who opposed the deal throughout who were most vocal on Friday.
The deal’s opponents welcomed the significant concessions that had been struck in Europe, claiming that the extent of the forced divestments proved that Universal’s initial ambivalence to the competition implications of its merger had been shown to be unwise.
The UK’s Association Of Independent Music urged the EC to ensure Universal stuck to every promise it had made to secure deal approval, while pan-European indie labels body IMPALA said it would be reviewing its options once it had the EC’s full report on the merger (IMPALA did previously successfully challenge the initial regulator approval given to the Sony/BMG record company merger through the European courts).
But most of the deal’s critics also said that the ultimate outcome of the competition investigations into Universal’s EMI deal was, overall, bad news for the wider music community, even with the concessions in Europe, and especially because of the lack of concessions in the US market. Merlin, the digital rights body representing many of the bigger independents, said that the divestments of EMI catalogues in Europe must be done with ensuring more diversity in the European digital market in mind.
While on the US approval, the organisation’s CEO Charles Caldas told CMU: “This Federal Trade Commission decision is extremely disappointing, and deeply misguided. The European Commission raised a series of very significant competition issues resulting from the UMG/EMI transaction which required an extensive set of divestments and behavioural remedies, in particular with regards to limiting Universal’s actions in the digital market”.
He added: “The failure of the FTC to require similar if not more stringent remedies in the US market, where most digital services originate, gives UMG an open and unbridled path to controlling the shape and nature of the digital market, ignoring the interests of US consumers in favour of the market’s most dominant player”.