EMI, EMI and EMI

Lot’s of EMI news over the last couple of days… Apple finally launches iTunes plus, the (currently EMI only) DRM free 256kbps store and they’ve finally done a deal with YouTube (remembering they were the only major to not have done a YouTube deal before the Google purchase).

It looks like their dramatic shift in policy is starting to bear fruit.

The sale discussions with Terra Firma possibly provide some insight into what’s been going on…

It’s a given that post-sale the ludicrously profitable EMI Music Publishing will be separated from the failing EMI Recorded Music but this opening up of the catalogue sends some interesting signals…

The risk of breaking new artists is likely too great for a private equity team; instead it’s more likely that the new management team will ditch artist development and look to milk the enormous back catalogue (and the list is truly awesome, from The Beatles, The Stones, and Pink Floyd right through to Radiohead, Kylie, Robbie Williams and Coldplay).

By taking a short sharp boost in sales from the DRM free deals they’ve done, by dropping or icing the bulk of the current crop and by canning new artist development it’s likely that whoever buys EMI Group now will turn Recorded Music into an attractive proposition for Warners (who, as I’ve wittered about before, have been trying to get hold of that catalogue for years and are sniffing around again) and will be left with a very profitable publishing business at the end of it all.

Seems to me a very sad end for the conglomerate of labels responsible for 5 of the top 10 albums of all time (and 9 of the top 20) and some of the finest moments in rock and roll history.

I like to think that my fondness for the label is not wholly due to the 5 years I spent working there, but also because of their genuine influence on the progress of rock music.  From creating a British Elvis in 1958 in the guise of Cliff Richard, through the influence of their genre labels like Harvest, their misunderstanding of Punk, riding the New Wave of Heavy Metal (Powerslave, anyone?), Baggy, Britpop, Neo-psychedelia and ending up with out and out pop they’ve been with us all the way.

If I’m right it will be a sad day, despite the obvious failings of the current music industry model.  But like pandas and smallpox, sometimes the time has just come.