Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Unions On The Side Of EMI Sale To UMG?

old time union graphic on Music 3.0 blog
Here's a head scratcher. Both SAG-AFTRA and the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) have endorsed Universal Music Group's planned purchase of EMI. UMG, if you recall, has been trying to purchase poor bankrupted EMI since the beginning of the year, but is running into some anti-trust sentiment both here and in the European Union. What this will ultimately mean is that we'll soon be down to 3 major labels from 4.

In an effort to sway the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the AFM sent a letter to it's chairman Jon Leibowitz stating, "Sustaining the EMI legacy [by Universal] would appear to benefit AFM recording musicians." SAG-AFTRA stated, "For EMI to be left to further drift into oblivion, or for EMI to be acquired and sold off in pieces by capital investment speculators with no appreciation for, or commitment to, artists who fuel the recording industry, would ill serve the industry."

It seems to me that some old schoolers are just trying to keep some other old schoolers in their jobs just a little while longer. Here's why this strikes me so odd:

1) The AFM is really only for that thin strata of session musicians or musicians that play in an orchestra. It benefits the 1%, but in this case the 1% aren't actually the top earners. The days of the session musician doing 3 gigs a day are over (it's more like 3 a month now, if that), and the number of orchestras are shrinking. Why the AFM would think that keeping a company alive that never did give a rat's posterior about them in the first place is beyond me, and endorsing a company that would cut them off in a flash if a had a chance (and currently does anything to get around paying them, as they all do) is delusional. They actually think that by keeping the majors alive that it will mean more work for their members.

2) I can't see why SAG-AFTRA would even care about what happens to a major label. It doesn't directly benefit their members, and since there's so little soundtrack business these days, what's the point? To think that breaking up EMI would hurt the industry is absurd. Sad, yes, that such a storied institution should die, but let's face it, they had ample chance to right the ship yet kept putting new holes in it instead of plugging up the old ones and building a better one.

3) Oh, maybe it's the publishing deals that the unions are worried about. You know what? There are plenty of big publishing entities still around and for the most part, they're doing just fine. Having EMI publishing disappear (which it won't, it's too valuable a brand and Sony is buying it anyway) wouldn't be the end of the world.

Look - major labels will always be around. If not the ones we have now, then some new ones will arise. There will always be a need for them as they serve a purpose in that they have the unique infrastructure that can turn a star into a superstar. But the music business is morphing, evolving, changing, transforming, reshaping - whatever you want to call it. The sooner we get some new entities who are responsive to our new Music 3.0 age (since the old wants don't want to change), the better off we'll all be, and the music business will be better for it as well. That's when we'll finally see some real growth in the business.

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1 comment:

Léo Saramago said...

I hope this Legacy is taken seriously. I'm affraid the problem is deeper than just who the players are - its roots are within people's upbringing. We need more than engineers, doctors or lawyers. Western Civilization is headed to Social Chaos as this invisible blob of Greed expands year after year. Newer Generations can't see it because they were born inside of it.


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