Column from November 27th, 2000 issue
Saw an interesting story this week, which is both redolent of the times we live in overall and where the music industry is at. Apparently EMI spent something in the order of £43 million on "advisers' fees" during its aborted attempt to merge with Time Warner with almost 50% of that figure going to lawyers. All for a deal that never really had a chance of happening! The question was posed to Eric Nicoli (EMI's chairman) if it wasn't just a total waste of the label's shareholders' cash and he had the brass neck to say the following: "No, not at all. If we had succeeded, it would have represented fantastic value for shareholders." Wow there's a comment! That's like saying "They wouldn't have been war crimes if we hadn't lost the war!"
With that in mind it's no wonder that EMI lost £9.7 million for the first half of 2000, compared with a profit of £67.2 million for the same period a year earlier. Great returns, great value indeed! EMI's main aim now apparently is to get across a message that "this is a business that's performing well". EMI's also got a bit jingoistic saying that Radiohead's "Kid A" album's recent debut on the US charts at number one is proving something about "British music". Shame then that it's all going to mean nothing when BMG takes over EMI - if anyone's going to make that sort of deal happen it's BMG. EMI's mortally wounded now anything as it's lawyers have got all its money....
But don't think the point I'm trying to make is that "bigger is better". No it's the reserve. The bottom line right now is that we have too few major labels for the health of the music industry. With just three or four major labels they can basically dictate what music is available to the market, and they don't have to listen or answer to anyone. To hell with how much of the world wants to hear "proper rock music", they'll just decide what's hot and what's not for a relatively small, easy target audience.... Quick turnover and no real substance. Soon we'll have a mainstream music industry that's about as credible as computer games trends or Hollywood blockbusters. It'll be a bombastic mess just to fool money men and excite teenagers, and no one else!