Column from October 2nd, 2000 issue

Ahhhh, the authorities of the world are finally beginning to wake up to what the major labels are up to. The European Commission looks very likely to block the EMI and Time Warner link-up.

While EMI is due to make further presentations to the European Commission this week in an effort to salvage the deal, the competition commissioner is still expected to doom the deal. EMI is then likely to swallowed up by someone else (possibly Bertelsmann of Germany or Spain's Telefonica), and the EMI share price is on the way up as a result. Mission accomplished for EMI either way, they've upped the value of the company without doing anything. And that's exactly how record label supremos expect to make money these days, not by doing anything with music itself!

The EU conclusion appears to be that the Warner-EMI deal would create an oligopoly of companies which dictate prices as they see fit and hold a dominant position in music publishing rights. That would then give them massive control of the market for internet-downloaded music. That's even without the Commission considering anti-competition legislation.

To me it would have been the beginning of the end of all things worthy in music. Get a group that big and with that much power and they basically act as a nation-state in their own right bypassing the law wherever it sees fit. It would be so dominant that it could effectively dictate musical taste as it would control almost everything that received exposure through the mainstream media.

On the plus side, the fact that mergers and how to make a killing out of share options occupies all record label executives' time, does show the rest of the world that they're totally out of touch with musical trends and anything anyone might want to hear. They need something to kick them out of the money-gorged slumber. Just like punk did in the second half of the 1970s, the music industry needs something to emerge that will really turn it on its head and show it has been thinking about all the wrong things for far too long.