Column from July 19th, 1999 issue

This column hasn’t looked at some of the overall happenings or trends in the music industry for a little while. Columbia/Time Warner’s "Columbia House" company’s news from last week that it was "merging" with CDNow provides interesting food for thought…..

Even thought they were perceived as being the biggest and arguable best of the on-line music retailers, CDNow has been on a shaky financial footing for a long time. was preceived as being close to taking away its leading position for on-line music retailing and CDNOw had been throwing money at promotion and competitor buy-outs as a result. Analysts see what is essentially a take-over as CDNow as a bail out! The CDNow people will have absolutely no control over the new organisation as Sony and Time Warner will each hold 37% of the stock.

Record labels getting involved in the ownership of a retailer could well be a sinister trend at least to me. CDNow will no longer be independent and it seems unlikely that the two major labels are going to do anything apart from emphasising their own releases. Prices are bound to go up. And, they’re bound to try and control international sales means as well to stop us Europeans paying the more reasonable prices available or US versions of releases. Consumer freedom will be curtailed and we’re all going to get a poorer deal – just what the labels want! Some the labels better understand quick that the internet means they’re dealing with a single world market, not some regional systems they can carve up however they see fit. Record labels should still to what they do (though I don’t way "stick to what they do best"!). Getting into retailing has Orewellian overtunes, that should worry us all….