EMI tries to keep a wandering Williams

Label looks to duplicate Minogue success

LONDON — Fresh from axing 400 artists from its roster, music empire EMI Group was negotiating a multimillion-dollar deal on Monday to stop its star British act Robbie Williams from defecting to a rival label.

Williams, whose “Swing When You’re Winning” album sold 5 million copies worldwide, has been courting rival labels as his contract comes up for renewal, but EMI has been working overtime to resign Britain’s best-selling male solo artist.

Analysts estimate Williams will get between $29 million and $57 million for a five-album deal. Industry sources said EMI was quietly confident it would clinch a new deal but is under pressure not to overpay after the costly failure of its mega-deal with Mariah Carey.

EMI declined to comment.

Former boy-band member Williams has been frustrated by not breaking the world’s biggest market — the U.S. — and may want a label with bigger clout, such as Universal Music.

Cool in Britannia, cold in U.S.

EMI has attributed its recent woes largely to its failure in the U.S., where it has been unable to break new acts. It is, however, a hotbed of British talent, boasting top local acts such as Coldplay, Blur, Gorillaz, the Verve and Atomic Kitten.

New topper Alain Levy has said EMI’s aim is to create more superstar acts. Levy said he wanted to have three superstar artists selling more than 10 million albums on EMI’s roster within three years.

Australian pop diva Kylie Minogue has been an example of the success EMI is aiming for, he said.

EMI shares closed 3.4% down after rallying last week on the cost savings from the job cuts.

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