SAG-AFTRA supports UMG-EMI merger

The American Federation of Musicians also voices approval

In marked contrast to opposition emanating from overseas, toppers at the American Federation of Musicians and SAG-AFTRA have given their official thumbs-up to Universal Music Group’s acquisition of EMI’s label assets.

U.S. unions voiced their support in letters to Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, which is reviewing the deal stateside.

UMG-EMI splicing has been met with sharp criticism in Europe, where orgs like indie music group IMPALA have condemned the purchase as anti-competitive. The European Commission is performing its own regulatory review.

In an April 10 missive to Leibowitz, AFM international prexy Raymond M. Hair, Jr., wrote, “From a labor-relations perspective, UMG’s compliance with and respect for its industry collective bargaining agreements has been positive when compared to its peer companies, and thus, sustaining the EMI legacy – which produced world popular music artists such as the Beatles and Frank Sinatra – under UMG’s oversight would appear to benefit AFM recording musicians.”

The AFM reps 90,000 members in 230 locals across the US and Canada.

On April 12, Kim Roberts Hedgpeth, co-national executive director of the newly merged SAG-AFTRA, echoed Hair’s support and struck an even more positive note.

“It has been wrenching to watch EMI wither over the past decade,” Hedgpeth wrote. “While the entire music community has endured daunting and unprecedented challenges, we note that UMG has best weathered the storm by maintaining its commitment to the art and the music industry, and by investing in new artists and innovative music genres.”

He added, “SAG-AFTRA’s predecessor, AFTRA, has generally expressed skepticism towards corporate mergers and acquisitions because in most cases, corporate consolidation diminishes diversity of viewpoints, artistic expression and jobs. In this case, however, we believe that the pending acquisition of EMI by UMG warrants favorable consideration by the Commission… 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.”

SAG-AFTRA represents more than 150,000 industry pros.

A Universal spokesperson said in a statement, “We’re delighted that the two unions representing America’s recording artists, professional musicians and other entertainment and media professionals have expressed their positive view of UMG’s plans to do this and position EMI for greater success in this challenging marketplace.”

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