‘No Matter’ matters

Lloyd Webber says 'What' to Polygram

LONDON — Andrew Lloyd Webber is using a dispute with Polygram over the pop music single “No Matter What” as leverage in his attempts to buy back the 30% of his company, the Really Useful Group, that is owned by the music major.

Lloyd Webber is angry with Polygram’s decision to reduce the price of “No Matter What” — taken from Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman’s musical “Whistle Down the Wind,” and covered by Boyzone — to below what is needed to register on the U.K. singles chart, thus killing the song’s chances of becoming Britain’s No. 1 single of 1998.

In a letter to Polygram brass, Lloyd Webber argued that Polygram’s treatment of the single breaches the 1991 deal in which the record company acquired its shares in RUG, a deal that included an option for Polygram to buy the remainder of RUG in 2001. Lloyd Webber, however, is anxious to regain full control of his company.

‘Unprecedented behavior’

In a statement, Lloyd Webber said: “I’ve had it up to here with Polygram. I’ve had no relationship with them for some time. They’ve let me down again. They have destroyed the opportunity of creating the biggest single ever from a musical. This is unprecedented behavior. You’d have thought Polygram would be proud that ‘Whistle Down the Wind’ is the No. 1 hit show in London.”

A RUG spokesman added that execs at Polygram “seem to have bigger priorities than sorting out the Really Useful Group” — despite the fact that Lloyd Webber and Seagram CEO Edgar Bronfman recently had an “amicable” meeting. Seagram is set to complete its $10.4 billion acquisition of Polygram as soon as next week.

It is unlikely, however, that “No Matter What” — which has sold 1.1 million copies in Britain — could have become 1998’s top single. The song has just dropped off the charts, and Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” has sold at least 1.2 million copies.

Polydor, a Polygram label, decided to cut the cost of the single to £1.78 ($2.95), a penny below the chart threshold, in order to make way for Boyzone’s next release, “I Love the Way You Love Me,” which includes a live version of “No Matter What.” The song is also on the album version of “Whistle Down the Wind.”