Impala sounds off

Trade org opposes EMI-WMG merger

European independent record companies’ trade org Impala has confirmed it intends to “forcefully oppose any merger between EMI and Warner Music Group” to protect the interests of its members.

Impala said a combined EMI and Warner operation would control more than 25% of all recorded music sales and nearly 50% of the music publishing market.

The Brussels-based trade body claims further concentration in the music industry would unfairly raise the costs of market access to independent music companies.

Impala, which reps more than 2,500 indie music companies in Europe, also objected to the merger of Sony Music and BMG; that appeal is awaiting a ruling by the European Commission.

Building a case against an EMI-Warner deal, Impala has launched an online petition at Forculturaldiversity.org to encourage music fans, consumers, artists, retailers, songwriters, digital music providers and other representative orgs to join the campaign against further concentration in the music sector.

Impala chairman Michel Lambot said in a statement: “At a time when the rumors are saying that Vodaphone is ready to buy Vivendi, that Warner and EMI want to marry and that Bertelsmann wants to sell its stake in Sony BMG, who cares about culture and music? Will we need soon a cultural Kyoto treaty?”

Patrick Zelnik, president of French indie label Naive, added: “Strangely enough, the European Commission supports the Unesco convention on cultural diversity but ignores it when it comes to mergers in the music industry.”

Impala, established in 2000, is largely recognized as the major factor in the EU Competition Commission’s rejection of a proposed merger between EMI and Warner that year.

However, the well-publicized troubles of the record industry in the past five years are widely thought to have paved the way for an EMI-Warner deal now, especially given the EU’s greenlight for Sony and BMG to combine in 2004. Also, any agreement between EMI and Warner likely would not include one of the company’s music publishing companies, with either EMI Music Publishing or Warner Chappell spun off as a separate entity.