Independents warn of regulatory barriers to Sony/EMI deal

Brussels, 22nd May 2018

As news broke this morning of Sony’s intention to buy out most of its partners in EMI Music Publishing, independent music companies warn that the move will face regulatory opposition because it would stifle competition online and offline. 

Sony now needs to notify the new deal to the European Commission, the EU’s competition authority. Helen Smith, Executive Chair of IMPALA, said: “The European Commission will want to avoid reinforcing the Sony/Universal duopoly, the two horse race which started in 2012 with the sale of EMI. This is a step too far and I would expect to see an in-depth investigation in the EU and other key jurisdictions." 

Such a sale would result in Sony controlling 90% of EMI Publishing – with the remaining 10%, controlled by the Jackson Estate, possibly also up for sale in the coming weeks or months.

This confirms the concerns expressed by IMPALA back in 2012 when the European Commission cleared the acquisition of EMI publishing by a consortium including Sony/ATV, and then again in 2016 when the Commission cleared Sony’s move from joint to sole control of Sony/ATV. It shows that ultimately, Sony is taking complete control of EMI publishing, while the initial deal was structured as a consortium to get this bid approved by the regulatory authority.

Helen Smith concluded: “Today, Sony is already by far the world’s largest music publisher and an indispensable trading partner controlling over 2.3 million copyrights. If this sale was to happen, its market power would be reinforced with serious competition issues, including excessive bargaining power when negotiating with collecting societies and the authors they represent, as well as other actors in the value chains such as labels and online services.” 

IMPALA was established in April 2000 to represent European independent music companies. 99% of Europe’s music companies are SMEs. Known as the “independents”, they are world leaders in terms of innovation and discovering new music and artists - they produce more than 80% of all new releases and account for 80% of the sector's jobs (for more information, see the features of independents). IMPALA's mission is to grow the independent music sector, return more value to artists, promote cultural diversity and entrepreneurship, improve political access and modernise perceptions of the music sector. See the organisation's key achievements in IMPALA's milestones.