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28th Nov 2020

Independent music labels calls on Brussels to check Universal

  • Brussels is being urged to prevent Universal from buying up more independent music labels (Photo: EUobserver)

Independent music labels are challenging what they call the dominance of the Universal Music Group and are calling on the European Commission to examine the sale of some publishing assets of the largest business group in the recording industry.

The EU executive approved in May this year a €1.63 billion takeover of the German music publishing business of Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) by Universal, making it the world's largest music publisher.

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Brussels set as a condition for the merger that Universal – which is based in the US but owned by the French company Vivendi - would sell off important catalogues in order to allow post-merger competition.

However, the independent music labels – represented by the Independent Music Companies Association IMPALA - are concerned that independent buyers may be excluded from bidding for Universal's assets such as Rondor UK, Zomba US and UK, as well as 19 Music, 19 Songs and BBC Music.

"The [commission]'s conditional clearance of this purchase was intended to liberate a significant set of assets into the non dominant part of the music community - we must ensure that actually happens," said Martin Mills from IMPALA in a statement on Monday (8 October).

The group also urged the EU executive to prevent Universal from buying up more independent music labels - such as Vale Music in Spain, ARS in Belgium, Magic in Poland, Lionheart in Sweden, Rounder Records, Sanctuary and now V2 in the UK – arguing that it is "a clear tactic to gain market power."

Last week the EU's competition authority approved for the second time a merger between Sony Music Entertainment and BMG Entertainment divisions named Sony BMG Music Entertainment – making it the world's second biggest music company.

The recent merger also caused anger among the independent music labels claiming that competition on the music market is being stifled.

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