Mike Oldfield has launched an attack on EMI for agreeing a deal with The Mail On Sunday to give away his classic album Tubular Bells for free.
The row came about after the paper covermounted Tubular Bells with its April 22 edition, giving away the original album on CD with cover artwork to its 2.25m readers.
Oldfield, who has signed a deal to take his back catalogue from EMI to Mercury later this year, speaks of his anger at the agreement, which he says devalues Tubular Bells, in a dramatic open letter to Music Week .
It is believed that the Mail On Sunday deal may have soured Oldfield's relationship with EMI to the extent that it could threaten the renegotiation of his contract with EMI Publishing.
"EMI's decision to give away Tubular Bells was taken without my agreement or even the simple courtesy of EMI telling me about it. I heard about the campaign by pure chance," Oldfield writes.
"To group real music with cheap loan leaflets and the other freebies that fall out of most publications is to devalue it," he adds. "I have no desire to push my music to someone who has not sought it out. I know that other artists feel the same."
He adds that the practice of covermounting CDs "causes deep concern" and says that he understands the concerns of retailers over the practice, as they rely on "bona fide sales" to make a living. "I have great respect for all retailers, especially the smaller self-run stores," he says.
"The Tubular Bells covermount just shows what some people in this industry think of artists and, to a lesser extent, retailers," says Paul Quirk, owner of Quirk's Records in Ormskirk and Era co-chairman.
"If EMI didn't even tell Mike Oldfield then personally I think that is disgraceful. I hope we can draw a line here and ensure that nothing like this happens again. Unfortunately, we don't seem to have the strong characters around anymore who would condemn this sort of lunacy."
EMI is reported to have earned around £200,000 from The Mail On Sunday deal.