The founder of Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand house Domino Records, Laurence Bell, has become the latest senior independent label exec to welcome Universal's divestment plan related to its £1.2bn bid for EMI.
A previous cynic to the deal - who rallied against it publicly in Music Week magazine during February - Bell has today applauded Universal chief Lucian Grainge's multi-million pound concessions offer to the independent sector.
A letter from Grainge sent to IMPALA last Monday (July 13) set out a plan to give the independent sector first option on €250m of assets that he is willing to divest from Universal/EMI. This package includes the roster from labels such as Virgin Records, Chrysalis UK (minus Robbie Williams) and the Mute catalogue Miller sold EMI in 2002.
It also offers a €25m "innovation and cultural fund” for indie trade associations such as IMPALA - which would help them raise the money needed to purchase divested assets.
"I’ve seen the concessions and I think they’re very impressive. This seems a genuine move,” said Bell.
However, Beggars Group founder Martin Mills, amongst others, remains opposed to the deal.
“Universal’s suddenly started describing itself as the benevolent patriarch of the industry, but that epiphany only happened when they decided they’d buy EMI,” Mills told the Financial Times newspaper, suggesting that a combined Universal/EMI would make it more difficult for rivals to get on iTunes, into retail and on the radio.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Sound has also made positive noises about Grainge's offer to the independents. This is significant, because as the FT points out: 'The founders of Domino, Mute, Naïve and PIAS are all interested in buying assets from Universal, prompting rivals to question their motives,' but Ministry has no such agenda.
MoS founder James Palumbo called Grainge a "tough old bastard" in the FT, adding: “The last 10 years in the record industry have been like the Black Death in Europe. It just halved.
"The record industry is a disaster and EMI’s been a double disaster. At least Lucian, whatever you think of him and whatever the detail, has got the balls to do something about that."
Meanwhile, 14 out of 25 of IMPALA's board (56%) last week voted in favour of the deal with the concessions plan suggested by Grainge and Patrick Zelnik.
However, the trade body needs a three-quarter majority rule to change its public stance, and so remains opposed to the acquisition.
Source: Financial Times