'We're a lifestyle business': Absolute bosses vow to stay independent amidst services sector competition

Henry Semmence & Simon Wills

Absolute co-owners Henry Semmence and Simon Wills have predicted further consolidation in the services sector – but say their business will always remain independent.

Artist and label services were once dominated by independent companies – Absolute was one of the very first to offer an alternative to traditional label deals 20 years ago – but now all three majors are active in the highly-competitive sector. And after Essential was snapped up by Sony Red in 2016 before the new company Red Essential merged with The Orchard last year, and speculation over the sale of Believe, further mergers and acquisitions seem likely.

“The industry is always prone to consolidation,” said Absolute managing director Henry Semmence, talking in the current edition of Music Week. “It might make economic sense or it might be a land grab by a major trying to close down an area of the market. That can happen with publishing, record companies, label services…

“But there’s enough business out there for all of us and we all do it in our different ways,” he continues. “Anyone who signs to a major for label services, that’s fantastic, they’re obviously very well-funded businesses. But you’re still at the behest of the shareholders and the other priorities coming down the line. But the fact that we, other label services businesses and the majors are all successful, shows the extent of the market.”

Semmence and co-owner, Absolute director Simon Wills insisted that, despite offers for their business, Absolute will always remain independent.

“We do get approached about what we’re doing and people [wanting to] buy into us,” said Wills. “It’s very nice but…”

“…It’s not what we are,” added Semmence. “I’ve never been tempted really. I know it’s going to sound a bit folksy but Absolute is a lifestyle business. We enjoy coming to work every day, working with the projects we’ve got and the people. That’s more important than saying, ‘We’re owned by a major’ or ‘We’ve got a lot of money and we’ve got to go to board meetings’.”

Absolute recently unveiled a busy slate of Q1 releases, including records from Lisa Stansfield, Kim Wilde, Reef and Bananarama.

To read the full Absolute story, see the current print edition of Music Week, or click here. To read Music Week’s recent special report on the label services sector, click here. To subscribe and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.

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