Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Can EMI survive on Strawberry Fields Forever (and ever)?

This week, the perpetually troubled EMI music group told the world about its new plans to stem losses and get itself out of the mess it has been in for years. Aside from another round of musical chairs in the …

Fri, Jun 25, 2010, 10:16

   

This week, the perpetually troubled EMI music group told the world about its new plans to stem losses and get itself out of the mess it has been in for years.

Aside from another round of musical chairs in the boardroom (do the managers who got them into this mess really have the gumption to get them out of it?), the company also made one of those double-Dutch statements beloved of big business about its future intentions.

The company is set to “reposition itself as a comprehensive rights-management company serving artists and songwriters worldwide”. This, they probably hope, will sort things out “going forward”.

What this means, OTR thinks, is that the Terra Firma-owned group hopes to make money by concentrating on its recording and publishing back catalogue rather than on signing and developing new acts.

Such grandiose catalogue-pimping can be profitable if you have the right acts, such as The Beatles, the band who sold 13 million albums last year.

Much of the heavy lifting in terms of acquiring copyrights and catalogues has already been done down the years by A&R departments on the recording and publishing side of the house, so there’s little cost involved. Meanwhile, there’s plenty of publishing revenue to be earned right now from the current popularity of TV shows such as Glee and American Idol.

But will such repositioning really help EMI to survive? There’s no doubting the depth of the company’s catalogue, but it’s hard to see how relying on heritage acts rather than finding new stars can be a sustainable business model.

Unless, of course, EMI cuts costs even more. After all, a few suits with laptops should be enough to manage and administer back catalogues.

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