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Top Musicians Threaten Strike over EMI Sale to UMG

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With all the reporting and coverage of the completed $1.9 billion acquisition of EMI by Universal Music Group, one very important voice has been (unsurprisingly) left out of the conversation entirely: the artists themselves. Some of the world's greatest musicians are now considering withholding any new albums as an act of protest, unhappy they are being treated as “assets" in the forced sale of their label. Leading the revolt is English alternative rock band Blur against the sell-off of Parlophone (part of EMI), a label that has been the instrumental for artists like The Beatles and Coldplay.

As part of the EMI takeover deal, Universal Music has been ordered to sell off Parlophone, which includes artists earning “steady revenues" like Pink Floyd, Tina Turner, David Bowie, Duran Duran, and more. As part of the deal, however, Universal got to keep The Beatles catalogue, as well as Katy Perry, Robbie Williams and The Beach Boys.

Many of the label's artists are unhappy being viewed merely as “assets" or “pawns" in a game that is set to be in the best interest for the powers that be. To protest this move, the rockers of Blur have joined forces with a number of Parlophone label-mates to collectively lobby potential bidders for the company and calling on them to place the interests of artists first, as reported by The Independent. If the musicians don't find the new Parlophone owners to their liking, they could withhold all future releases and effectively go on “strike". 

“Artists are the only people currently being left out of the conversation, which is unfortunate," said Blur drummer Dave Rowntree to The Independent. “If the staff at the label are unhappy with the new arrangements they are free to leave, but the artists are not."

Rowntree is said to be backing negotiations through the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC), a pop stars “trade union" supported by Lily Allen and Radiohead.

“The FAC was formed by musicians who were fed up with the industry taking decisions without considering the impact it would have on those who actually make the music," he said.

Chief executive of the Music Managers Forum Jon Webster says that they are holding discussions with potential bidders to ensure that they “understand that the future of the record business is about genuine partnership with artists". The potential future Parlophone owners are said to include Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and BMG Rights Management.

“Artists have withheld releases to get better terms if they are powerful enough," he added. “They can sit down with the new owners and get a solution. It's the smaller acts that suffer most because they have no bargaining power."

The future of Parlophone is said to be a concern by many artists on the roster and industry personnel alike. This includes legendary producer Sir George Martin, who became Parlophone's manager back in 1955 and perhaps more famously gave The Beatles their big break in 1962.


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