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Azoff hits back at Congressional Uni/EMI opponents

By | Published on Monday 25 June 2012

Irving Azoff

Live Nation Chairman Irving Azoff has been speaking to Billboard about last week’s big hearing in Washington regards Universal’s bid to buy the EMI record company, at which Azoff, whose company entered into a joint venture with Universal last year, was on hand to speak in support of the latest major label merger deal.

And he has problems with things said by all three of the attendees booked to speak against the acquisition: Beggars Group boss Martin Mills, former CEO and current board member of Warner Music Edgar Bronfman Jr, and Gigi Sohn, speaking for US lobbying group Public Knowledge.

Regards the latter, Azoff reckons Sohn’s observations about the music industry and the creative community at large were somewhat removed from reality. He told Billboard’s Ray Waddell: “I’ve got a huge group of people working on fact-checking those charts she put up. I must be in a different business. If what she was talking about is the business I’m in, then I don’t know what I’ve been doing for the past 43 years. I picked up a tone that leads me to think that she may be one of those people that thinks artists and writers and creative people shouldn’t own their own works in perpetuity, so she and I have a major disconnect out of the gate. [But] I was quite shocked by some of what she said about the rights of the creative community”.

Asked about Bronfman’s testimony, he continued: “I don’t really know what his agenda is, but, gosh, he must have one. I was shocked by a lot of what came out of Edgar’s mouth. Either he doesn’t get it, or he was trying to twist some of what Mr [EMI boss Roger] Faxon, myself and Mr [Universal boss Lucian] Grainge were saying. [Bronfman] gleefully told the committee that he presided over two huge firings of both artists and employees at both Warner and Universal Polygram [implying the same would happen at EMI after Universal’s takeover], and he was completely ignoring what Mr Faxon was saying, which was that EMI has already done all the cutting, and he ignored what Lucian was saying, that, ‘we’re buying all this so we can make EMI great again'”.

And as for Mills, Azoff took issue with the Beggars man’s observation regards how many of the A-list artists managed by the Azoff-founded Live Nation-owned Front Line management worked, or had worked, with major labels. Mills was responding to Azoff’s earlier suggestion that artists no longer had to work with labels to reach mass audiences, and among those Front Line acts with major label pasts he mentioned was The Eagles.

Azoff: “I do want to point out that on their last record [‘Long Road Out of Eden’ in 2007], the Eagles did an exclusive deal in North America with Walmart. Everybody remembers it, I guess, except Mr Mills. So for him to lump the Eagles into that list was disingenuous. And I never said that artists’ careers aren’t best served by major labels. What I said was the business is really changing, and going forward artists are going to have more choices”. He also argued that many of the Front Line artists currently signed to majors were in long-term contracts signed before recent shifts in the music business, and that “I’m sure that every one of them, when they reach the end of their contracts, will contemplate not re-signing to a major”.

When approached by Billboard, Mills responded to Azoff’s post-hearing points, telling the trade mag: “I have too much respect for Irving’s long and illustrious career to get into a public slanging match [with him]. We were in a quasi-judicial environment, in which we swore to tell what we believe to be the truth, which I did. And for the record, I know how that Eagles album was released in the USA, and I believe Universal handled it overseas”

You can read Azoff’s thoughts on how the Universal/EMI takeover compares to the big music deal he himself was involved in three years ago – the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster/Front Line – as well as some insight into Jared Leto’s opinion on the issue (should you wish to have such a thing) in the full Billboard interview here.

Meanwhile, all six testimonies presented to the US Senate’s anti-trust sub-committee last week are now available for reading online.

Telling us that the Universal EMI merger is just the most fab proposal to have ever been made:
Lucian Grainge, Universal Music
Roger Faxon, EMI
Irving Azoff, Live Nation

Telling us this merger might just bring about the end of human civilisation:
Edgar Bronfman Jr, Warner Music
Martin Mills, Beggars Group
Gigi Sohn, Public Knowledge

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