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IMPALA highlights Sony and EMI Music Publishing dominance in European charts

By | Published on Wednesday 17 October 2018


The independent music community continues to put pressure on competition regulators in Europe over Sony’s plan to take full control of EMI Music Publishing. Earlier today indie label trade group IMPALA published a survey of the European music charts to illustrate just how dominant the wider Sony group would be following the proposed deals.

Sony, of course, led a consortium of investors to buy the EMI songs business back in 2012. It then appointed its own publisher, Sony/ATV, to administrate the EMI rights. Six years on it is now looking to buy those other investors out, allowing the Sony/ATV and EMI music publishing companies to properly merge. Those deals are now subject to regulator approval.

IMPALA commissioned a survey to find out how much chart dominance the proposed deals will give Sony because that is one of the factors considered by competition regulators in the European Union.

The survey looked at the official singles chart in the first week of each month in 2017 in seven European countries. It then looked at what percentage of the tracks in each chart were wholly or partly controlled by a Sony music company or EMI Music Publishing.

This might mean that a Sony label released a track, or that its label services division The Orchard distributed a track, or – in the case of Anglo-American repertoire – that either Sony/ATV or EMI has a stake in the accompanying song copyright.

Only Anglo-American repertoire was counted on the songs side because those are the works that Sony licenses to the streaming platforms through direct deals. In other European countries the collecting societies rather than the publishers handle all the digital licensing. That means that while Sony may be a beneficiary of those rights, it doesn’t control them.

According to the IMPALA figures, on average Sony had at least some control over more than 68% of tracks in the charts in all seven surveyed countries. Spain was the highest overall on average, at 82%. The average figures – plus the lowest and highest chart control figures – in each country were as follows:

• Spain: average 82%, range 78% to 89%
• Italy: average of 77%, range 69% to 89%
• UK: average 73%, range 62% to 87%
• France: average 73%, range 64% to 81%
• Netherlands: average 72%, range 59% to 87%
• Ireland: average 70%, range 59% to 86%
• Sweden: average 68%, range 60% to 81%

IMPALA believes that these stats support its argument that the European Commission should block the EMI deals.

It’s boss Helen Smith, said this morning: “These figures … reveal what we have been highlighting all along, that Sony would have a near monopoly grip over the charts. That would give it unprecedented market power over playlists, radio and other routes to market. This confirms the real risk of the transaction and the need for the EC to block it outright”.

Smith then noted how EC regulators have considered chart dominance when reviewing past music industry mergers. She remarked: “Bearing in mind that the EC has intervened previously where these shares exceeded 50%, to then reduce them to below 45% after divestments, this research underlines the huge risks associated with this transaction”.

“Not one of the territories examined so far is within the EC’s own parameters for avoiding harm to consumers”, she concluded. “These figures drive home the negative impact this takeover would have on cultural diversity and the need to stop this transaction outright”.

The EC has until 26 Oct to make a decision about Sony’s EMI deals, though may decide to open up a more in depth six month investigation.

IMPALA is joined by songwriter groups like BASCA in the UK and the European Composer & Songwriter Alliance in opposing the deals.

Indeed, the songwriter community – recently rallied by the campaign for safe harbour reform – have been particularly vocal on this transaction. So much so, IMPALA notes that regulators have, for the first time with an investigation of this kind, directly sought the input of the creator community in addition to the customary consultation of Sony’s customer and competitors.

We now await to see what those regulators say on 26 Oct.