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The Great Escape: AIM chief still opposed to major mergers

By | Published on Sunday 16 May 2010

Alison Wenham, the boss of the Association Of Independent Music, told The Great Escape yesterday that she still believed that there should be “no mergers without remedies” in the recorded music domain. That means that if EMI were to merge with another major music company, AIM and their pan-European counterparts IMPALA would lobby EU competition regulators to ensure any combined music major at least made concessions to ensure independent music firms’ were not unfairly hindered.

Of course, as of Friday it was confirmed that EMI had managed to raise the money it needed to pay its bank fees, meaning a forced sell off by money lenders Citigroup will now not happen for at least a year. But some – Wenham included – seem to think that an attempted merger between EMI and another music major is probably inevitable. Warner has always seemed like the obvious suitor, not least because they tried to buy EMI before Terra Firma took over in 2007, but there have been rumours that Universal and especially Sony might also bid if EMI was to go on the block, a deal which would create a super-major.

AIM and IMPALA have always spoken out against past major label mergers, though the market has changed somewhat since the last EMI/Warner merger attempt in 2007, with Live Nation, AEG, Apple and, in the UK, HMV now increasingly competing with the record companies as the make up of the wider music industry changes. But, when interviewed by CMU Publisher Chris Cooke on Saturday, Wenham said she still opposed mergers.

“There are few industries where four, maybe three, big companies have such dominance over the market. We’ve always gone with the mantra ‘no mergers without remedies’, and we stick by that, and would lobby for that if an EMI merger was to happen”.

Wenham said that one of the greatest achievements of AIM in its first decade was the fact it still existed over ten years after its original launch in 1998, particularly as, she claims, rival record label trade body the BPI tried its best to put the body out of business. The indie sector has also grown its market share in the last decade, though Wenham has much bigger  ambitions in that regard.

“My aim remains to get the indie sector back up to a 40% market share”, she said, “where it peaked in the early eighties. And that might be ambitious, but I genuinely believe that in the next decade, as the digital era takes shape, it will be independents who best capitalise on the new opportunities, and start to lead this industry’s new growth”.

Following her TGE interview at the weekend, Wenham will give a keynote speech at Liverpool Sound City on Wednesday.