One of the key things director of Warner Music Group Edgar Bronfman Jr. said against the Universal/EMI merger in front of the US Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee was this: “To put it in context, last year, the largest movie studio, Paramount, had a market share of around 20 per cent. Random House, the largest trade book publisher, was less than 20 per cent. And Comcast, the largest cable operator, had just over 20 per cent of pay television."
The danger for jazz music, a tiny part of the overall picture notwithstanding, in such a merger is that historic labels chiefly Blue Note could possibly go into semi-hibernation for a period of some time as the reorganisation unfolds and then become just like any other label to be marketed this way and that. It would be a bit like what’s happened to the Verve marque for long periods under Universal’s stewardship.
Artists that might have appeared on Blue Note could well be having “Universal Music" slapped on their records or some compromise construct, a blanding out that means nothing except it’s music from a big company that could be selling soap powder or ball bearings. It has no connection with the soul and heartbeat of the music whatsoever. Labels used to have this crucial element at their core, big or small, and many still do.
Surely the wheels should come off this deal if such strong objections are registered, and Bronfman has made an important point. The chilling thing is that should the deal go through Universal/EMI combined would have a huge 42 per cent US market share.