THE INSTANT reaction to news that EMI records is to be taken over by AOL Time Warner is dismay. As the last of our major music companies falls into foreign hands, it is natural to assume that the country that has provided such a creative edge in the industry will no longer be a player. This is, however, the wrong analysis.
Not a day seems to pass without another burst of economic hyperactivity propelled by those twin motors of our age - the creation of global companies and the digital revolution. Increasingly, whether in publishing, music, films or the Internet itself, media companies wish to control both the content and the means of delivering it.
The worry is that this tendency to monopoly will limit consumer choice and deny new talent outlets. One immediate result of the EMI merger, for example, will be the reduction of the big five global music companies to four, and the creation of a behemoth with 27 per cent of the market.
But if we step back and consider what was in the minds of the executives at EMI, who allowed themselves to be successfully courted by what, a few years back, was just a small ISP in Virginia, we see fear, not greed. What gives EMI (and Warner Music, for that matter) its status is not the development of new acts - which, in fact, has been flagging - but a backlist that ranges from Barbirolli and Beecham, through the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, to Robbie Williams and Radiohead. …