The Senate Judiciary Hearing

Be afraid, be very afraid. Especially when Lucian Grainge makes Edgar Bronfman, Jr. look like a paragon of openness and reasonableness.

If you were watching this hearing, and you knew nothing about the law, were just deciding whether the Universal/EMI merger should go through on fairness, you’d say NO WAY!

Lucian Grainge was so evasive and duplicitous you’d be afraid to go to dinner with him for fear he’d steal your watch. It was so obvious that both the panel and the chairman/senator had to remark upon it, that he didn’t answer a single damn question.

Roger Faxon was eloquent. But it was hard to figure out exactly whose side he was on. What I mean by that is isn’t he up for a job at Warner? And isn’t this sale from Citi to Universal guaranteed? And he said if the merger goes through he’s gonna lose his job, but admitted with a send-off paycheck, ain’t that the American way.

At least Irving Azoff was honest. He said that Warner was blocking this merger because they didn’t want to overpay for EMI, but they still wanted to own it. Truth is always refreshing. Irving was the only one who really talked about the new music business. Still, the concept that recorded music income is going to drop off a cliff and be nonexistent in the future is just plain wrong. The majors may not control the music of all of his acts, but they can determine on which terms they engage with the public in the marketplace.

Martin Mills made you want to sign to his company. He wasn’t sleazy, he was direct, and forceful.

As for Gigi Sohn… She didn’t look the part, but she was the musicians’ friend.

And the inquisitors were quite informed. Star of the panel was Al Franken, who even corrected Azoff, putting in the record that Universal was not first on Spotify, but third, after EMI and Sony. Franken had done his homework. He cornered Grainge. But like the weasel Lucian is, he refused to respond to the inquiry, again and again and again. Hell, Grainge wouldn’t even answer Kohl’s question as to why he bought EMI. Can you imagine that, someone spending $1.9 billion and not being able to articulate why?

This hearing is meaningless.

But the proposed merger is not.

Just today I got this e-mail:

"I need you to withhold publication of my name because I still rely on UMG for some licenses. However, I can personally vouch for the validity of Pakman’s statement to the WSJ. David Ring and his jr lawyer, Aaron Harrison, pulled the same kind of shit on me when I had to cut new licenses for _______ to save the company from extinction. Word for word.

The problem is that the industry is already too concentrated. The only fair solution is to exchange extended copyright protection for mandatory statutory licensing of all known digital business models including downloads and on-demand services."

Meanwhile, you all know the name of the company this gentleman is speaking of.

You see these guys are assholes. Especially Lucian Grainge. They’re bullies who want to succeed not so much for their artists, but for themselves. It’s the American way.

As for the public.


P.S. Bronfman made an excellent point, that the AT&T merger with T-Mobile was denied, even though the resulting entity would have equal or less market share than Universal/EMI.

P.P.S. Even indies need distribution. Did you see that Amanda Palmer made a deal with Cooking Vinyl today?

P.P.P.S. Cooking Vinyl does not own a piece of Spotify, MOG or Vevo. But Universal does. In other words, you can be independent but every time your music is streamed you’re enriching your competitor. It’s kind of like paying the Mafia to keep your restaurant open.

P.P.P.S. Irving screwed up. He talked about the major labels exercising "blocking rights"… Isn’t this what this hearing is all about, the concept of blocking unapproved entrants into the marketplace, whether they be music services or acts, requiring them to play by majors’ rules, if they allow them to play at all?

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