Music industry gets a little more evil

May 27, 2011

The “Big Four” record companies, already responsible for more than 80% of album sales on the planet, may be on the verge of becoming the “Big Three”.

On May 6, Warner Music Group was sold to Ukrainian-American tycoon Leonard Blavatnik.

Warner is the world's third largest record company. Blavatnik ― the world's 80th richest man ― is also rumored to have his sights set on number four EMI.

If that sale comes to pass, it will create the largest music label in history.

Most haven't heard of Blavatnik. He isn't the type of billionaire-celebrity we're used to seeing sprayed across newspapers and TV screens.

That may change very soon, given that his holdings will inextricably cement the link between the music business and the destruction of our planet.

Blavatnik made his billions through Access Industries, a privately-held group dealing in real estate, communications and “natural resources and chemicals”.

One of its biggest holdings is the company TNK, Russia's third-largest for extracting and refining crude oil.

In 2003, TNK went through a merger that left 50% of its assets in the hands of British Petroleum. The company, now known as TNK-BP, is half-controlled by Access execs, half by the honchos at BP.

In April, TNK-BP agreed to buy BP's assets in Vietnam and Venezuela to make up for lost profits.

If Tony Hayward or any of his cohorts had tried to buy Warner, there may have been much more dust kicked up. BP is one of the most shamed companies in the world right now thanks to the long-term effects of the Deepwater Horizon spill.

The notion of selling off the music of the Rolling Stones, Lupe Fiasco, Green Day, Janelle Monae and Death Cab for Cutie to people who killed 11 workers, ruined the livelihoods of thousands of Gulf residents and traumatised one of the most fragile ecosystems on earth would likely cause a great amount of disdain.

The sale to Blavatnik and Access Industries isn't much different, even in name alone.

Blavatnik publicly acknowledges that getting into the music business right now is a risk, given the unending crisis brought on by peer-to-peer file sharing.

That said, he hasn't learned any of the lessons that the past decade should have brought to those like him. Edgar Bronfman, one of the most vicious boosters for the criminalisation of “piracy”, is expected to stay on as CEO of Warner under Blavatnik.

In other words, this sale will do nothing to improve the image of the music industry. It's consolidations like these that have forced consumers and artists alike to seek out alternatives in the first place.

The homogenisation, de-facto censorship and constant rip-off of musicians will only be gaining steam if Blavatnik gets his mitts on EMI. On top of that, nobody ultimately wants their music tainted by blood money.

[Reprinted from Alexander Billet's website, .]

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