Mary J. Blige’s Support For Universal-EMI Deal Leaves A Bad Taste

MMary J. Blige has thrown her backing behind Universal Music’s proposed deal to take over EMI, saying that the UMG “will lead EMI brilliantly and empower EMI artists”.

She expressed her views in a letter to Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy & Consumer Rights Herb Kohl, who is senior United States Senator from Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, Universal Music is quick to remind Kohl that the proposed merger simply isn’t a big deal in light of digital services – such as iTunes, CD Baby, Pro Tools, Facebook, and Spotify – which allow the artist a great deal of independence and power.

But the increased market share Universal Music would acquire as a result of the merger would leave the giant with around 40% of the music industry. The fear is that with 40% of the market, Universal Music, whose digital publishing market share is also a concern, would have a greater say in digital distribution.

However, innovative software like Spotify and iTunes puts these opinions like these on shallow ground. In fact, some would argue that although EMI could be split up and sold in smaller pieces, the best way to maintain the label is to give it to the biggest labels who have the resources to fix what’s broken. In this article, I won’t take a side. I do, however want to add my disgust that star names like Mary J. Blige have the nerve to influence a legal matter. It is, of course, important that artists signed to Universal Music are happy at Universal Music, but using one’s public persona to influence a decision, particularly when those doing so are, or have been, signed to Universal, represents nothing short of a conflict of interests.

Fortunately, U.S. Senator Kohl is aware of the perceived dangers of the merger. In a statement, he highlighted the need to “be particularly mindful of the possible harmful effects on independent labels and artists. As in so many creative industries, innovation and new forms of music often comes from those artists not signed to major record companies.”

He added: “We must be careful to ensure that this consolidation does not impede the ability of independent record labels to compete, or place undue barriers to the emergence of new innovative and diverse talent in the music industry.”

His rhetoric makes it unlikely that Mary J. Blige will dictate the course of this trial.

Samuel Agini is the Editor of Andrew Apanov’s Dotted Music.