The European Commission has given the green light to Sony’s proposed acquisition of EMI Music Publishing. “The Commission found the deal raises no competition concerns, in particular as it will not increase Sony’s market power vis-à-vis online platforms,” was its verdict. “
Since 2016, the fully owned and controlled music publishing subsidiary of Sony, Sony/ATV, has been the exclusive administrator of EMI MP’s entire catalogue, whereas EMI MP itself plays no role in licensing its catalogue to digital platforms, or in signing and retaining authors. Since Sony already has joint control of EMI MP, the transaction would not lead to any increase in market share in any of the markets where Sony and EMI MP are active.”
Among the factors in its conclusion: that songwriters and composers “could credibly threaten to switch away from Sony if it attempted to degrade the value of their publishing rights to the benefit of its recording division”.
Indie body Impala had pressed the EC to block the proposed deal, so is unsurprisingly unimpressed with the decision. “This goes against the regulator’s own precedents. In 2012, it ruled that divestments were required for Sony to become a minority shareholder. Now that Sony is acquiring 100% control of EMI, it is being given unconditional approval,” said executive chair Helen Smith. Impala recently published an analysis claiming that Sony and EMI’s combined share of national charts would exceed 70% in Italy, France and the Netherlands, rising to 83% in Spain. “It undermines eighteen years of robust merger control in the music sector,” said Smith. “The outcome is perplexing.”