David BowieEMI: The major label no one wants to buy and no artist wants to be on. The epically mismanaged record company has seen many of its top talent -- Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Queen, Radiohead, and most recently, Robbie Williams -- jump ship in recent years after the label was bought, and then run into the ground, by equity firm Terra Firma. And now David Bowie appears to be on the verge of leaving EMI after 15 years with the company: with the Thin White Duke's contract with EMI set to expire in January 2012, Bowie will look to bring his legendary catalog to another, more competent label, the Financial Times reports (via NME). At least they still have the Beatles!
Ironically, it was Bowie himself that inspired Terra Firma's ill-fated takeover of EMI after the singer's innovative idea to sell fans 10-year "Bowie Bonds," or rights to future royalties from Bowie's catalog, presented a clever new approach to further monetizing an artist's music. However, before Terra Firma could employ Bowie's strategy on a widespread basis, the global recession and the music industry's crippling sales dive sent EMI spiraling into debt. In short, no "Bowie Bonds," no Terra Firma purchase, and EMI might still be flourishing instead of watching as their best artists flee. Following a lengthy lawsuit, EMI has since been under the ownership of Citigroup, who has been looking to sell the major label but have so far found no takers, despite plenty of interest. If Bowie does end up leaving EMI, it could result in an even lower bid for the struggling label at auction.
A move to another record company would likely result in the reissue of Bowie's entire catalog, even though his discography has been released and re-released countless times already. That means deluxe editions of Low and Lodger, but any label that scoops up all his past albums probably won't be getting a new LP from the singer, since Bowie has essentially retired from music.