EMIAnd then there were three major labels: After nine months of Citigroup-owned limbo, the beleaguered EMI, which was the most successful of the Big 4 record labels not too long ago, has been split in half and sold off to two of its former competitors, Sony and Universal. According to Billboard.biz, Sony has purchased EMI Music Publishing, while the overgrowing Vivendi/Universal Music Group picked up the crown jewel, the EMI recorded music division, which includes the works of the Beatles, Pink Floyd, pre-2007 Radiohead, and a roster that currently includes Coldplay, Gorillaz, and Katy Perry.
Considering Terra Firma bought EMI as a whole for £3.4 billion in 2007, the £1.2 billion Universal/Vivendi spent to purchase EMI's recorded music division is a bargain, even in this climate where music sales are down significantly. Without getting too deep into the business details -- does anyone really care that the payments are " 7 x EBITDA prior to synergies" -- the deal essentially means EMI will continue running as they have been in recent years, except now they'll be better managed.
No more Guy Hands and Terra Firma epic failing all over the place, no more Citigroup bankers who wouldn't know a hit song if it punched them in the face. People who actually understand the music industry are back atop of the corporate ladder. "[Universal] have assembled the most talented group of executives in the industry today and their success speaks for itself. This can only be a positive for the artists and executives at EMI," Coldplay's manager Dave Holmes said in a statement. For now, the EMI hierarchy -- the execs, A&R, the artists etc. -- will continue to work under the EMI name, since that company's moniker is the most prestigious in music.
Ironically, when it was revealed earlier this week that David Bowie was thinking about ditching EMI when his contract expired, Universal was the favorite to acquire the Thin White Duke's catalog. Now that Universal essentially owns the company that owns the Bowie discography -- until January 2012, at least -- it's unlikely he'll go anywhere. Same goes for the Rolling Stones and Queen: Both of those classic rock groups also left EMI in recent years for the greener pastures of Universal, but they now all find themselves back under one roof with their former label.
As Mick Jagger said in a statement following news of the sale, "This is a very positive development and I particularly welcome the fact that EMI will once again be owned by people who really do have music in their blood."