Black Hand Gang vs. EMI

Artists, reps decry changes at firm

EMI is facing the prospect of an artists revolt, with representatives of such major acts as Robbie Williams and Coldplay expressing concern about the state of the company.

Williams' manager, Tim Clark of ie: music, told the London Times that since Terra Firma's £3.2 billion ($6.3 billion) takeover of EMI in September, new EMI Group chairman Guy Hands has behaved like a "plantation owner," with the paper reporting that Williams was effectively "on strike." High-profile acts Radiohead and Paul McCartney have left EMI in the past year.

In an interview Friday, Clark clarified Williams' position.

"That term 'going on strike' is such an emotive one, and it's certainly not what (Williams) would say," Clark said.

But he expressed concern about whether EMI is capable of successfully releasing a Williams album.

"Given where EMI were, the state they were in, the changes they were making," Clark said, "how could any artist deliver an album? We wouldn't know how it would be marketed, distributed and promoted."

Clark said he has had two meetings with Hands but added that he's unwilling to commit to a label that has yet to convince him of a clear strategy and said it needed to be sold to Williams before they sign up.

On Tuesday at the Odeon Cinema in London, Hands will set out his plans for EMI in a series of meetings. It seems certain to be a fiery affair. On Friday, angry managers, calling themselves the Black Hand Gang, were coordinating their response by e-mail.

Coldplay's management also has voiced their "confusion" over Wadsworth's departure. The band had the biggest-selling album in the world in 2005 with "X&Y" and is due to deliver its new record "Prospekt" this year.

Asked about the Coldplay's future relationship with EMI, Holmes said: "I am not really sure what EMI is right now. I guess we shall see (Tuesday) when Guy makes his announcement."

Mark Sutherland is Billboard's London bureau chief and global editor; Andre Paine is a correspondent for Billboard.
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