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AIM’s monthly board meeting concluded Tuesday night without the U.K. trade body agreeing ratification of Impala’s recent deal to back a Warner Music Group approach for EMI Group.
A spokesman for the independent music companies’ trade body tells Billboard.biz that the meeting was “broadly positive” on Impala’s controversial agreement.
In its official statement, which reached Billboard.biz at 1pm GMT, AIM said it will ask its members to reconfirm their position: “That mergers without remedies to the independent sector, from the EC and/or the parties, will not be acceptable to independent music companies.”
In the statement, Alison Wenham, chairman/CEO of AIM, says the association will canvass its membership on this stance. Wenham described yesterday’s meeting as an “important step forward” in the process of ensuring “that we act in accordance with our members’ principles and wishes on all this all-important issue,” adding “the board’s broad support for the next stage is welcomed by me”.
Wenham could not be reached for additional comment.
In the statement, Jeremy Lascelles, CEO of AIM member Chrysalis Music Division, and deputy chairman of the trade body said, “Now that the board has had the opportunity to fully understand the details of the remedies that Impala has been able to negotiate with Warner, and has had a chance to discuss and debate the issues internally, a much clearer picture emerges. And it is a picture that contains a number of points that will be hugely advantageous to the independent record community”.
AIM used the forum of its regular meeting to scrutinize the terms of the confidential Impala-WMG pact, after an “emergency” board meeting last week failed to bring a conclusion. AIM is a member of Impala, the pan-European indie music firms’ trade association.
Last week’s meeting was convened in the wake of the defections of AIM members Ministry of Sound and Gut; both labels split in protest to the Impala/WMG agreement.
Going forward, the topic will be covered at regular AIM board meetings, the AIM spokesman says.
Across Europe, feedback from indie trade bodies and labels on the Impala-WMG pact has been largely positive.
Michael Haentjes, CEO of independent German label edel music-an Impala member-and chairman of the German arm of IFPI, welcomes the deal. “I congratulate Impala on the agreement with Warner,” he tells Billboard.biz. “This is good news for the market and will help the indies.”
Haentjes says he was “at a loss” to understand the reasons why any indie companies would resign association membership over the issue. “Edel will remain a member,” he says. “This will strengthen Impala and its members as a whole.”
Michel Lambot, managing director of Brussels-based indie label PIAS and a co-founder of Impala, suggests the fuss over the deal is a storm in a tea-cup. “What I do see is that from the over 3,300 members we have, two have gone public — that says it all,” he boasts. “We don’t expect everyone to be happy with every deal we make. What we are looking for are market remedies.”
Jerome Roger, director general of France’s Impala-affiliated indie labels trade body UPFI, backs the deal. “[This agreement] might sound paradoxical knowing that Impala is fighting the music industry concentration process. But the goal of indies is to ensure the best possible regulation of the market,” says Roger, who adds this agreement will offer better competition conditions and better access to market for indies.
Emil Jørgensen, chairman of Danish indie label organization DUP, says the body sent out a memo briefing its members on the Impala-WMG issue. “As a small territory, Danish indie labels tend to get pulled into the current created by larger territories, so we’re basically in a sit-and-wait situation,” Jørgensen says.
Israeli labels body PIL, which is an Impala member, has given its formal support to the WMG agreement. According to a spokesman, “We take Impala’s action as a favorable move. We don’t agree with everything but we don’t fear it; it’s a good way forward to establish an independent force.” In a statement, PIL said it is confident that the pact will go some way to rebuilding the market for the independent sector, and ensure that the independents are not harmed further by mergers among the major players.
In Italy, Claudio Ferrante, GM of label Carosello and board member of Impala-member PMI, said “We (PMI) are awaiting to see what exactly are the details of the agreement between Impala and Warner before reaching a decision. We are, however, confident that Impala will have reached an agreement that is beneficial to the indie sector.”
Silvia Rodado, international coordinator of Spain’s UFI, a board member of Impala, said, “many members have rung very surprised to ask ‘is it true about the accord?’. But there’s been no negative reaction, as we are all waiting for more information.”
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