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An EMI sale might not raise antitrust concerns

With record labels' power diminished in the music industry, antitrust officials might not be inclined to block a sale of EMI to one of the three other major labels.

August 13, 2011|By Alex Pham, Los Angeles Times

"The question here is whether an artist could not write a song, perform it and have it distributed and sold without the help of a record label," he said. "In the past, the answer was no. Today, the answer is yes."

Start-ups such as TopSpin, ReverbNation and TuneCore enable bands to circumvent record labels and directly sell to their fans. In recent years, established artists, including Radiohead, Paul McCartney and Nine Inch Nails, have dropped their contracts with major labels and opted for alternative distributors.

Further watering down the power of major music conglomerates is the proliferation of free music, both via legal online radio services such as Pandora and via illegal sources such as file-sharing sites.

"Changes in the competitive landscape brought in by technology in the past decade means that any regulatory review is likely to be about more than just adding up market share numbers," said Scott Martin, an antitrust attorney at Greenberg Traurig. "Consumers simply have a lot more choice now than they have before."

alex.pham@latimes.com

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