The music business is going through a lot of changes that’s for sure. Over the labels’ usual problems of having to deal with a decline in sales, the “digital shift” in music consumption (on which I am writing a dissertation) and a on-going crusade against piracy, this week rumours of EMI’s split between Sony and Universal have been confirmed plus on a slightly different note we have John Lewis, a chain of department stores killing a Smiths song.
First things first, EMI’s meltdown.
Until now, the music market was mainly controlled and divided by ‘The Big Four’ – Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and EMI. A study conducted in 2010 by Nielsen Soundscan has shown that these record labels controlled more than the majority of the market with Universal being the lead in total album sales and a close second Sony.
Now, Sony is bidding for EMI’s publishing business while Universal is hoping for a rise in recorded music. The company will be split in two and years and years of history will be going in a different course.
I actually chose to do a presentation on EMI’s brand management in my second year Corporate Identity Course. I chose them because of their history and I admired and how they managed to maintain cohesive image throughout all their ventures and history from the Gramophone Company to His Master’s Voice and all the way to EMI today. But I guess when music becomes just business, less art, these things are bound to happen.
Slowly the music industry is headed towards monopoly isn’t it? Maybe at one point it will just be a Sony-Warner-Universal label and all the independents.
But getting back on track (never mind the fact that the music business is going crazy), let’s talk about the John Lewis advert.
Actually let’s talk about music as art and how it fits in this act of branding. Using music in adverts is not in any way recent and I’m pretty sure it’s how most clothing brands get noticed, by using music their target audience listens, the only thing is they usually use pop music which I don’t have much affection for or I happen to agree to their choice. But this time, I’m against it. So, yes it is subjective. For me this song was art instead of business. I believe they ruined a perfectly beautiful Smiths song. And all the covers I loved that were made after it.
As a PR student I understand how using music in adverts may be beneficial to both retailers and songwriters (especially in this time of declining music sales), but as a fan I just thought some bands were never going to sell their music to advertisers. And of course there are some that don’t do it, but it just wasn’t this one. And my question here is, am I the only Smiths fan that feels a little bit betrayed?