Universal Music Group to retain Abbey Road

Following an agreement to acquire EMI’s recorded music division for £1.2bn, Universal Music Group (UMG) has claimed that it will retain Abbey Road studios, PSNE has reported.

With news of the UMG agreement emerging alongside details of a Sony/ATV-led consortium’s £1.4bn purchase of EMI’s music publishing, criticism from the likes of IMPALA (Independent Music Companies Association) was quick to surface, due to the implications of additional music industry consolidation.

“Given that Brussels has taken a previous decision that Universal should not be any bigger, we would expect the sale to Universal to be blocked outright, even if it offers to increase the divestments it is prepared to make. The same would apply to Sony if it buys EMI publishing,” said Helen Smith, executive chair of IMPALA.

Should they receive the necessary approvals, the acquisitions will end the on-going uncertainty surrounding EMI since February 2011, when the company’s owner private equity firm Terra Firma, lost control of the music group to US banking giant Citigroup.

As EMI fluctuated under Terra Firma, UMG strengthened its position as the world’s largest music company, with CEO/chairman Lucian Grainge presiding over proceedings. He described the UK label as “the preeminent music company that I grew up with. Its artists and their music provided the soundtrack to my teenage years. Therefore, UMG is committed to both preserving EMI’s cultural heritage and artistic diversity, and also investing in its artists and people to grow the company’s assets for the future.”

Speaking during a Vivendi conference call to financial analysts on November 11th, Grainge also commented: “It’s very much our intention to keep the Abbey Road studios. It is a symbol of EMI, it is a symbol of British culture. I think it’s a symbol for the creative community about exactly what the company is, and I think it’s very important that we are also part of it.”

This month’s developments were welcomed by APRS director Dave Harries, who has occupied positions at Abbey Road, Decca Studios, Air Studios and, most recently, British Grove. “Abbey Road has been an active and cherished supporter of the APRS for over 30 years,” he told PSNE. “It has been very concerning to all of us at the Association that some doubts have existed over the future; however, it is excellent to read at last that Abbey Road will be in safe hands and hopefully will continue to be so. From 1931 when the studios were opened by Sir Edward Elgar until the present day they have provided a massive contribution to the world’s recorded musical heritage. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to work there continue to be astounded by the fantastic roster of artists and listen in awe to the incredibly great records that have passed through those studios and post-production rooms.

“Everyone involved appreciates the tremendous financial downturn suffered by the recording industry together with the studios and this is due in no small way to the relatively recent international devaluation of music. This present situation has to be seriously addressed or more studios and record companies will struggle and fall by the wayside. For me, though, I would argue that London’s Abbey Road Studio is to recording history what the Egyptian pyramids are to world history, and therefore for everybody’s sake I do hope that this iconic facility will continue in its successful role for the new owners for many years to come.”