The press and EMI

I have been amused at the recent business press portrayal of EMI as weak and desperate and Eric Nicoli as ‘The yorkie Bar Man’ working out of his area.

A few big points here: First every journalist knows that profit warnings are the curse of PLC’s and not something Warner have to issue in the same way or under the same regulations. The fact is that Warner Sony and EMI are all stretched about equally. Conspicuous for the moment are Universal who are on a market share mission.

Second, how many people know that Eric Nicoli’s brother Fabio was head of art and sleeve design at Atlantic and other labels in the 70’s designing, among others, the iconic ‘Brain Salad surgery’ [ELP] and ‘Crime of the Century’ [Supertramp] sleeves. Fabio died sadly aged just 33 and music and records have been literally in Eric’s blood, veins and family since he was a very young man.

Thirdly city jitters about a biscuit man running EMI are both silly and particularly inapposite. Sir Joseph Lockwood, the man who ‘saved’ EMI in the 1950’s and built a diverse huge business over 3 decades had spent the whole of his career in a variety of flour mills! he was brought in for his managerial ability and business acumen. Add Nicoli’s marketing background, consumer focus and 35 years intimate family connection with making great records with a great image and you have a pretty good reason to be optimistic.

Yes of course it was clear that Apple would need to demystify itunes if it was to escape massive censure by the EU and yes it was opportunisticof Nicoli to strike a quick deal. If I were Damon Albarn or Cold Play I would be very pleased to see all this happening at my label and Albarn’s comment that DRM-free high resolution albums for the same price as current low res versions was ‘f***ing brilliant’.

Apple President Steve Jobbs got it right yesterday when he countered fears that DRM-free high-res downloads would spell mass-piracy, filesharing and doom by simply stating that as far as he is concerned Itunes would simply continue to beat stealing music hands down as an experience.

Can we remember that the music cassette and £5 casette player in 1964 were greeted as ‘the end’ as families would just copy away from the one fool who had bought the vinyl album. This did not happen. In 1984 the CD was swiftly followed by the CD burner. ‘The end’ they all said. There followed 15 years of massive growth and prosperity. I predict the same for the high-res DRM-free world of downloads.

If EMI get their new acts coming through stronger particularly in the US and refresh their catalogue exploitation with some imaginative content i.e. product developement and consumer focus – both of which I see as Eric Nicoli’s strenths – then given a spare £3 billion I’ll buy EMI.