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Limited Supply? – EMI in a bit of bother

StoneJoss Stone may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and rightly so, but news that the vacuous Welsh poptart is so desperate to quit ailing label EMI she is willing to return a £2m advance should set alarm bells ringing at the venerable old institution.

Despite a fundamental lack of talent or likability, Stone was signed up to a four album, £7.5m advance deal in 2006. However, she’s willing to return £1.2m in advances and £800,000 in earnings from her upcoming album – I’m not naming it here, that would just encourage her – to be free of them.

EMI have been struggling for a while, both financially and now it seems artistically. Reports claim that Stone feels the company no longer has the creative vision it once had, a fact beautifully illustrated by it’s crazy and near ruinous decision to give Robbie Williams – a novelty act well past his prime and unable to shift records once you’ve left Dover – an £80m golden handcuffs deal.

Stone is apparently holding up the master tapes; we’d like to think armed, wearing a Rambo headband and locked in a panic room.

This is all part of a larger problem at the label. Ever since it was bought out by venture capitalist group (boo! hiss!) Terra Firma in 2007, a steady stream of big names have headed for the door; the Rolling Stones, Radiohead and Supergrass have all since departed. (So have Art Brut, but much as we love them, we doubt that one has kept the MD up all night with worry.)

Say what you like about any of the acts mentioned, but they all sell records, and not an awful lot of acts do these days. It’s up to EMI to turn this around, but the feeling is a Catch 22 situation has developed at the label; the creative guys had no business savvy, which meant the company had to get in people who did; but the business people have no creativity or artist management skills, which is why they are leaving in droves.

Of course, going back to 1976 and Lydon’s classic sneering about them, EMI have always been corporate pigs but hey, that was back in the day when a label practically owned their acts. In the last ten years, EMI have singularly failed to deal with any of the big changes in music – the drop in sales, the internet, the growth in live music – and are paying the price accordingly.

With rumours that Coldplay and Lily Allen are also unhappy, their roster is starting to look thinner and thinner each month. Indeed, it’s getting perilously close to ‘doing a Woolworths.’ Only time will tell, but it certainly isn’t looking good for one of our oldest labels.


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