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One down?

According to this article in Bloomberg, it’s looking like the European Commission will approve a merger between Sony Music and BMG. The merger, if it happened today, would beat out Universal Music as the world’s largest record label, and the “Big 5” would become the “Big 4”.

This is definitely good news. Anyone who is worried about the merger’s effect on competition or diversity has a inappropriately rosy view of the current state of affairs. The reality is that there is already very little meaningful competition between record labels, since only a handful of labels can get their music on the radio.

Will this merger make major label music even more expensive and even less diverse? Probably: according to Bloomberg just one month ago the European Commission told the two labels that their merger would reduce competition, hurt diversity, and drive up prices. But that’s not a bad thing in the long term. As the major labels drop local European bands, charge more for downloads from online music stores, and focus more and more on synthetic international megahits and less on good music, people will have less and less a reason to buy their stuff. Remember: the product they sell is already available for free. If the major labels want to survive they don’t need more anti-competitive clout, they need more good will. And this merger is going to get them the exact opposite. The merging of Sony Music and BMG should be seen as part of a long, downward spiral. One that ends in the cultural and economic irrelevance of big corporations to our music culture and our music lives.

It seems like this story is still breaking, and that the official announcement is days or weeks away. But when that merger happens, you know we’ll be cheering: “one down, four to go.”

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