Stars could 'strike' over sale of Parlophone by French owner


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The Independent Online

Some of Britain's top-selling musicians may withhold future albums in protest against being treated as "assets" in the forced sale of their record label, i can disclose.

Blur are leading a revolt against the sell-off of Parlophone, part of the EMI group, which has been the launch-pad for dozens of artists from the Beatles to Coldplay. Universal Music, the French-owned company, has been ordered to sell Parlophone as part of its £1.2bn takeover of EMI.

The move has unsettled artists on Parlophone's roster, who also include Kylie Minogue and Tinie Tempah. The stars, many worth millions of pounds, say they object to being treated as pawns in a corporate takeover.

Representatives of Blur, who released their first single on Parlophone 21 years ago, have joined forces with their label-mates to lobby potential bidders for the company, calling on them to place the interests of artists first. Stars who are not happy with the new owners could withhold future releases, effectively going on strike.

Dave Rowntree, the drummer with Blur, told i: "Artists are the only people currently being left out of the conversation, which is unfortunate. If the staff at the label are unhappy with the new arrangements they are free to leave, but the artists are not."

Rowntree, a former Labour party parliamentary candidate, is backing negotiations through the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC), a pop stars "trade union" supported by Lily Allen and Radiohead.

Now a qualified solicitor, he said he once advised the head of EMI how to prevent illegal file-sharing from destroying the company's revenues.

Rowntree, 48, said: "Years later, while the label I grew up working with is being broken up and flogged off, Apple have made a gazillion dollars using the business model I explained. I'm left in the completely unsatisfying position of being able to say 'I told you so'."

Sir George Martin, the legendary Beatles producer who became Parlophone's manager in 1955, said he was "saddened that great companies have been swallowed up by the giants" and warned that the music business would become dominated by just two companies, Sony and Universal.

Parlophone represents such diverse artists as Pink Floyd, Cliff Richard, Tina Turner, Kate Bush, David Bowie, Duran Duran and Kraftwerk. Universal gets to keep The Beatles' catalogue, which is excluded from the Parlophone sale.