EMI to build Arabian music repertoire

Cathy Newman

EMI, the music giant whose artists include the Spice Girls and the Beatles, is to expand into Egypt as part of plans to increase its presence in the Arab countries.

The company has appointed an agent in Egypt to distribute EMI's international recordings and develop its Arabic repertoire. If all goes according to plan, EMI expects to set up an office in the country.

A spokeswoman for EMI said yesterday: "You have to start somewhere and this is where we start. It's part of our commitment to growing the Arab region."

However, she said the move was at this stage "exploratory" as music piracy in Egypt, where albums are illegally copied, could present a problem for the group. "The market really does need stronger copyright and piracy legislation," she said.

According to the most recent figures from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), 25 per cent of all albums sold in Egypt in 1995 were pirated.

However, EMI sees a potential for growth in Egypt, which is the fourth- largest music market in the Arab countries. EMI already has operations in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, the Lebanon and Abu Dhabi.

The Middle East and Turkish region represented only 1 per cent of world music sales last year, but grew 15 per cent during the period, IFPI figures showed. Sales of CDs in the area increased by 29 per cent in 1996.

EMI has recently looked at expanding into developing markets such as Asia and Latin America. EMI and its rival, PolyGram, are keen to develop their local repertoires in these areas, as the fragmentation of the global music market makes it more difficult to export international artists across the world. PolyGram recently expressed an interest in moving into Vietnam.

EMI said yesterday that local stars were also in vogue for cultural reasons.

"As countries develop and become more affluent, they buy artists who sing about their own culture," the spokeswoman said.

"Local repertoire is the way things are going as indigenous music is more identifiable to individual consumers."