More on the EU and Music

A small but significant step towards the EUís ideal of pan-European digital licensing took place yesterday with the announcement by the Dutch and Belgian collection societiesí announcements that they will accept the EUís proposals. Thereís a long way to go of course as there are another 14 to follow suit and quick progress shouldnít be expected: this process essentially requires the un-raveling of an intricate network of individual reciprocal agreements that took decades to put in place. Also, not all the blame should be laid at the feet of the collection societies: the gatekeepers of digital music are the record labels, without them nothing happens. Although the EU Commission flexed its muscles with the CD price fixing raids a few years ago, the major labels remain a much tougher nut to crack. The labels are able to make compelling arguments about large European workforces and whatever the other ideals and aims of the EU may be, its prime concern is to protect the welfare of European citizens, which means protecting jobs. Hence the EUís decision to allow the Sony BMG deal to go through and hence the likelihood it will look favourably on any potential forthcoming EMI proposed merger. Despite their ebbs and flows, BMG and EMI are two European success stories and it is the EUís duty to ensure they remain economically viable and with substantial EU workforces. Creating a vibrant European digital download market is all well and good but it needs a vibrant European music industry to drive it. The EU is caught between trying to ensure that barriers are removed on the one hand but that companies have conditions enabling them to prosper on the other.