Music Publishing a go go

Suddenly everywhere you turn there are stories on music publishing. First up EMI Music Publishing have signed a deal with SpiralFrog (who have to win the award for best PR). Though some media outlets have misreported this as a deal that will provide songs for downloading it is only for the publishing rights. So for those of you not au fait with music rights that means that (currently) the only songs covered by this deal that SpiralFrog will be able to distribute are those that the artists record deals are with Universal Music. But of course this is just one piece of the license puzzle that SpiralFrog is putting together.

Also hitting the news today is that Bertelsmann have agreed to sell BMG Music Publishing to Universal Music. Thereís a lot of talk about what this means to Bertelsmannís global strategy. I donít buy the argument that this is part of a strategic withdraw from the global marketplace. There are numerous financial drivers (including things like debt balances and retaining private control of assets) but Iím no financial analyst so Iíll stick to the broader strategic picture. This is part of the larger process of debunking the 1990’s myth of the cross platform media conglomorate megalith. CEO Gunter Thielen is overseeing the undoing of a lot of the work that predecessor Thomas Middlehoff presided over. As with the diminutive Jean-Marie Messier (his then counterpart at Vivendi Universal) Middlehoff played by the rules of engagement of media strategy in the 1990ís which was pulling together disparate media and communication entities into large, ultimately unwieldy, media conglomerate megaliths.

In the current day climate there is a realization that the (90ís buzzword warning) synergies of these media monsters were often outweighed by
a) the internalized efforts required to integrate companies
b) the reduced agility of individuals business units in a broader corporate structure

Now the focus is on more innovative business practices that can produce competitive and advantageous revenue relationships that donít require large acquisition budgets, as evidenced by the Sony/BMG joint venture.

So this move is as much about Bertlesmann pulling itself into the 21st century as its internal financial requisites.