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Marty Bandier trumpets success of EMI deal in final end of year memo to Sony/ATV staff

By | Published on Tuesday 18 December 2018


Marty Mart Bandier has sent his final end-of-year round-up email to staff, before he steps down as head of the world’s biggest music publisher – Sony/ATV – in March next year. His twelve years at the top have all been great, he reckons, but this one was the icing on the cake. As I’m sure all the songwriters and indies who tried to block it would agree, “a major highlight” was Sony/ATV finally taking complete control of EMI Music Publishing.

“While I am sad that I will soon be saying goodbye after twelve wonderful years, I am also immensely proud of where the company is now compared to when I started”, he says. “Back then we were only the fourth largest music publisher. Now we are the world’s number one with a roster of songwriters and a catalogue of songs that are the envy of the industry and a team of executives who are in a class of their own. It has been an amazing experience working with you all and I can say without hesitation that my time at Sony/ATV has been the absolute highlight of my career”.

Although it must have caused him some stress at times – as organisations representing songwriters and indie music firms criticised the transaction – Bandier talks up that EMI deal a number of times in the memo. Sony/ATV initially acquired EMI Music Publishing as part of a consortium back in 2012, of course, and subsequently became an administrator of all those EMI rights. But this year, Sony bought those partners out of the joint venture so that EMI Music Publishing could become a wholly owned subsidiary of the Sony/ATV business.

The deal was referred to EU competition regulators and then faced opposition from indie music repping IMPALA and songwriter groups like BASCA and ECSA. Critics argued that allowing the biggest music publisher in the world to become even bigger would be detrimental for the music rights market. IMPALA also argued that, by metrics previously employed by EU competition regulators themselves, they should block the deal.

When those regulators subsequently approved the transaction with only a basic investigation, Sony’s opponents in the indie community argued that the decision sent a message to other major companies that if they need to get controversial acquisitions past competition regulators, they just needed to instigate a two-stage deal, initially involving other investors. So at stage one you can say the other investors will stop any distortion of the market, and then at stage two you can say “well we’ve basically been merged for six years already and nothing’s been distorted so far”.

Bandier doesn’t reference any of this in his email, but he does note that getting that deal done made him “particularly proud … given my long history with EMI where I spent seventeen happy and hugely successful years and oversaw its rise to become the number one music publisher, just as would later happen with Sony/ATV”.

Oh yes, the combined Sony/ATV/EMI is now the world’s number one publisher. Have we mentioned that already? And, by the way, if you were wondering why the EMI deal was waved through by EU regulators, it had nothing to do with those sneaky two-stage deal tactics the indies were banging on about. Oh no, it was Sony/ATV’s shiny new accounting system what won it.

Damn shiny it is. And that shine was dead useful during the regulatory process. “[This] new accounting standard for revenue recognition”, he beams, “[provides] extensive financial information and analysis which was used by the European Commission and Sony Corporation in connection with the acquisition of EMI, and … to consolidate EMI with Sony/ATV”. Hurrah for accounting standards for revenue recognition, I say.

Elsewhere, the “historic piece of legislation” that is America’s Music Modernization Act gets a special mention, as do many of the artists and songwriters which helped Sony/ATV on its way to achieving another super successful year. Drake, Lady Gaga, Ed Sheeran and Queen are particularly singled out. Newer acts Cardi B and Travis Scott also get a nod.

Bandier is set to be succeeded in the Sony/ATV top job by outgoing Warner/Chappell boss Jon Platt next year. Which is something Bandier is said to not be entirely happy about, despite previously mentoring Platt during his time at EMI.