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Mute is independent again, albeit with EMI as a best mate

By | Published on Thursday 23 September 2010

Through a series of deals between its founder and EMI, one time independent record company Mute is becoming indie all over again.

Founder Daniel Miller has continued to head up Mute as an EMI imprint ever since he sold his record company – most associated with Depeche Mode and Moby – to the major back in 2002. Eight years on, he is basically parting company with the flagging music giant and setting up another indie label instead.

But he parts on good terms, with EMI very much a partner in the new business, albeit with only a minority equity stake. They will license the Mute brand back to Miller so that his new label can use the same name as his old one (and the same name as his music publishing company, which always stayed independent of the major).

They will also license the new label portions of the Mute catalogue to help Miller generate quick revenue, and then provide label services – so sales, distribution, sync deals and merchandising – in the North American, British and Irish markets.

Miller, meanwhile, will provide consultancy services back to the major, in particular in relation to Mute’s most bankable still active talent, including Depeche Mode, Goldfrapp, Richard Hawley, Kraftwerk and White Rabbits, who will remain signed to EMI.

Confirming the deal, EMI’s top man for Europe, David Kassler, said yesterday: “We’re delighted to have reached this agreement with Daniel, who is a beacon for the artist community and one of the great label entrepreneurs. This new partnership will allow him to build a new independent label whilst enabling us to continue to work with him in a productive and creative way”.
Miller himself added: “I am pleased that as a result of this arrangement with EMI, Mute can prosper as a vibrant member of the independent sector, while retaining a strong and constructive link with EMI in the development of our catalogue, brand and roster”.

Of course, it’s tempting to interpret this development as one of the record industry’s more astute players getting out of the EMI tower before its collapses on all sides. So tempting, in fact, I just did it. Though, I suppose, most indie music entrepreneurs who find themselves inside a major label organisation as a result of their baby being bought, invariably eventually succumb to the temptation of going it alone once again. And for the British indie label community, having Miller as one of their own again is definitely good news.