The Federal Trade Commission has found no antitrust violations in the planned $2.2 billion acquisition of EMI Music Publishing by a group of investors led by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, a joint venture of Sony and the estate of Michael Jackson. The move unites EMI's huge roster of songwriters, including Alicia Keys, Norah Jones and Notorious BIG with Sony ATV's list, which includes the Beatles and Michael Jackson. The combined company will own more than two million copyrights.
The FTC notified the parties of its conclusions in letter dated Thursday. The European Union gave the nod to the deal in April, with the condition that Sony divest rights to songs owned by EMI's Virgin Music Publishing in the United Kingdom, including artists Robbie Williams and Lenny Kravitz. No such conditions were attached to U.S. regulatory approval.
"Music publishing, along with the rest of our entertainment companies, has been a bright spot in our business portfolio, and we expect that trend to continue with this important acquisition," said Kazuo Hirai, President and CEO, Sony Corporation, in an e-mailed statement.
The deal is the less controversial piece of the breakup and sale of major label EMI by Citigroup. EMI's record label business is set to be acquired by Universal Music, pending regulatory approval. That deal has generated opposition from watchdog groups and rival labels who say it concentrates too much market power in the hands of a single company. This merger was the subject of a Senate hearing last week.
There is some concern about the potential for abuse of market power in the music publishing sector, especially with regard to music streaming platforms like Spotify or Pandora. These services have to acquire licenses from publishers as well as from record labels in order to stream music. Casey Rae of the Future of Music Coalition said that a dominant publisher "would be able to wield a disproportionate amount of influence over the developing digital market, just like the labels."