Warner, EMI Propose Merger

Garth Brooks, Faith Hill and George Jones could become corporate country cousins under a proposed merger of music companies announced Monday in London.

Brooks, who records for EMI-owned Capitol Nashville, would join Hill, a Warner Bros. artist, and Jones, an artist for Time Warner’s Asylum imprint, under the umbrella of the newly created company, to be called Warner EMI Music.

The global music company, created by the merger of Time Warner’s Warner Music Group and the London-based EMI Group, would have combined revenues of $8 billion and reduce the number of major music companies from five to four.

Based on 1999 figures from SoundScan, which tracks record sales in the U.S., the new company would have ranked first last year in the country market with 31 percent of total album sales, slightly ahead of Seagram’s Universal Music Group, which claimed 28.5 percent.

Sony had 18.1 percent of the country market last year, while BMG had 17.3 percent. Independent labels accounted for 5.2 percent of country sales.

On Nashville’s Music Row, the merger would affect Warner-owned record labels including Warner Bros., Reprise, Atlantic, Asylum, Giant and Sire.

On the EMI side, the deal would touch EMI’s Capitol Nashville (Brooks’ label) and Virgin Nashville rosters. In addition, music publishing firms Warner Chappell Music and EMI Music, both with Nashville divisions, would become part of the same company.

The merger must be approved by shareholders of the two companies and by regulatory authorities in the U.S. and Europe.

Two weeks ago, Time Warner announced that it would merge with Internet company America Online. If it comes to pass, the merger would be good for his company says Pat Quigley, Capitol Nashville president and chief executive officer.

“You have two things: the power of the two companies together, both music and publishing, is unprecedented, but when you put AOL in down the road, it helps our current distribution move into the 21st century. It’s not only the product, but it’s the distribution, all in one company.”