Music Suffers in Corporate Panic

Only some seriously heavy substances could explain the suicidal binge the music business appears to be on. First, as we have observed here a few months back, they've gone on the attack against the hands that have fed them -- avid music fans so desperate for access to music on line. The results include lawsuits against young teenagers and senior citizens and a PR blunder for a cabal who've already lost favor by making artists into indentured servants and bilking the public for slim product at inflated prices.

Now, as they stumble to finally get music for sale on line, the music mafia presents a corporate version of a TV "reality" show that leaves one less player at every turn. And as they do so, round and round it goes and where it ends nobody knows.

Just a few months back, Warner Music and Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) were making out hot and heavy in a back room as they planned a hot merger. But they couldn't work out who played dom and who gave in as the sub as they coupled and dropped each other like spurned lovers.

Meanwhile Vivendi unloads its entertainment division to GE/NBC sans the Universal Music Group, the industry's largest, which is still parading its ample assets to suitors, it is said. And one of them might be Edgar Bronfman, the Seagrams heir who once owned it and sold to Vivendi in the first place.

Eddie boy is also tossing roses towards Warners while that ailing bunny talks turkey with EMI, the last remaining stand-alone music company (the same deal was scotched by regulators a few years back). At the same time, BMG is throwing partnership kisses at Sony Music while also winking at AOL (the demoted partner of Warner Music's parent company) and EMI.

If this were a soap opera, we'd be glued to the sets. And I still can't decide: acid or crack? Or both? Whatever the case, corporate panic has created merger mania as the business leaks and sinks like a ruptured oil tanker, all the while darkening the beaches of its relationship with music consumers.

And all the kids wanna do is rock, or whatever music whatever ages want. Music is and will always be an essential component of human life. And instead of focusing on how to efficiently serve a primal human need, the music companies are all twisting the neck of the golden goose. Maybe they're tripping and they think it's an evil spirit that must be destroyed. Or maybe they want to kill and pluck it for a few more rocks for the crackpipe. Whatever they're doing, they're more wack than their most wasted artist ready for a visit to Betty Ford. And whatever happens, the music -- the stuff it's all supposed to be about -- is what will suffer the most.

Rob Patterson is an entertainment writer in Austin, Texas. Email

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