Monday, April 12, 2010
The Rise & Fall of EMI Records
(Omnibus Press), by Brian Southall
As the original home of The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Radiohead, Britain’s EMI Records boasts a rich musical history. But away from the recording studio, the label has been a mess for at least the past two decades. In The Rise & Fall of EMI Records, former EMI director Brian Southall explores the company’s extraordinary decline from greatness (particularly since the mid-1990s) in the form of rejected takeovers, unsuccessful mergers, executive changes, profit warnings and massive artist and staff cuts. Don’t expect much about the music, though; this is a detailed and often dry account of front-office politics and backroom deals involving head honchos with no background or interest in music. EMI’s history dates back to 1897, not long after the founding of the phonograph, and it still ranks as one of the world’s “big four” record companies—despite its consistent struggle for success in the U.S. market and slow embrace of rock music, compact discs and finally MP3s. Southall relentlessly interviewed former executives and managers, music journalists, financial analysts and staff at rival record companies to emerge with a distressing depiction not simply of one company, but of an entire industry.