Britain’s competition watchdog has provisionally cleared Sony Music’s $430m (£312m) deal to buy Awal – the artist service company that has worked with musicians including Little Simz, Nick Cave and Finneas – after initially raising concerns the takeover could lead to worse deals for artists or increase prices.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said that an in-depth investigation into the deal, prompted by concerns it could be bad for the music business, has concluded that it will not substantially lessen competition in the UK now or in the future.
The CMA had been concerned that the takeover would mean the loss of another independent player in the sector, which is dominated by the big three – Sony Music, Warner Music and Universal Music.
However, it has provisionally concluded that there are plenty of other independent “artist and label” service providers, companies that provide a cheaper “DIY platform” for artists offering promotion, marketing and distribution, and that these offer better royalties and copyright ownership than working with traditional record labels.
The major record labels have developed their own artist and label services, and artists can also turn to independent record labels that offer better terms than the music industry giants.
“We have carefully assessed whether this merger will lead to negative outcomes for the market, artists and, ultimately, music fans, now and in the future,” said Margot Daly, chair of the CMA’s inquiry group.
“Our provisional finding is that the deal is not likely to affect competition in a way that will reduce the choice or quality of recorded music available, or increase prices. We think that a combination of other major labels and independent providers will continue to closely rival Sony, so our provisional decision is to clear the merger.”
The CMA will publish its final report on the deal by 17 March.
A spokesperson for Sony Music Entertainment said: “Our investment in Awal will deliver real benefits for artists and consumers, amidst intense competition at every level of the music industry. We look forward to continuing to work with the CMA throughout the final stages of their review.”