The British press are getting very confused about this sale, forced on Universal by EEC busybodies as the condition of agreeing their purchase of EMI. Every story I’ve read is accompanied by a photo of either Coldplay or Kylie Minogue, who of course record for the Parlophone label, or The Beatles, whose catalogue (together, somewhat strangely, with Robbie Williams’) is excluded.
However, it’s not Parlophone that has been sold. It’s the entire 115-year recordings catalogue of EMI and The Gramophone Company before it. Universal wisely recognised the huge value, both historically and still today, of the name EMI in Britain. It therefore made a point of using Parlophone as the name under which the sale would appear, retaining, or rather actively not using the name EMI. So it’s not just Chris and Kylie, it’s hundreds of thousands of artists and millions of recordings going all the way back to 1897, pop, classical, jazz, crooner, dance band, you name it.
It was a stupid edict but Universal had no option but to accede, and there are positives. Of all the rumoured people interested in the purchase, Warners makes the most sense. They have taken everything, whereas Sony and BMG were going to work together and then split the proceeds between current artists and back catalogue and who knows what Simon Fuller would have wanted with 99% of his purchase?
The name EMI remains with Universal, and don’t expect them to just bury it. Historically, Parlophone was EMI’s third label in importance, well behind His Master’s Voice and Columbia, and important as was its resurrection by Sir George Martin, once The Beatles had finished recording it took almost 30 years before an enlightened EMI executive (and friend of mine!) to decide to take the name for his division. The EMI label, itself relatively short lived, may be remembered for Kate Bush and Queen, but it is the organisation and its history that must and hopefully willbe preserved.