经济学人:唱片业 环球公司的赌博游戏
日期:2012-08-14 15:14


The music business.
Universal's gamble.
A musical merger could create anew model, or a dozy mammoth.
A WISE gamble involves knowing when to hold, when to fold and when to run,croons Kenny Rogers , an artist released through EMI's Capitol Records . Some are now wondering whether Universal Music Group was wise to gamble quite so much money on EMI's recorded-music division, which it bought from Citigroup for £1.2 billion ($1.9 billion) in an auction in November last year. For a firm in the weakest segment of a struggling industry, it was a lot. And regulators in America and Europe may make it costlier still.
肯尼?罗杰斯(Kenny Rogers)在通过百代(EMI)旗下的国会唱片公司(Capitol Records)发行的一首歌中,这样低声吟唱道:"聪明的牌手知道何时叫牌,他懂得扣牌的时机,他还明白几时该重返牌局"。环球唱片(Universal Music Group)去年11月在一次拍卖会上从花旗集团(Citigroup)手中以12亿英镑(折合19亿美元)的价格买入英国百代(EMI)的唱片部门。环球如此大手笔的冒险行为是否明智?一些业界人士对此表示怀疑。对处在这样一个苦苦挣扎的行业,而且是其发展最疲软市场中的公司来说,这的确是一大笔钱。此外,美国和欧盟相关监管部门的介入,可能令环球付出更高昂的代价。
At issue is whether the deal would give Universal Music, the largest of the four major labels, an unfair advantage by letting it take over the smallest. Taking EMI's market share and handsome catalogue (from theBeatles to Katy Perry, pictured) would give Universal a 40-50% share of most markets, reckons Enders Analysis, a research firm. It would also give the company more than half of last year's Billboard Top 100 hits, which would put it in an especially strong negotiating position with digital distributors, from iTunes to start-ups. "This is just about getting a bigger piece of the cake,"says Martin Mills, head of the Beggars Group of independent record labels.
但是人们目前考虑的重点是:允许全球四家主要唱片公司中规模最大的环球对规模最小的百代进行收购,此举是否会给环球带来不公平优势?英国市场研究公司Enders Analysis认为,百代唱片(EMI)的市场份额以及旗下众多的大牌艺人(从披头士—Beatles到凯蒂·佩里—Katy Perry,见下图)将会给环球公司带来大部分市场中40%-50%的份额。而这样的交易也同样意味着去年"告示牌百强单曲榜(Billboard Top 100 hits)"中过半歌曲的发行都将由环球负责,这将使得环球在同数字音乐分销商iTunes及其它新秀公司谈判时处于一个特别强势的地位。马丁·米尔斯,英国独立音乐厂牌乞丐集团(Beggars Group)创始人兼主席,对此发表评论称,"这也只不过就是分到了一块比较大的蛋糕罢了!"。
Hard times force singers to wear old sweet wrappers
Regulators have been wary of further consolidation in the industry ever since Sony Music merged with BMG's recorded-music division in 2004. The European Commission duly delivered a long "statement of objections" earlier this month. Though negotiations are confidential until the Eurocrats deliver their verdict in September, many predict that Universal will have to sell off quite a bit of EMI, including Virgin Music and EMI Classics.
自从2004年索尼唱片公司(Sony Music)并购了贝图斯曼(BMG)的唱片部门之后,致力于行业反垄断的监管者们一直都在担心,该行业未来还会出现其他的合并案例。本月早些时候,欧盟委员会适时地发布了一份内容很长的"异议声明"(Statements of objections)。尽管在9月份欧盟官员公布裁决结果之前,磋商内容仍对外保密,但是许多业界人士推测,环球唱片公司将被迫出售EMI唱片部门旗下相当一部分品牌,其中包括维京(Virgin Music)和百代古典(EMI Classics)。
Some expect such concessions to hamper the label's plans to make money from the deal. Universal has to pay Citigroup $1.75 billion in September regardless of the outcome. This puts Vivendi , Universal's French parent, in an uncomfortable position, as it must reassure its increasingly tetchy shareholders that the £100m in predicted synergies will come to pass.
These regulatory hurdles are good news for Universal's rivals, particularly Warner Music, an especially loud opponent of the merger (though it had previously attempted to merge with EMI itself), which is keen to scoop up anything divested in the process. But some wonder why Universal ever chose to double down in such a grim market.
面对环球遭遇的这些行业监管门槛,它的竞争对手们,特别是华纳唱片公司(Warner Music)感到很高兴。华纳唱片是这次交易案特别强烈的反对者(尽管之前它也试图想要收购百代),而且它一直都渴望能够收编那些在此次并购过程中被拆分出售的业务 。但是也有人对此怀有疑问,究竟环球唱片公司为什么将赌注双倍压在了这样一个不景气的市场上?
Sales of recorded music have fallen by half in the past decade, from about $13 billion in 2002 to $6.5 billion last year. Downloaded music is much cheaper than the old compact discs. Indeed, thanks to widespread piracy, it is often free.
Small wonder, then, that music firms are scrambling to cut costs. EMI is in fairly good shape after being put on a diet by Terra Firma, the private-equity firm that owned it before Citigroup. Still, Universalis getting the part of EMI's business that is most vulnerable to disruptive technology. (Citigroup separately sold its stodgy but strong music-publishing division to a consortium headed by Sony for $2.2 billion. Regulators agreed to this deal last month, without much fuss.)
有少部分人怀疑,也就是说,目前的音乐唱片公司都在努力缩减开支。花旗集团接手之前的百代(EMI),经过私募股权投资公司—泰丰资本(Terra Firma)的操刀调整之后,处于一个比较良好的状态。而现在,环球公司即将收购的却是百代最容易受到科技侵扰的唱片事业部。(花旗集团单独将百代的音乐版权部门以22亿美元的价格出售给了以索尼为首的一个财团。尽管音乐版权是块"难啃的骨头",但是却拥有强势的发展前景。上月,行业监管人员同意了这笔交易,而且并没有表现出太多的紧张和不安。)
Rock and roll, and the blues
To convince people that its purchase makes sense, Universal is in the awkward position of having to send several messages at once, not all of them coherent. To investors, the company is explaining that the music industry is beginning to stabilise. Its future is rosier than most people think, and alarger Universal would be well-placed to cash in [6]on a recovery, goes the argument. The latest Nielsen SoundScan [11]figures could conceivably support this view, as they show a slowing rate of decline of album sales in America in the first six months of 2012.
为了让公众相信,这项收购案是合情合理的,环球唱片公司被迫将零星的几条信息一起公布出来,而并非有条理地让大家了解全部实情,这就使得环球现在处于一种尴尬的境地。面对投资者,它解释称音乐行业已经开始逐渐回稳。有人认为,唱片业的前景要比大多数人想的美好,而且规模扩张的环球公司也将受益于行业复苏,使自己在未来处于有利地位。Nielsen SoundScan最新发布的数据对上述观点进行了有力的支持。正如数字显示的那样,2012年美国地区上半年唱片销量下降的趋势正在逐渐减缓。
To regulators, Universal and Vivendi are singing a completely different tune.They argue that record labels have been crippled by digital distributors such as Apple's iTunes, and by piracy. They moan that music retailers dictate terms to them. They plead that they are so powerless that even getting much larger would not give them anything approaching the clout to curb competition in the music market.
Lucian Grainge, the head of Universal, tries to square this circle .He explains that the merger is an effort to "invest in the future of theindustry". The plan is not to cut costs and keep EMI's catalogue, but to "build it back up" and maintain it as a separate company within Universal. He describes the deal as a way to "turn the industry back to some sort of growth", and promises to work with as many new distributors and platforms as possible."It would be insane for us to not ensure that the artists we invest in are not in every single new platform."
作为环球音乐首席执行官的卢西恩?格兰奇(Lucian Grainge),正在尝试这样一件不可能完成的事。他解释道,这项并购是环球公司对"投资音乐产业未来"所做的努力。公司的计划并非削减开支并同时保留百代旗下的艺人名录,而是要重振其雄风,并将百代作为一个环球内部独立的公司来运作。格兰奇把这项交易形容为一种可以"扭转行业现状,使其重回增长之路"的方式,同时他还承诺将会同尽可能多的新平台和新分销商进行合作。"如果我们不能保证每一个公司投资的艺人都享有全新独立的工作平台的话,那么我们就显得太愚蠢了"。
The snag is that the industry has yet to find a way to replace declining album sales. Digital sales are rising, but are still only a fraction of what CDs used to generate. Subscription services such as Spotify may appeal more to tech-savvy music aficionados than to casual buyers who might once have picked up a CD on the way home from work. Efforts to bundle music with mobile-phone or pay-TV subscriptions have failed to catch on.
还有一个小问题就是,尽管唱片销售额在不断下滑,但是业界仍未找到可以替代传统音乐销售的方式 。数字音乐的销售额在上升,但是具体数量仍是以前CD销售数量的一小部分。在线音乐播放软件Spotify的订阅服务可能对了解技术常识的"音乐控"吸引多一些;而那些随机消费者可能会选择在下班回家的途中拿起一张CD来听。所以,尽管试图将数字音乐同手机以及付费电视订阅进行捆绑销售,但是这种做法并未在市场中流行开来。
Some suggest that a larger Universal will be more inclined to take risks on new business models. If it finds one, that could benefit record labels and artists. But others guess that the musical mammoth will plod along, milking its existing sources of cash and making it harder for a new, potentially benign distributor to enter the market.

  • gamblev. 赌博,投机,孤注一掷 n. 赌博,冒险
  • advantagen. 优势,有利条件 vt. 有利于
  • vulnerableadj. 易受伤害的,有弱点的
  • analysisn. 分析,解析
  • keenadj. 锋利的,敏锐的,强烈的,精明的,热衷的
  • dictatevi. 听写 vt. 口述,口授 n. 命令,指挥,指令
  • fractionn. 分数,小部分,破片
  • separaten. 分开,抽印本 adj. 分开的,各自的,单独的 v
  • plodv. 沉重地走,辛勤工作,孜孜从事 n. 沉重的步伐,辛
  • widespreadadj. 分布(或散布)广的,普遍的