Although it's been clinically proven that sympathy for major record labels is a medical impossibility, some people may be feeling a slight twinge of compassion towards EMI*. Yesterday, OK Go dispensed with their services following a row about over video embedding, and today, the big boys joined in. A judge in London has ruled in favor of Pink Floyd, after they went to court to stop EMI from chopping up its albums and selling the tracks individually.
The band went to court asking for clarification of their recording contract, which was signed over a decade ago—when sales of digital music wasn't even a ball of fluff on the end of the stylus that is the music business. Rather embarrassingly for EMI, its Queen's Counsel (Britishism for "Lawyer"), Elizabeth Jones, claimed that the word "record" in the band's contract applied only to CDs and vinyl. The judge, however, saw it differently. "There is nothing in the terms "album" or "record" to suggest they apply to the physical product only."
With digital sales accounting for over a quarter of major labels' revenue, this will come as a big shock to them. iTunes was still offering Pink Floyd tracks individually this morning, a bone of contention for many bands, who feel aggrieved for two reasons—firstly, that their albums are to be listened to as a whole, and secondly, that they lose revenue when consumers are allowed to cherry-pick individual songs.
The judge has ruled that the label hand over $60,000 as an interim payment for costs, but has yet to pass judgment on the size of EMI's fine, although EMI was granted a request to have the part of the judgment relating to royalties given behind closed doors. The result is not great for EMI, which posted a $2.25 billion loss last month, and may well have a mammoth struggle on its hands to keep its existing acts, such as Queen (also said to be unhappy) and Lily Allen, within its stable.
*No? Congratulations, you've got a clean bill of health.