Major record labels could face competition inquiry

The UK’s major record labels could face an inquiry into whether their practices are distorting the music market.

The government has written to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) asking it to consider an investigation into Sony, Warner and Universal Music.

It has also asked the watchdog to consider YouTube’s dominance over the streaming market.

The move comes after MPs demanded a “complete reset” of the music industry, amid “pitiful returns” for artists.

The Culture Select Committee issued the call in a damning report this summer, after hearing evidence from musicians such as Nile Rodgers, Elbow and Radiohead in a six-month inquiry into music streaming.


Julian Knight, who chairs the committee, said while streaming had “brought significant profits to the recorded-music industry, the talent behind it – performers, songwriters and composers – are losing out”.

He called for the CMA to investigate the commercial power wielded by major record labels, expressing concern they receive beneficial placement on playlists and storefronts at the expense of independent labels and self-releasing artists.

In an official response, the government said there “may be value” in such a market study but it was up to the CMA to decide whether to pursue it.

“We have written to the CMA on this recommendation,” it added.

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI), which represents the UK’s recorded-music industry, said it would comply with any resulting inquiry.

“Should the CMA conduct a study, we look forward to detailing labels’ role in supercharging the careers of British talent within a complex and dynamic ecosystem,” it said.