With EMI and Warner Music locked in a two-way $4.6 billion-plus takeover battle, European independents labels group Impala promised Friday (June 30) it would "forcefully oppose" any merger between the

With EMI and Warner Music locked in a two-way $4.6 billion-plus takeover battle, European independents labels group Impala promised Friday (June 30) it would "forcefully oppose" any merger between them.

Impala said that if combined, the two music majors would control more than a quarter of all recorded music sales and close to half of the music publishing market. "The increase in concentration would unfairly raise the costs of market access to independent music companies," the group said.

Impala, which represents more than 2,500 independent music companies in Europe, warned that a Warner/EMI merger would leave control of more than three quarters of all music released around the world in the hands of just three companies: Universal, Sony BMG and Warner/EMI.

In a statement issued today, Impala chairman Michel Lambot said music was being treated like any other business. "At a time when the rumors are saying that Vodaphone is ready to buy Vivendi Universal, that Warner and EMI want to marry and that Bertelsmann wants to sell its stake in Sony BMG, who cares about culture and music," he said.

Horst Weidenmueller, CEO of Germany's !K7 Records, said an EMI/Warner merger would lead to thousands of bands being dropped. "This will concentrate the music repertoire available in the market," he said. "But what the music market needs in order to grow is cultural diversity with an access to the market. Unfortunately this is the opposite of what will be the effect of this possible merger."

London-based EMI, label home to Coldplay and Robbie Williams, this week said it has rejected a $4.6 billion cash offer from its smaller U.S. rival, calling the bid "wholly unacceptable." EMI also revealed that it had sweetened its own takeover bid for New York-based Warner Music, which features artists including Madonna and Red Hot Chili Peppers, to $31 a share or $4.6 billion in total.

Warner Music said EMI's offer calls for the sale of its publishing unit Warner/Chappell Music prior to a deal, while its own offer for EMI does not include such terms as the prior sale of EMI's music publishing business. EMI Music Publishing is recognized as the largest global music publisher, followed by Warner/Chappell.