European independent labels' group Impala pledged Wednesday (May 31) to oppose any plans by EMI Group to take over Warner Music Group, saying any such merger would squeeze small record companies.

European independent labels' group Impala pledged Wednesday (May 31) to oppose any plans by EMI Group to take over Warner Music Group, saying any such merger would squeeze small record companies.

The lobby group warned that the two music giants combined would control more than a quarter of all recorded music sales and close to half the music publishing market, further raising the costs of market access for independent music companies.

"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?" Impala chairman Michel Lambot said in a statement.

Impala, which represents more than 2,500 independent music companies in Europe, appealed to music fans, artists, retailers, consumers and their organisations to resist the plans. It has launched a Web site -- www.forculturaldiversity.org -- which carries an online petition opposing a merger.

A Warner and EMI merger, coming on the heels of the 2004 joint-venture between Sony Music and BMG, would concentrate three quarters of all music released around the world in the hands of three companies.

"I don't see how that can be acceptable to anyone interested in ensuring market access to all players, large and small," Epitaph Europe managing director Hein van der Ree said in the statement.

Impala last year challenged the Sony and BMG merger in the European courts in a case that is still pending.

While Warner rejected an approach from EMI earlier this month, the U.K.-based company has said it still believed a tie-up would be attractive to both sets of shareholders. EMI has tabled a bid of £2.2 billion ($4.1 billion) for Warner and is expected to come back with a higher offer.

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