Music, Internet and consumer groups attacked Sony Music and BMG today (June 15), claiming the planned merger of the two majors would choke an already restricted music market.

Music, Internet and consumer groups attacked Sony Music and BMG today (June 15), claiming the planned merger of the two majors would choke an already restricted music market.

The groups aired their opinions during the second and final day of a closed-door hearing in Brussels, organized by the European Commission's anti-trust authorities.

Attendees included EMI, Warner Music, Apple Computer, European independent label's body Impala, European consumer group BEUC and retail group GERA Europe.

Sources present at the hearing say that representatives of Apple, whose iTunes service is a rival to Sony's Connect, testified that Sony would be able to control the market through the combined catalog of Sony-BMG artists. Apple is understood to have raised concerns that Sony would able to strangle the market for emerging online music services, making it much harder for competitors to enter.

GERA is understood to have presented evidence of alleged price collusion among record companies, and to have complained that the five majors control the market. GERA also warned that a merger would reduce consumer choice and limit artistic innovation.

Peter Jenner, the secretary general of the International Music Managers Forum, gave an impassioned explanation of the obstacles that have developed over the past two decades to emerging labels and artists. He bemoaned the fact that the market is now dominated by hit-driven, short-term products, rather than long-term investments in budding talent.

Paul Saunders, director of download service PlayLouder, said he had run into a variety of difficulties as he applied for blanket licenses for songs and artists. He had so far been granted a preliminary license from independent labels' group Impala, but not from any of the majors.

Speaking to Billboard.biz after the hearing, Saunders said, "We perceive an agenda. It seems like an attempt to control their business model. No one is saying no, but [the majors] are not saying yes either. And in a fast-moving market, a delay can be as damaging as saying no."