Artist Managers Protest New EMI Regime

EMI is facing the prospect of an artists' revolt, with representatives of major acts Robbie Williams and Coldplay expressing concern at the current state of the company.

EMI is facing the prospect of an artists' revolt, with representatives of major acts Robbie Williams and Coldplay expressing concern at the current state of the company.

Williams' manager, Tim Clark of ie: music, told the London Times that, since Terra Firma's £3.2 billion ($6.3 billion) takeover of EMI in September, the new EMI Group chairman Guy Hands has behaved like a "plantation owner," with the paper reporting Williams was effectively "on strike." High profile artists Radiohead and Paul McCartney have already left EMI in the past year.

Speaking to Billboard today, Clark clarified Williams' position. "That term going on strike is such an emotive one and it's certainly not what he [Williams] would say," said Clark. But he expressed concern about whether EMI is capable of successfully releasing a Robbie Williams album.

"Given where EMI were, the state they were in, the changes they were making, how could any artist deliver an album -- we wouldn't know how it would be marketed, distributed and promoted," said Clark. "They're decimating staff and it would be wilfully irresponsible of any manager to say, 'Let's deliver this album, they'll sort it out.' Well, actually no -- we have to be persuaded that the services that they offer to their artists are going to be of the highest quality."

Clark told Billboard he's had two meetings with Guy Hands, but says he's unwilling to commit to a label that has yet to convince him of a clear strategy and says it needs to be sold to Williams before they sign up.

"We have to wait and see what happens," said Clark. "We recognize that Robbie Williams is still under contract to EMI. There's absolutely no ill-feeling. We have to be pragmatic and we also have to recognize the extraordinary change digital technology is having on our industry."

Asked how EMI could convince him that they should release the album, Clark added, "They absolutely have to persuade us the services they are offering are top notch." Clark added that it remains to be seen what happens if Williams and ie:music are not happy with EMI's strategy under the current contract, which includes one studio album and a greatest hits set.

"We have a contract so let's see the contract out," said Clark. "But we want to be working with a company that really can deliver. We can't afford to place an album with a company that won't promote it or market it effectively. We've got to be convinced of that because you're playing with somebody's career here."

Clark also voiced his dismay after EMI U.K. chairman and CEO Tony Wadsworth left the company this week. "It's a concern when somebody of Tony Wadsworth's standing and ability leaves," said Clark. "He has been a great supporter of artists and it is a problem that's he's left, for many of those artists he's had a hand in signing directly or who he's supported strongly over time. So, yes, a lot of people are very upset over his departure."

Coldplay's management have also expressed their "confusion" over Wadsworth's departure. The band had the biggest selling album in the world in 2005 with "X&Y" and is due to deliver its new record, "Prospekt," later this year.

"I am both saddened and confused that the current owners of EMI have chosen not to include Tony Wadsworth as part of their future plans for the company," the band's L.A.-based manager David Holmes of 3D Management told Billboard.

Asked about the band's future relationship with EMI, Holmes added, "I am not really sure what EMI is right now. I guess we shall see next week when Guy makes his announcement [Hands is due to deliver his future strategy for the company in mid-January].

"As for signals [Wadsworth's departure sends] to the industry, again it will depend largely on what other announcements EMI make regarding their new strategy."

EMI declined to comment.