Billboard Bits: EMI/WMG, Liza/VH1, 'Headbanger's Ball'

News on EMI/WMG, Liza/VH1, 'Headbanger's Ball'

EMI Group plc this morning (Sept. 22) confirmed it has begun talks on a merger with Warner Music Group (WMG). In a brief statement issued to the London stock exchange, EMI acknowledged it had entered non-exclusive discussions with Time Warner Inc. on a "possible transaction involving the recorded music division."

"Discussions are at a very preliminary stage," says the EMI statement, "and there is no assurance that they will result in an agreement acceptable to both parties."

The development was widely anticipated following the conclusion last week of an exclusive period for merger talks between WMG and Bertelsmann's BMG. EMI's previous endeavor to join with WMG came to an end in October 2000 as a result of intense scrutiny from the European Commission's competition watchdogs.

Brussels-based indie labels trade body IMPALA was a vociferous opponent of the failed EMI-WMG merger, and its lobbying efforts against the tie-up undoubtedly helped sway the outcome. "Our position has not changed since the initial merger plans three years ago," says general secretary Philippe Kern. "We believe that one reason for the current crisis in the recorded music industry is the effects of concentration and consolidation. As we have also said in the past, we will oppose the five majors becoming four."

-- Lars Brandle, London

AnaVH1 parent Viacom and Liza Minnelli's ex-husband David Gest have "amicably resolved their differences" and withdrawn their
lawsuits over the cancellation of the reality series "Liza & David." The show was to spotlight Minnelli and Gest's life at their New York home but was canceled before ever airing. The couple sued VH1 for $23 million, claiming breach of contract and defamation. VH1 countersued, seeking $1.5 million in damages. "I am pleased to be able to put this lawsuit behind me and focus on my business as a producer and promoter of entertainment events," Gest said in a statement. Minnelli and Gest separated earlier this summer after 16 months of marriage.

ShadowShadows Fall, Lamb Of God and Killswitch Engage will lead the upcoming MTV2 Headbangers Ball tour. The three bands will rotate through the headlining spot nightly, with God Forbid opening on the first leg and Unearth on the second. The tour kicks off Oct. 28 in Montreal and runs into December, with more dates to be added.

With the exception of God Forbid, all of the bands have tracks appearing on the two-disc "Headbanger's Ball" CD, due Oct. 7 via Roadrunner. The set will also feature such acts as Marilyn Manson, Godsmack, Poison The Well, Cold and Slayer.

Shadows Fall is touring in support of its third album, last year's "The Art of Balance" (Century Media), while Lamb Of God released the album "As the Palaces Burn" (Prosthetic) in May. The second Killswitch Engage album, "Alive or Just Breathing" was released in May 2002 via Roadrunner.

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.