EMI Publishing has a dream: diversified revenues with MLK

March 17, 2009

EMI Publishing, the song publishing arm of EMI Music, has struck an interesting deal with the estate of Dr Martin Luther King Jr to manage the licensing of his words and speeches in recordings and music.

It’s an unusual deal for EMI Publishing, which is best known for managing iconic songs like ‘New York New York’ and ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ or the songwriting talents of the Arctic Monkeys and Beyonce. This is the first time the company has ever handled speeches and sermons, or in fact any non-song-based intellectual property, according to a spokesman.

Another interesting feature of the deal is that the unit will also handle the online image rights of Dr King. So if, for example, you’re building a website about the 1960s U.S. civil rights movement and you need to use King’s likeness, you might not have to call Getty Images but EMI Publishing.

It used to be that song publishers made most of their money from their sister recording music companies that put out the CDs. But, as we all know, CD sales are plunging south and MP3 sales growth is slowing. However music publishing companies appear to be staying slightly ahead of the curve by diversifying their revenue base. One such example is Sony/ATV Publishing’s Beatles deal with MTV’s video gaming company Harmonix. A Beatles Rock Band game is now planned for a September release.

EMI Publishing chief Roger Faxon is believed to have his eye on other non-music based projects which could really start to change the face of his music business to a more diversified manager of intellectual properties for various types of media.

All is not necessarily well at Chez EMI. Today, EMI Group’s owner, London-based private equity firm Terra Firma, said founder and CEO Guy Hands is giving up day-to-day control to become its chief investment officer. Of course, many might have thought he was already in charge of investment decisions at Terra Firma and his most high profile investment in EMI has come at a great cost to his firm and its investors having to write down half of its 2.6 billion euro investment in the company.

(Photo: Reuters)

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