By Еvan Osentоn
Several years ago The Economist ran one of my favourite magazine covers ever–two camels having what appeared to be extremely painful sex with the caption beneath reading, "The Trouble with Mergers."
Over the last two weeks Time Warner has announced mergers with both AOL and EMI. The resulting media mega-conglomerate, name as yet undetermined, will be the largest in the world. In the understatement of the year, one industry analyst suggested the deals will have a staggering impact on consumers.
This is indeed a "troubling" merger.
In terms of the music industry in Canada alone, bad things are sure to happen. This merger undoubtedly means that consumers will have less choice; less people producing music means less artists are going to see their music on the shelves of, oh, say HMV. Some people will defend this by saying "good riddance to bad music," but for every Lionel Richie and Thin Lizzy that gets dropped, someone you like will disappear too. Producers, as they dwindle to an ever decreasing few, will produce music that suits corporate tastes. That means more Britney Spears (or "fast-selling sheep music") and less experimental, punk, world, house, fusion, hip/hop etc. (or "poorly selling leftist music")
Will a reduced selection on the shelves reflect your tastes? Probably not immediately–you’re dynamic. But over time people will not even know what they are missing. Soon you too may delight at owning every rock cd on the market…. all 12 of them.
Music is only one aspect of our lives relinquished to the gullet of monopoly-bent mega-corporations. The bigger problem is that we are quickly approaching a monopoly on information. Now, more than ever, certain ideas or stories are reported in the media and certain stories aren’t.
Most people probably aren’t even aware yet of how bad the situation has become. Our newspapers are controlled by corporations with global influence and who also own automobile factories and oil companies. They speak less and less for the people who make up a society and more to its business leaders. The internet, once expected to be a voice for alternative ideas, has degenerated into a vehicle for advertising and pornography.
Less and less people are speaking for more and more people. As a society, we need to think critically about monopolies such as Time-Warner/AOL/EMI and practice conscious consumerism. We may even need to participate in protests or boycotts. These sort of mergers shouldn’t just be dismissible as "worrisome"; they truly are visions of what abominable days may lie ahead.
Think of it this way–while it is becoming increasingly hard to not support monopolistic companies, the alternative, much like two camels having sex, is even less appealing.