UK competition watchdog to probe Sony’s AWAL purchase

The UK’s competition watchdog has launched a full inquiry into Sony’s completed purchase of AWAL, an artists and label (A&L) service for independent musicians.

Sony completed the $430m acquisition of AWAL in May. Soon after, the Competition and Markets Authority said it was examining the deal and on 7 September the CMA raised concerns.

The CMA said Sony was one of the three big record labels in the UK and that they accounted for the vast majority of the market. AWAL was a potential competitor and would have been an increasingly strong rival to Sony if it had remained independent, the CMA said.

Sony owns Orchard, an A&L service that it bought in 2012. Competition with AWAL could have improved deals offered to artists, allowing to keep more of their earnings and keep greater control of music rights, the CMA said.

AWAL has released music by Little Simz, Nick Cave and Billie Eilish’s brother and collaborator Finneas. The CMA gave Sony five working days to address its concerns.

“On 10 September 2021 the acquirer informed the CMA that it would not be offering any undertakings,” the CMA said. “The CMA has therefore decided to refer this merger for a phase 2 investigation.”

Sony said on 7 September it was “perplexed” by the CMA’s findings and that the deal had been approved in other markets.

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