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In the Firing Line: EMI Sack Digital Boss Douglas Merrill


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Hot of the press and we find that Douglas Merrill has been fired from his role leading the EMI digital business on a global level. And this only days after Guy Hands (owner of Terra Firma, the investment firm which brought EMI) stepped down from his day-to-day role running the company.

So, what is really going on here at EMI? Merrill was only appointed to his role in 2008 (less than a year ago). The top digital person now effectively running EMI’s digital business is Cory Ondrejka who Doug brought in as his number two. So from Google to gone, TMV wonders what back office shenanigans led to his dismissal?

The appointment by Guy Hands of Merrill, was meant to herald EMI’s willingness to move on from its old CD business and focus on turning itself into a digital only label for the 21st century. As according to the memo from EM Music CEO Elio Leoni-Sceti, digital comprises over 20 percent of EMI music revenues. He goes on to state “with the progress we have made in integrating all of our digital operations fully into the business, we will no longer operate a standalone digital function.

So, EMI moves from internal restructuring to set up a stand-alone digital operation and in less than a year decides to dismantle it. In TMVs view this is clear signal of a company losing its strategic direction. This move will no doubt send shudders down the rank file of its staff on a global level. The fact this has occurred less than a year after Merrill appointment does outline that any changes he wanted to implement have not really even seen the light of day.

Industry stalwart Wayne Rosso sums it up aptly in his blog post n the subject noting that “it seems as though the music has stopped playing once again at EMI…”

Peter Kafta in his post within the Media Memo blog regarding the sacking goes on to state “But it’s not clear what, if anything, Merrill was able to accomplish since he moved to EMI. On the other hand, it’d be hard to imagine any single executive being able to make much impact at EMI or any other label, given the industry’s accelerating decline.” Whilst TMV agree with his statements on EMI we do not agree with Peter’s view that the landscape is similar across other major labels.

Drilling down, does this effectively mean EMI is going down the toilet? Upheaval of this magnitude does not send out positive signals in terms of company strategy. With what appears to be EMI management disarray and its valuation has halved, no doubt speculation regarding a Warner Music Group merger with EMI will arise from the coffers. However, TMV really question whether Warner would actually see any really cost savings little own synergies with a company in such disarray.

On a final note, what does this mean for the artists signed to the label? Especially the large ones like Robbie Williams who has refused to deliver a new album. Chillingly I really feel for the 14 new artists the label has signed in the previous four weeks according to Elio’s internal memo to EMI staff on a global level.


  • Wayne Rosso

    Wayne Rosso has worked in music and technology for decades. He has worked with such artists as Aerosmith, Bee Gees, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Public Image LTD., Beach Boys, Phillip Glass, Fleetwood Mac, Rick James, New Kids on the Block, Slash, Evanescence and scores of others.


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