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Will a $140,000,000 record deal make you happy?

So a guy gets a $140,000,000 record deal. And more than half the visitors to this website haven't even heard of him. In which universe does this make sense?


The artist in question is Robbie Williams. Haven't heard of him? That says two things about you - 1) You don't live in the UK, and 2) how lucky you are!

OK, sorry for the cynicism, he's not a bad artist, and has for many Brits reached the status of a 'national treasure'. Yes, people use that term.

But the question is whether he is worth $140,000,000, or actually £80,000,000 in good old UK pound notes bearing the Queen's head?

This is the sum paid by record label EMI to secure Robbie's services for a mere four albums, from which EMI hopes not only to claw back its investment - the biggest ever in UK recording history and second only in the world to Michael Jackson's 1991 deal with Sony.

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In fairness to EMI, they are not completely barking mad and have made sure that Robbie will be giving them a slice of his earnings from outside of his record sales, which include concerts, merchandise, TV appearances and publishing.

But no matter how good Robbie Williams is, or whether EMI will make a profit (how quickly they forgot the £20 million they paid Mariah Carey to back out of their £70 million deal with her when her album Glitter failed) there is another question...

Is it better to sign one artist for £80,000,000 or eighty bands and artists for £1,000,000 each?

The phrase 'all your eggs in one basket' comes to mind.

Surely it would be better to encourage a wider selection of new artists, who could be given free rein over their output, as artist and bands more commonly had in the 1960's and 1970's before the record labels took control over music?

Surely out of those eighty acts, several would emerge that would be as popular as Williams, and perhaps even more so considering his lack of success outside of the UK?

Surely that would lead to more profit for EMI, and more certainty and security.

My opinion is that if you have shares in EMI, better sell them now. Robbie is a good artist, and successful on his own turf. But worth £80,000,000 (nearly $140,000,000 USD)? That will take some seeing to believe.

Oh by the way, if EMI goes under because of this, maybe its recording studio Abbey Road will be up for sale. Start saving now!

By David Mellor Monday December 12, 2005