The big news in music publishing is that a 2 billion dollar asset is suddenly up for sale. Sony and the Michael Jackson estate are co-owners of Sony ATV which is the largest music publisher in the world. They have reached a point in their business arrangement together where one side will have to sell their stake. You can read more about that here.
I find it disturbing that antitrust issues are being discussed in this case. “Vivendi-owned industry titan Universal Music Group is not expected to be a buyer, due to antitrust hurdles.” However, they do think it is possible that a major private equity company will get involved. “Potential candidates include private equity firms such as Apollo Global Management.”
The main reason that the government enforces antitrust laws is because of the supposed damaging effects of monopolies on society. When a company is too large in its industry, people assume that they will gouge consumers and damage the economy.
In the case of music publishing I doubt that any company can set “monopolistic prices” that will damage society. The rate for mechanical royalties is already capped at 9.1 cents per song. The rate of performance royalties is generally set by the performing rights societies. I don’t believe that a private equity company whose sole aim is to make huge returns will be a more ethical steward of those assets than Universal.
Peter Thiel also makes the argument that monopolies rather than being evil are good for society. “A monopoly like Google doesn’t have to worry about competing with anyone. It has a wider latitude to care about its workers, its products and its impact on the wider world. Google’s motto—”Don’t be evil”—is in part a branding ploy, but it is also characteristic of a kind of business that is successful enough to take ethics seriously without jeopardizing its own existence.