Sir Paul McCartney has accused EMI, his former record company, of becoming boring and taking him for granted. The former Beatle, speaking to The Times, complained that the British record company had become too bureaucratic – and how he had “dreaded going to see them”.
“Everybody at EMI had become part of the furniture. I’d be a couch; Coldplay are an armchair. And Robbie Williams, I dread to think what he was. But the most important thing was, I’d felt [the people at EMI] had become really very boring, you know?”
Last summer, after 4½ decades, Sir Paul left EMI to join the start-up Starbucks-owned record label Hear Music, which released Memory Almost Full. The album, which attracted positive critical reviews, has sold more than a million copies worldwide since its release this summer.
Sir Paul accused EMI of being unimaginative, telling him that he should “go to Cologne” to market a new record. “This idea became symbolic of the treadmill, you know? You go somewhere, speak to a million journalists for one day and you get all the same questions. It’s mind-numbing. So I started to saying: ‘God we’ve got to do something else’.”
EMI owns the rights to all the Beatles albums, which were released on its Parlophone label or the group’s Apple label. Although Apple was owned by the Fab Four, EMI retained the distribution rights in an agreement struck in the late 1960s and continued to distribute Sir Paul’s material after the band split up.
He also complained about the long marketing lead times demanded by EMI, the so-called process of “setting up a record” in an attempt to enhance sales, recalling that John Lennon was able to force EMI to release Instant Karma a week after he had written it in 1970.
Sir Paul said that he would ask EMI to release a song “next week”, to which executives would reply: “You can’t do that these days.” When told that EMI wanted six months “to figure out how to market it”, Sir Paul asked: “Couldn’t some bright people do that in two days? Jesus Christ, I said, ‘Look boys, I’m sorry, I’m digging a new furrow’.”
The comments are a further embarrassment for Eric Nicoli, the former EMI chief executive who left the music major after its takeover by Terra Firma, the venture capital group led by Guy Hands. But Mr Hands is unlikely to be quite so concerned, as he is thought to agree with Sir Paul’s criticisms of the previous regime.