Popular Music has long been a reflection of our culture, a soundtrack to the socio-political currents that have shaped our collective experience. The tireless work of the Independent labels has played a vital role - we have provided impetus, created employment and stimulated revenue. We have promoted Spanish music and language internationally. But times are changing and our industry is now under threat.
The oppressive weight of the multinationals has increased to such a point that the Independents are in danger of being marginalized. We have lost access to the media , our efforts to sponsor artistic originality go unnoticed and industry decisions are made without us. We must now unite and make our voice heard.
For this reason we have formed the UFI (Unión Fonográfica Independiente). A single association representing the interests of independent record companies from all over Spain at both national and international level, to ensure that our rights are protected, our work recognised and our legacy preserved.
The headquarters of the UFI will be in Madrid. But our members will also group at local level.
We shall seek funding from both public and private institutions.
Government departments, such as the Ministry of Culture and the Institute of Foreign Trade, will be argeted.
Meanwhile delegates of the affiliated labels throughout the country will deal directly with their respective regional authorities, media organizations etc.
In the best interests of all our members we must coordinate our efforts successfully. Our sector may be small, but with the right organization we will achieve our aims.
Challenging the monopoly of the major labels must be our priority. The control of the Big Five – Warner, Sony, EMI, BMG and Universal - permeates every area of our industry. The situation is the same all over Europe - independents are finding it impossible to distribute product, and promote their artists. There are no venues, media coverage, or room for competition and development. Meanwhile the musical panorama is being impoverished as innovation is rejected in favour of tried and tested formulas and fast returns.
The UFI are determined to fight back……. And the news is not all bad. Our counterparts in France, the UPFI, were influential in the intervention of the European Commission, in 1999, preventing the merger of Time Warner and EMI Virgin - proving that independent labels can make ourselves heard.
And, of course, we shall continue to exploit our traditional advantages and contacts at the grass roots level of the music scene.
We must carry the struggle directly to the communications corporations and demand our share of air time. (It remains to be seen whether the predominance of major label artists on Radio and Television is due to a lack of imagination on the part of programmers or more insidious reasons.)
The problem with the retail outlets is not so much the conglomeration of big stores (who are actually struggling as much as the smaller shops). but rather record sales in general - and the independent labels are the first to lose out as retailers cut back on the selection of product available to the public.