The last two decades have seen the music industry crash and emerge from the ashes, more digitized but also more consolidated. New players, in particular music streaming services, have joined, but they complement rather than challenge traditional players such as record labels. Moreover, they are equally concentrated. Artists may therefore be confronted with counterparties with significant buyer power, which can be abused. In this article, we describe the evolving dynamics in the music industry and how competition law (in particular through merger control and abuse of dominance investigations) has dealt with them. We also examine how existing power structures may be technologically disrupted, rebalanced through collective bargaining (insofar as allowed under competition law), or streamlined through collective management. Finally, we look beyond competition, to check whether other regulatory tools offer a (more) effective answer. We find that, while a number of private and public interventions show significant promise, meaningful change will require rethinking the initiatives on both fronts.

By Friso Bostoen & Jozefien Vanherpe1


Alan Krueger has called the music business “the canary in the coal mine for innovations,” given that “technological change typically occurs first in music.”2 A recent example concerns the move from sales to subscriptions, which we saw first in the music industry with the introduction of streaming and then in virtuall


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