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Independent Music Companies Association

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Independent Music Companies Association (also known as IMPALA, originally the Independent Music Publishers and Labels Association) is a non-profit trade body established in April 2000 to help European independent music companies represent their own agenda and promote independent music in the interests of artistic, entrepreneurial and cultural diversity. Its offices are in Brussels, Belgium.

The independents are in effect the small and medium operators. They are known as the independents because they are independent of the major music companies, known as the "majors". 99% of music businesses are small, medium or even micro operators, accounting for 80% of all new releases and 80% of the sector’s jobs. The collective market share of the independents has shrunk from 40% to 20% due to concentration and under capitalisation.

IMPALA’s stated mission is to grow the independent music sector, promote cultural diversity and cultural entrepreneurship, improve political access and modernise the perception of the music industry.

There is one Chairman, Mark Kitcatt (Everlasting Records), and one President, Kees van Weijen (STOMP). Executive Chair is Helen Smith and the Treasurer is Geert de Blaere (BIMA). The Board is voted in by members.

Cultural SMEs are recognised by the EC, as well as national, regional and international decision makers, as vital to innovation and economic and cultural diversity.

IMPALA also participates in the Worldwide Independent Network.

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IMPALA has over 4000 members including national associations and independent music companies.[1]


Direct members (Independent music companies)


The Board is voted in by members.


IMPALA has three awards schemes: the European Independent Album of the Year Award, the Outstanding Contribution Award and the IMPALA Sales Awards.[2]

European Independent Album of the Year

The European Independent Album of the Year Award winner is selected annually by a jury based on artistic merit alone, regardless of sales figures and publicity, from a nomination shortlist (nominated albums must have been released by a European independent label in the relevant year).


Outstanding Contribution Award

This award recognises the efforts of an individual or organisation, not necessarily from a label, to promote and develop European independent music and the diversity of the sector. Again, a winner is announced annually.


Sales awards

For many independent artists, success begins well before sales reach 1 million (the pan-European sales level officially recognised before IMPALA launched its scheme). IMPALA intends these Awards to provide a tool for independent music companies and artists to promote themselves, both domestically and internationally.

The sales levels for the awards are:

  • IMPALA Silver 20 000
  • IMPALA Double Silver 40 000
  • IMPALA Gold 75 000
  • IMPALA Double Gold 150 000
  • IMPALA Diamond 200 000
  • IMPALA Platinum 400 000
  • IMPALA Double Platinum 800 000

Sales award winners include:


To celebrate IMPALA’s 15th anniversary, various initiatives took place across Europe under the "IMPALA 15" banner.

IMPALA 15 initiatives

Young Label Spotlight

In March 2016, IMPALA launched a monthly feature to put the spotlight on Europe's most inspiring young independent labels.

The project shone a light on the work of a set of unique labels 15 years young or younger. Five labels were announced every month under the campaign name "FIVEUNDERFIFTEEN". All the interviews and playlists are in IMPALA’s Story Corner and The Independent Echo.

Over the course of the year these young labels shared their stories in panels taking place in industry gatherings such as Tallinn Music Week, Primavera Pro and Midem (see video). The FIVEUNDERFIFTEEN campaign was one of IMPALA’s 15th anniversary projects under the “IMPALA 15” banner. IMPALA’s milestones 2000-2015 (see below) illustrate some of IMPALA’s achievements in its first 15 years.

The first FIVEUNDERFIFTEEN headed East. The Estonian label Porridge Bullet opened the campaign.  I Love You Records from Latvia and S1 Warsaw from Poland were next. Then the selection brought us to Scandinavia with Despotz Records from Sweden and Soliti from Finland.

The second edition started in Switzerland with A Tree in a Field Records before going to Belgium to meet Eskimo Recordings. Tambourhinoceros from Denmark, NØ FØRMAT! from France and the Hungarian label Egység Média completed April’s announcement.

The third edition opened in Southern Europe with Omnichord Records in Portugal and CANADA Editorial in Spain. Then we visited Lampshade Media in Serbia and finish with Monkeytown Records from Germany and Armada Music from the Netherlands.

The final edition included six young labels. It started in Norway with Jansen Plateproduksjon, before heading to Croatia with LAA. We then visited Transgressive Records from the United Kingdom, Machete from Italy and Own Records in Luxembourg. Finally, you met the American label nominated by our US sister organisation A2IM, Innovative Leisure which received the Young Label Spotlight Award during the A2IM Libera Awards on June 16th in New York.



  • Launch of IMPALA Balkans Focus Group
  • Divestment process with WMG reach completion, resulting in a strengthening of the independent sector.


  • WIN, the Worldwide Independent Network is launched.
  • The "value gap" is recognised formally in Europe for the first time anywhere in the world.


  • IMPALA celebrated its 15th anniversary with a dedicated set of initiatives including a young label spotlight FIVEUNDERFIFTEEN to shine a light on their work.
  • Adoption of IMPALA's Digital Action Plan.
  • IMPALA listed as top influencer in Europe's online market strategy.
  • Apple's attempt to discriminate against independents is thwarted by united stance in Europe and across the world, improving terms for all labels, including the majors.


  • Two thirds of labels signing WIN's Fair Digital Deals Declaration are European.
  • IMPALA launches complaint on YouTube, Merlin secures deal after platform threatens to remove independent labels' videos.
  • Guarantee scheme agreed to by the EU to support loans to IMPALA members and SMEs in other sectors.


  • Divestment process with WMG gets underway to move 2% market share into the independent sector.
  • IMPALA and Merlin announce agreement with Warner Music Group to strengthen the independent sector.
  • Launch of the Independent Music Publishers Forum.


  • Biggest ever set of merger remedies secured - Universal ordered to divest two thirds of EMI and respect 10 year behavioural undertakings.
  • IMPALA takes a stance on Universal/EMI and Sony/EMI mergers.
  • First pan-European independent charts launched with Nielsen.


  • First pan-European portal service for members on mechanical licences.
  • Launch of European Mercuries - IMPALA's Independent Album of the Year Award.


  • Adoption of IMPALA's Action Plan for Finance, which introduces a sports style transfer fee.
  • Publication of IMPALA's Code of Conduct for Collecting Societies.
  • Launch of IMPALA's friends programme for companies working with the independent sector.


  • First official cultural and creative platform launched by EU.


  • Adoption of IMPALA's Action Plan for Music including measures to secure market access and finance.


  • IMPALA signs ground-breaking deal with WMG to rebalance the market in face of increasing concentration.
  • IMPALA helps create Merlin, the global digital rights agency for the world’s independent label sector.


  • IMPALA wins key European judgement - Sony/BMG merger clearance annulled.
  • Launch of IMPALA Sales Awards.
  • Creation of WIN, the Worldwide Independent Network, to tackle worldwide industry issues.


  • UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions introduces a new principle of fair and equitable access.


  • First class action against Sony-BMG merger launched.


  • Agreement concluded between independents and iTunes.
  • VAT campaign launched for reduced VAT on music.


  • IMPALA blocks Warner and EMI's attempt to merge.
  • Agreement signed with Napster to license members's repertoire.


  • IMPALA is created.

Market concentration

In 2006 IMPALA challenged the European Commission’s approval of the joint venture between Sony and Bertelsmann saying that the merger was contradictory to European competition law. The appeal court referred back for a "retrial". No final decision was ever reached because the court closed the litigation down when Sony bought out Bertelsmann’s shares, making the joint venture an irrelevant entity. The case became a landmark litigation, setting a precedent for future merger cases that there is no presumption in favour of mergers. It also completely changed how merger cases are handled by the Commission and how the interests of competitors are taken into account. In August 2009, law firm Watson, Farley & Williams said "the [merger] system owes a debt of gratitude to IMPALA". IMPALA is also advocating new competition guidelines to foster diversity and true competition in the music market.

IMPALA objected to the merger of Universal and the recorded music division of EMI, as well as the takeover of EMI's publishing business by the Sony/ATV consortium, and worked throughout the negotiations to emphasise the importance of maintaining competition and cultural diversity in the sector. After the European Commission approval of the mergers, pending significant divestments in September 2012, IMPALA welcomed the Commission’s recognition of the need for strong competitors and its insistence on tough remedies, but reiterated their conviction that an outright blocking of the deals would have been in the best interests of the music industry as a whole.

In February 2013, IMPALA and global rights agency Merlin announced a landmark agreement with Warner Music Group. The agreement arose out of the regulatory process in the EU concerning Universal's purchase of EMI’s recorded music business, which resulted in Universal being required to sell a significant portion of the acquired business (as well as certain UMG assets) in order to secure the EU's approval.[3] This included Parlophone, which was subsequently acquired by Warner Music Group. WMG then signed an agreement with IMPALA and the Merlin Network, allowing member labels to acquire artist catalogues from Warner Music.[4]

Other measures designed to help re-balance the recorded music market will also be put in place including behavioural commitments and capacity-building initiatives for independents, which again will be implemented by Merlin and IMPALA.

On top of mergers, IMPALA has also been involved in other anti-trust cases involving the music sector, such as the abuse complaint against YouTube in 2014 and the call for regulating unfair business practices by large online players. IMPALA has also submitted observations on Apple’s bid to acquire Shazam.

In 2018, IMPALA objected to Sony/ATV's full acquisition of EMI Music Publishing.[5]

Copyright and Value Gap

IMPALA actively supported the European Commission's proposal for a Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market, which is about making copyright fair and sustainable for all.

Copyright reform is a fundamental part of this general desire to see more balance in the online world, and also to create new provisions for artists and writers in their relations with labels and publishers. It also tackles news online with a new right for press publishers.

IMPALA embraces the fact that creators and citizens enjoy a unique relationship online. It also embraces the fact that posting and sharing user-generated content is part of one's daily life online. At the same time, we need to rewrite certain rules of engagement online because some large platforms claim that responsibility lies only with the user and the owner of the content, and that can’t be right.

On September 12, the European Parliament was the last institution to adopt its position on the Copyright Directive (read our statement).

The next step starting in October is the trilogue discussion with the European Commission and the Council (member states).

Together, the three institutions will need to agree on a common text.

If you want to see the Council position click here, if you want to see the Parliament position click here.

Digital Action Plan

In January 2015, IMPALA launched its Digital Action Plan,[6] a ten-point plan calling for a new European industrial policy to drive the digital market through the cultural & creative sectors which account for 4,2% of EU GDP and 7.1 million EU jobs. With the debate on copyright a hot topic, the action plan takes a robust stance and calls on the EU to reinforce copyright as a fundamental right, a liberator of the creativity that drives the digital market. The importance of stopping the abuse of the so-called "safe harbour" exemption by certain online platforms is underlined as a top priority. Other key measures include promoting diversity in a measurable way and devising a new regulatory, competition, social and fiscal framework for smaller actors.

The 10 points (click to view the relevant chapter online):

  1. Reinforcing the rights that drive the digital market and grow Europe's copyright capital
  2. Giving citizens the best digital infrastructure in the world
  3. Improving pluralism and diversity online as well as offline
  4. Revisiting the “rules of engagement” online
  5. Growing Europe’s “missing middle” by improving conditions for smaller actors
  6. Effectively tackling structurally infringing websites
  7. Increasing investment through a new financial approach to culture
  8. Introducing greater fiscal fairness
  9. Mapping and measuring the sectors and how creativity works
  10. Placing culture and diversity at the heart of Europe’s international work

Action Plan for Finance

In January 2010, IMPALA launched its Action Plan for Finance. This called for more specific measures to help finance cultural SMEs. The plan included sports-inspired measures, such as a 5% compensation fee on all future revenues of artists developed at a smaller label and later signed by a major, and a solidarity-based revenue-sharing system.

It also called for action at EC, national and regional level to improve competition in the music sector, through a reduced VAT rate, ensuring proper valuation of copyright as an intangible asset, EC investment programmes and loan guarantee schemes, amongst other proposals.

Action Plan for Music

In January 2008, IMPALA launched its Action Plan for Music. This called for cultural SMEs to be given a specific status. The Plan covered an investment package for financial viability and independence (including lowering VAT for music, applying tax benefits for SME innovation/risks/production, rolling out public/private loan guarantee schemes and SME friendly growth loan finance) a market access package (including making preferential terms for cultural SMEs a reality, adopting new competition rules for the cultural sector and dedicated independent space in all distribution channels) and a copyright and digital package (including extending term of protection for sound recordings, ISP engagement in resolving P2P issues, promoting the right of creators to fair private copying compensation).

Other issues

IMPALA is active on other issues which aim to level the playing field in the music sector. These include

You can find out more about IMPALA’s milestones here.


  1. ^ "IMPALA members".
  2. ^ "IMPALA Awards".
  3. ^ "Warner's Parlophone acquisition approved in Europe". 15 May 2013.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ "IMPALA's Digital Action Plan".

External links

This page was last edited on 30 November 2018, at 11:15
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