This paper analyses the worldwide popular recorded music industry and examines how product, firm and industry features result in key resources coagulating around the two firm types; the major and independent. We argue that these firm specific resources are complementary and participating firms would benefit from their union. However though complementary, they are inimical and close association risks damaging their value. Collaboration between the two firm types that hold these resources therefore needs to be designed not along traditional concerns of protection from opportunism, or the requirement to control key resources. Instead competitive advantage may be gained by designing and managing structural relationships that protect each partner’s resource set from the hostile elements of the others; a contamination rather than an appropriation focus.