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WMG boss bullish on growth after $2bn of annual streaming revenue


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“We’re now five years into the industry’s recovery. There are over 280 million streaming subscribers globally. And we still see plenty of room for more growth.” The words of Warner Music Group CEO Steve Cooper in his company’s latest earnings call yesterday, as WMG revealed its latest growth figures. “Emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, China, Indonesia and India hold vast untapped potential, while established markets such as the US and the UK continue to grow nicely.”

The third calendar quarter is WMG’s fiscal Q4, so Cooper was revelling in both quarterly and annual financial results for the group. Its full-year revenues grew by 11.7% to $4.48bn, including 15.9% growth in digital revenues to $2.61bn. “Our streaming revenue jumped by 26% this fiscal year, surging past two billion [dollars] for the first time,” said Cooper. “It’s now well over 50% of our total revenues, compared with under 20% just five years ago, and next to nothing a decade ago.”

Specifics? WMG’s recorded-music revenues grew by 14.3% to $3.84bn, including 16% growth in digital revenues to $2.34bn – 61% of the total. However, Warner Chappell’s annual music-publishing revenues were actually down by 1.5% to $643m, despite a 14.3% rise in digital income. “That said, we’re excited about the future of our music publishing business, led by our two dynamic partners, Guy Moot and Carrianne Marshall, who took the reigns earlier this year,” stressed Cooper. “We’re already seeing signs of gathering momentum.”

There weren’t any crumbs of gossip on licensing negotiations or WMG’s views on streaming partners this time round. Cooper did spend a bit of time outlining his company’s claim to be “leading the pack when it comes to trying new business models”. He cited WMG’s early deals with TikTok and Audiomack, as well as the launch of its seed-funding arm WMG Boost as examples. There’s more in our recent Q&A with three of the label group’s senior innovation execs.

“As confident as we are about the future of subscription streaming, we know that the only constant in our industry is change. We must always be evolving and diversifying our business, if we’re to capitalise on new opportunities and overcome the industry’s challenges,” he said.

With WMG’s results out, we can make comparisons between the three global major music companies, drawing on MBW’s past analysis of Universal Music and Sony Music’s Q3 (in calendar terms) financials. Last quarter, WMG’s recorded-music revenues grew by 10.4% year-on-year to $953m, which compares to UMG’s 13.3% growth to $1.6bn, and Sony’s 10.5% rise to $1.04bn. In terms of digital recorded-music revenues, the year-on-year growth was 13.4% for WMG, 21.5% for UMG, and 13% for Sony.

Stuart Dredge

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