Universal Music is a success
A WELCOME TO ROCKSTAR hailed Universal Music Group when it launched on the Euronext Amsterdam stock exchange on September 21 in the largest European listing of the year. Stunned investors almost threw their panties on the new public company, whose share price ended the day up 36%, valuing the world’s largest record company at 45 billion euros (53 billion euros). dollars).
It wasn’t that long ago that Universal looked like a flop. In 2013, as digital piracy ravaged the music industry, SoftBank, a Japanese group, made a € 7 billion offer for the label. Vivendi, the French owner of Universal, was deemed mad for turning down the offer. In fact, the decision was inspired. A streaming boom has since halved global recorded music revenues. Two-thirds of last year’s $ 22 billion in sales went to the three “majors”: Universal, Sony Music and Warner Music Group.
The rush of investors owes in part to a shortage of alternative tickets for this hot market. Sony Music is locked in a conglomerate. Warner went public last June, since when its value has increased by half (including a 12% increase on September 21, amid the frenzy of Universal), but its catalog is half the size of that of Universal. The listing of Universal finally gives investors the chance to get their hands on what JPMorgan Chase, a bank, has called a “must-have asset.”
Now, after their run to the top of the charts, the majors face the equivalent of a tough second album. Streaming is approaching saturation point in the rich world. Three in five American households subscribe to a service like Spotify, up from one in five in 2016. DIY audio tools help unsigned artists take a small but growing part of the business. And regulators are asking if labels are giving artists a fair share of the profits from streaming. On September 22, the UK government ordered an investigation into competition in the music industry.
The sustainability of hits will therefore go through the conquest of emerging markets, where incomes are lower (Spotify costs the equivalent of $ 4 per month in South Africa, less than half of what Americans pay), and on ‘granting of music licenses to new media. This year, Universal signed deals with TikTok and Snap, allowing app users to sample clips from Universal’s back catalog in their videos. Future deals with games, streaming and other entertainment platforms are likely. “Fortnite”, an online game, and Roblox, which allows users to create their own games, have already become popular virtual concert venues. Next year ABBA, a troupe of septuagenarians on the books of Universal, will appear in a series of concerts in London as digital “ABBA-the tars ”. As the streaming boom slows down, labels will need new ways to make money, money, money. ■
This article appeared in the Business section of the print edition under the headline “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!