Universal Music Group CEO calls for new streaming model
By Dawn Chmielewski
(Reuters) - Universal Music Group NV, the world's largest record label, said quarterly revenue from music streaming surpassed 1 billion euros ($1.06 billion) for the first time in the fourth quarter, a milestone that underscores its continued importance to the music business.
Even as Universal Music's chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge lauded the sustained growth of streaming and technology's ability to connect artists with their fans, he used the company's fourth quarter investor call on Thursday to advocate for a new economic model.
"Streaming has evolved in a way that undervalues the critical contributions of many artists as well as the engagement of many fans," Grainge said, adding that the company is working with its partners on new models to ensure continued streaming growth and fair compensation for artists.
Universal Music reached a new contract with the Tidal music service in January, and Grainge said the label is in discussions with other major global platforms, including short-form video, an apparent reference to TikTok.
Universal Music Group's chief digital officer Michael Nash declined to comment on talks with "any specific partner."
The company said top sellers in the quarter included releases from Drake, Seventeen and Taylor Swift's "Midnights," which made history by occupying all top 10 slots in Billboard's Hot 100 list of most popular songs.
Adjusted pre-tax earnings, or EBITDA, were 620 million euros compared with 568 million euros in the fourth quarter of 2021. Analysts had forecast EBITDA of 621.25 million euros, according to Refinitiv data.
Revenue rose 16.7% to 2.94 billion euros, with streaming revenue up 13.3% from a year ago. That compares with analyst forecasts of 2.87 billion euros.
Subscription and streaming revenue, which accounts for more than half of Universal Music's revenue from recorded music, was up 18.5% from a year ago to 1.44 billion euros.
Music Publishing generated 530 million euros in revenue, up nearly 30% from a year ago.
The label's merchandising business brought in 181 million euros, a gain of 28% from a year earlier. This reflects the return of concert tours, following a period when the COVID-19 pandemic forced cancellations.
Universal's stock was down 0.42% in after-market trading in Europe.
($1 = 0.9443 euros)
(Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles; Editing by Josie Kao)